Everyone is familiar with the statement, “Knowledge is power.” This expression been around for as long as anyone can remember, but in the area of wheel alignment, especially where shim kits, adjustable ball joints and replaceable upper control arms are concerned, this is especially true. How many of you know that Ford F-150s from 2004 through 2014 can have camber and caster adjusted by replacing an upper control arm that has an adjustable eccentric ball joint? I’ll bet not more than 50% of you. The fact is that modern alignment equipment, in many if not most cases, will steer you toward various aftermarket adjustment kits that are available, but the software is not always updated by the equipment owner because he doesn’t want to spend money for updates or the local field representation just isn’t pushing the purchase of this information or the updating of his equipment. In reality, it should be.

Another difficulty in the area of wheel alignment is the inability of service sales people or shop owners to understand that it’s not incorrect to recommend aftermarket cam, shims and bushings when the vehicle is not factory-adjustable or if it is factory-adjustable but has a difficult adjusting sequence such as the standard adjustment method on F-150s. That vehicle is a nightmare if you’ve ever tried doing one with the control arm sometimes sliding outward in an uncontrollable manner, creating a difficult situation of bringing it back into place.

Grab an aftermarket wheel-alignment catalog the next time you attend a trade show or go online and research the various kits that are available. A smart shop that’s doing alignment service will take every vehicle that comes into the shop, look it up, see what’s factory-adjustable, what’s factory-adjustable but less difficult to adjust using aftermarket kits, and what’s adjustable only by means of aftermarket kits. Every vehicle should leave your shop straight and true. There should be no excuses for any wheel-alignment condition. Your customer may not want to pay the money to have the vehicle repaired correctly, but you should make the recommendations in a professional manner and do the job as it can best be done. Very few shops will replace only one spark plug, even on a difficult-to-get-to bank that requires extensive labor, recommending instead that all plugs be replaced if one plug goes bad. So too, wheel alignment involving the installation of aftermarket kits when necessary should be done. Do it right, do it professionally, but most important, do it so that you can say it’s the best job you could possibly put out.

People who advertise wheel alignment at a set price may be fooling themselves in an attempt to entice customers to get a wheel alignment performed. It is something of a reach to advertise a set alignment fee and then tell a customer that it doesn’t apply to his car because it needs “X” or “Y” to make it alignable. The solution to that issue has been plaguing people who do alignment for years. The fact is that alignment labor and the installation of aftermarket kits is almost an individualized item depending upon the vehicle, what’s been done to it before and its overall condition. It’s a bit difficult to quote a flat price. Instead, you must determine the perquisites for alignment that have to be met and performed on the vehicle and quote the price accordingly.

Alignment isn’t something like a carwash where you see immediate results. In fact, most people don’t realize the benefits of alignment until they need it in a dynamic driving situation and even then, once the situation is over with, they think little about how the vehicle handled and if it handled correctly. Alignment is an abstract item. The consolation is in knowing you did the job right. Your customer may never truly appreciate your work, but you really are doing him a favor by installing aftermarket parts and shims when they are needed.