Hunter Engineering’s Quick Check® inspection-lane is designed for ease of use, to help communicate professionally to the motorist and increase sales of needed repairs and services.

As the system evolves, Quick Check enables automotive service providers to diagnose a series of potential issues within a matter of minutes without placing a vehicle on an alignment rack, said Hunter Director of Training Tom Settle. Equally important, additional visual checks with photos and videos such as those programmed by AutoServe1, an iShop compatible system, can be added to the inspection. The complete inspection can be presented to the motorist in a single, easy-to-read presentation. The report can be viewed on a flat screen in the customer-waiting area, a tablet, in printed form, and emailed to the vehicle owner for review through the company’s exclusive HunterNet® software. The information form follows Motorist Assurance Program (MAP) guidelines as well, to help prevent shops from using non-approved selling techniques. HunterNet also works as a business tool that allows the shop owner or manager to review live sales figures, even with multiple location comparisons.

“Shops want the full integration from the counter to the back shop,” said Hunter Division Manager Larry Watson. “AutoServe1 will take you to the next step to integrate many of the auto shop management systems as well. That includes customizing inspection forms to include a 20-point or a 100-point inspection form that can be checked off on a tablet and included with the Hunter inspection results.”

Quick Check is designed so shops can buy the entire package or purchase in segments:

• Quick ID® provides instant vehicle identification numbers (VIN) by scanning the license plate, allowing Quick Check to have all pertinent information needed to diagnose vehicle issues.

• Quick Tread® automatically measures tire tread depth as the vehicle is driven into the bay. The unit is available in surface-mounted and flush-mounted designs.

• Hunter’s HawkEye Elite® camera systems comes into play once the Quick Grip targets are attached and a roll back is performed, identifying potential alignment and parts issues.

• Inflation Station measures tire pressure and then inflates or deflates the tires according to the user-entered specifications.

• Code Assist® pulls emissions diagnostic codes and Identifix can provide the technician with the most likely problems related to the code found on that specific vehicle.

• Midtronics provides a tester to checks battery health according to OEM specifications.

• Stopping Check tests brake force at each wheel and overall vehicle deceleration.

The two most-sought-after Quick Check functions are Quick Tread and Alignment Quick Check®, according to Hunter Product Manager Alan Hagerty. Now available in surface-mount and flush-mount designs, Quick Tread® measures tread depth, analyzes the data in the shop and then displays the results on the Quick Check console.

“The system not only measures the tire tread depth, but also takes a photo of the vehicle and the license plate using the Hunter Quick ID,” Hagerty said. “Our software reads the license plate characters and locale. We support thousands of different license plate types. It reads the license plate and turns that into the VIN by going up to CARFAX in the cloud. CARFAX ties in all the DMVs (department of motor vehicles) and pulls back down the VIN associated with that license plate. This all happens automatically in seconds, and you get a report, either printed or digital with the tire inspection, all the tire-tread values and the vehicle information. That can be presented to the customer, along with the wet stopping distance to know how the vehicle is performing in an emergency braking situation.


Benefits

For those interested in Quick Tread and Alignment Quick Check, they need only talk to Mark Rhodes, president of Plaza Tire, who operates a 57-store chain with service centers in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Arkansas; and Jeff Ferguson, service manager of All Star Quality Service, a Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and RAM dealership service department in Bridgeton, Mo.


Rhodes said he has made a practice of including Quick Tread and Alignment Quick Check in every new store he has opened in the past few years and now has 16 stores using the equipment.

“It’s versatile, it’s simple and it’s fast,” he said.

It’s policy to run every vehicle through the checks, and while the vehicle is driven into the bay for the requested repair, the service adviser explains the findings to the owner, he said. “In one way it’s informative and in the other, it’s a soft sell. ‘By the way, we looked at your car and everything is great. Here’s a print-out that explains it.’ Then we show them the equipment and they get ‘wowed’ by it. When you come into an automotive store and see that kind of equipment, computerized and the results up on a screen, it’s pretty cool.” He said the graphics – showing green for good, yellow as cautionary and red as failed – are simple to understand. “When I am there and I see people I know, I always take them over there and say ‘This is like a CT scan that the doctor has, but it’s for your car.”

Ferguson was seeking a means to increase tire sales at his service center, knowing that many customers needed new tires, but apparently were hesitant when informed about the lack of tread. After Quick Tread was installed, tire sales increased 400%, he said. All Star also added an Alignment Quick Check inspection lane, which checks tire-wear angles without the use of an alignment bay. With that addition, the shops alignment jobs increased more than 200%. “They’re very impressive,” he said.

Alignment Quick Check uses the same technology as its HawkEye Elite alignment systems, checking for total toe and individual camber front and rear.

“When our snapshot shows it is out of the manufacturer’s specifications our recommendation is you put it on a full diagnostic alignment machine and rack,” Hagerty said. “Although the check can show an indication of an alignment problem, it is not the final say. There are additional factors that may involve worn or bent parts, so it’s important to put it on the rack and take a detailed look. This is a method to screen the vehicle, because not every vehicle can be put on an alignment rack.”

“Many shops are now putting large screen monitors in the customer-waiting area so customers can see the results that are compiling for their vehicle immediately,” Settle said.

Preparing for the Autonomous Vehicle

Hunter Engineering Executive Vice President Beau Brauer noted that nearly everyone in the automotive industry is talking about the autonomous vehicle and when it will come to fruition as a practical vehicle for the public. Although those opinions vary, Hunter is not waiting – it is focusing on systems that are leading toward the driverless car to keep today’s technicians up to date on service issues now entering their shops, he said.

Today, shops must deal with electronic stability control (ESC), electric power steering (EPS) and the precursors to the autonomous vehicle: automatic emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning (FCW), adaptive cruise control (ACC), lane-departure warning (LDW) and lane keep assist (LKA).

These collision-avoidance systems are connected to an automotive advancement that Hunter campaigned in the March 2010 issue of Undercar Digest with the introduction of CodeLink®. At the time, many higher-end vehicles already included steering-angle sensors and the system was to become mandatory for nearly all passenger cars and light trucks for the 2012 model year. In many vehicles, steering angle has to be reset as part of the typical alignment process. The CodeLink® tool replaced the need for a shop being forced to own nearly a dozen scan tools to accomplish the reset or be forced to farm out the vehicle to a dealership.

“Today, steering-angle reset is more important than ever before with lane-departure warnings and lane assist,” said Hunter Division Manager Larry Watson. “We have to make sure that the radar systems on these vehicles also are calibrated.”

For example, a 2016 Nissan Altima and a Chrysler 200 at Hunter share similar radar devices on the front of the vehicle.

“Simply aligning the radar to the body of the vehicle is not sufficient because wheel alignment determines the direction the vehicle body travels down the road. This is why some manufacturers require radar alignment after wheel alignment service. This is also why it is so important to reset the steering angle sensor after wheel alignment.”

Depending on the vehicle, failure to reset the steering-angle sensor can cause steering wheel vibration because the electric steering has not had time to relearn. The motorist now believes a proper service was not performed. The technician, who failed to follow the aligner prompts, may decide to pull all four wheels and rebalance them, even though that is not the cause of the vibration.

Resetting the optional adaptive cruise control system and forward collision warning systems, both precursor systems to the driverless car, will only work if the radar system is pointed in the right direction, which ties in with the correct steering angle setting. Because of Hunter team’s diligence and working relationships with OEMs it has been in the forefront of this issue, Watson said. But not all vehicles can service the radar the same way.

On the Nissan for example, the radar system is hidden behind the bumper and a special fixture and a wheel-clamp stand and laser assembly must be used to set the adjustment. That adjustment is made with a T-handle allen wrench from underneath the front bumper.

But that’s not the situation with the Chrysler. Its radar can be accessed from the front of the grille by removing a section of trim. A Hunter vertical alignment tool is used to adjust vertical lever using the included driver. Horizontal adjustment is calculation by the vehicle’s computer and is displayed by the aligner. A vehicle test drive is required with the vehicle being driven at speeds faster than 41 mph and are usually completed in about 10 minutes. The drive can be completed when the instrument panel notes that adaptive cruise control is “Off.” Then the car must be placed back on the wheel aligner where additional adjustments may be required.

For Fords, such as the 2016 Fusion, the lane-departure warning system must be reset following the alignment and includes a test drive at more than 40 mph on a road with clearly marked lines. In about 5 minutes the procedure is completed and the vehicle should be returned to the alignment rack where online instructions result in finishing the procedure.

Hunter’s Learning Channel on YouTube provides details in its ACC and LDW setups section. Hunter also offers its Safety System Alignment book, which provides detailed information on various vehicle systems and how Hunter addresses each issue.

Today, adaptive cruise control and other safety systems are options, he said. Identical Nissans could enter a shop with similar symptoms but have totally different fixes depending on whether the safety system options are included. Hunter’s Wheel Alignment Adjustment Guide provides shops with those details, eliminating the need to call a dealer, he said.

Whether the driverless car is available in 2025 or 2040, Hunter will be prepared to handle any of its wheel-service and related avoidance safety-system needs, and many of them already are, Brauer said.