When they get a job ticket in that says, “wheel alignment” many shops simply run the vehicle on the rack, hook up the heads, take some quick readings and make a determination of what “must” be done to eliminate handling or tire-wear issues. Alignment is as professional an endeavor as any other phase of vehicle repair. Granted, chassis and suspension work is a lot dirtier than many other phased areas of vehicle repair, but the fact is that it takes just as much thinking and diagnostic skill to do the quality work that should always be done.

For some reason, road tests have gone out of favor with shops. They say they don’t have time, they don’t have insurance coverage or whatever, but the truth is, how can you fix something if you don’t know what it’s doing? Customers don’t really know how their vehicles should handle. In most instances, you need to road test the vehicle and get a feeling for what is going on with it.

When determining what’s needed on a vehicle you need to know first what vehicle you have and what problems you’re trying to solve. Second, you need to know what OE adjustments are available and whether an aftermarket kit or kits are necessary to correct any problems.

When a customer calls and asks, “How much for a wheel alignment?” it’s almost impossible to answer until you determine what vehicle you have, what problems are present on it and what is needed to correct those problems. It’s not as simple as an oil change. In the case of an oil change, you can look up the oil specifications and the filter number and know what it will take before the vehicle even arrives. It’s more like asking, “How much for a brake job?” The response to that question is, “What’s wrong with the vehicle?”

How much to align a vehicle and what’s needed? It’s about what problems you are trying to solve and how professional are you going to be in really solving them -- and doing the job as soon as possible.