There are many shops across the U.S. that still use bubble gauges and drive-on racks for the front of the vehicles, but no rear slip plates, and other older methods for doing alignment. It is true that you can do an alignment this way, but it is very difficult and somewhat limited in its range of accuracy if your equipment isn’t working perfectly. These older methods are time-consuming and, in many cases, not profitable for your shop.

You may not need the latest and greatest alignment equipment being sold today but you definitely should have a modern alignment system. Such equipment should include:

• new-style wheel clamps

• limited rollback for wheel compensation

• the ability to not have to raise a vehicle to do wheel compensation

• slip plates front and rear that actually work and aren’t frozen, and

• a rack that can be adjusted to multiple heights, locked in and remain level at all these indications.

Your equipment should also have a built-in electronic cataloging of cams, shims and bushings that can cure non-OE-adjustable situations on a car. In addition, your equipment should have a bar-code reader that can quickly and accurately determine the make, year and model and an interface that will allow you to determine what adjustments might be mandatory regarding the steering-angle sensor.

Nor is this all: Your equipment should possibly interface with other dynamic inputs to the steering-angle sensor in the vehicle that may be influenced by the alignment.

You may have a scan tool that may do these later items but the fact is that you can no longer ignore a vehicle that has a steering-angle sensor on it. Even if that sensor needs no external adjustments, you must know that because in some cases you must drive the vehicle to allow the sensor to zero itself and/or should be applying input into the vehicle’s controller.

In many shops, the owners and managers will say that they can’t afford a new piece of alignment equipment or even possibly a new alignment rack and equipment. The reality is that if you are in the alignment business, it’s an investment you have to make it. One of the problems is that many shops don’t promote wheel alignment. They only do it when they have to after certain chassis parts are replaced or if the vehicle hit a pothole or blew a tire. Alignment, to many people, is a “dirty business.” They don’t see the profitability of it. They don’t know how to sell the needed service. They don’t know how to communicate with customers regarding the dynamics of alignment and correct handling on their vehicles. They don’t understand that alignment is just like any other diagnostic and repair procedure in a shop. It’s something that must be treated in the same professional manner as a no-start condition or a check-engine light with a code that’s been retrieved.