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Alignment Procedures

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Hello all,


I would like some input from other automotive repair shops in regards to alignment procedures. When a customer requests an alignment how do you handle it? Do you ask questions such as "is it veering/pulling/shaking, how are the tires,etc? or have them fill out a questionaire of what their primary complaint is.

Would it be a good idead to test drive the vehicle before and after an alignment?


Do you also do a suspension/steering inspection prior to the alignment? If you were to find something wrong, ie tie rods bad do you charge for a diagnostic or just proceed with the alignment and make the necessary recommendation service notes?


Any input would be much appreciated it as we are trying to expand our business with alignment services.


Thank you and happy holidays!


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These are great questions.


If a customer asks for an alignment, you need to ask why. Many times they are referring to something else. For example, A customer may state, "Please check my alignment", and then after asking why, the customer will say, "Well, the steering wheel shakes at high speed.". So, you always need to be a good detective. I like the one-on-one from the service advisor, rather a form checklist. I hate when I go to the doctor and they tell me, "Fill our this form." But, that's me.


Always road test the car prior to any alignment and perform a steering/suspension check. That is standard protocol.


As far as charging a diag fee; that depends. We don't normally charge, unless there is a particular issue. For example; the customer ran off the road and now the car is shaking a pulling. In that case we charge .5 to inspection and also check for things like bent wheels.


Lastly, as in any sale, always sell the benefits. An alignment will enhance the steering performance and extend the life of the tires, saving you money in the long run.

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I think folks do not get up one morning and think..."hey I need to get the car aligned!" The real reason must be discovered with an analytical mind and open ended questions. Like Joe said, ya gotta be a good detective. Years ago a customer told me he was 100% sure he needed an alignment on his Fairmont. I asked why, and he told me the same thing, he needed an alignment. Being a newbie store manager and not wanting to upset this guy, we did his alignment. He was back in less then an hour and said the damn car was still shaking at 70 MPH! Well I personally balanced his tires and that solved his problem. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Get them to tell you why they are in your shop asking for an alignment. Once you know the problem, solve it for them and make them feel good about it.

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All great info in this thread. I will share this personal experience on my daughters 2007 Acura TL. I purchased new tires and did the recommended alignment no problem as I wanted to keep the tire wear to a minimum even though I knew that the 16 year old driving this car will curb check the heck out of it. I watched the tech and I was pleased with the time spent on checking it out. They recommended a couple items and we ended up doing camber kits in the back and replacing the compliance bushings in the front. After all of this the tech performed the adjustments and went to reset the steering angle sensor with their newer Hunter Machine. The tech ran into an issue, after he did the relearn the dash was lit up with lights, ABS, Brake, Check Engine, and as few more. Long story short their tool would not perform the relearn. Luckily with the right tool this is about a 5 min fix.


I bring this up because 1) You should be selling a steering angle reset diagnostic fee, and 2) You need to be aware that to really perform the service right then having a quality scan tool to perform this is now a reality.


Out of curiosity, how many shops here are performing this relearn and charging for it? If you are have you had any issues like what I described? We find that a lot of shops don't do it for a whole list of reasons. Don't let those excuses keep you from doing it right.


Merry Christmas everyone, hope you all have a relaxing and enjoyable holiday season.



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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Most shop owners would agree that the independent auto repair industry has been too cheap for too long regarding its pricing and labor rates. However, can we keep raising our labor rates and prices until we achieve the profit we desire and need? Is it that simple?
      The first step in achieving your required gross and net profit is understanding your numbers and establishing the correct labor and part margins. The next step is to find your business's inefficiencies that impact high production levels.
      Here are a few things to consider. First, do you have the workflow processes in place that is conducive to high production? What about your shop layout? Do you have all the right tools and equipment? Do you have a continuous training program in place? Are technicians waiting to use a particular scanner or waiting to access information from the shop's workstation computer?
      And lastly, are all the estimates written correctly? Is the labor correct for each job? Are you allowing extra time for rust, older vehicles, labor jobs with no parts included, and the fact that many published labor times are wrong? Let's not forget that perhaps the most significant labor loss is not charging enough labor time for testing, electrical work, and other complicated repairs.  
      Once you have determined the correct labor rate and pricing, review your entire operation. Then, tighten up on all those labor leaks and inefficiencies. Improving production and paying close attention to the labor on each job will add much-needed dollars to your bottom line.
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