- Do It Yourself Auto Repair
Workshop Machinery-wheel alignment machine new and used automotive equipment.
Many motorist get their wheel alignment done at the dealership, their auto shop or at the larger tire sellers who fit replacement tires, sell wheels and do wheel alignments at the same time.
Although running a wheel alignment service in a standard auto workshop has been a shrinking market for years now, you can still make great money from wheel alignment if you have the space, some advertising money and the right machinery.
Marketing strategy for an alignment service for a small general workshop is based around other profit centres such as disc and drum brake lathe and suspension rebuilding tools. If you have wheel balancing and tire service combined with brake and suspension repairs you have a good mix.
Balco wheel aligner
Wheel alignment can be included in a workshop that has enough room for the extra bay or bays, or is already laid out for hoists with space in front of the hoist of about 8 ft. to allow easy walk through past any bench or alignment equipment.
The key to getting a wheel alignment set-up to work is to have the right operator and to find the right clients.
If you have car resellers and tire specialists in your neighbourhood they will often outsource suspension work. Your job is to be thorough in finding the best client match for your business.
Car-yard work is usually poorly paid, and we all know that right? Well I go against the grain here, and offer the whole service. Brake machining is profitable, as is brake reconditioning, strut replacement, and replacing bushes etc.
The best way I know to attract work is to be good and fast at what you do, and these days that means good equipment even if you are not a big shop.
A Molnar four post wheel alignment capable hoist.
Equipment and set up cost.
You will need.
- A market of course!
- Two alignment capable hoists, one dedicated.
- A reliable tire wholesaler.
- A good quality well priced supplier of suspension components with fast delivery or pickup.
- A flat floor and a permanent place to set up your alignment machine in front of the hoist.
- A mechanic/operator fully trained in suspension and the operation of the exact model of wheel aligner you own or lease.
- A brake lathe
Cost of equipment will be around $40,000 with new quality equipment, and between $16,00 and $20,000 for quality refurbished units from someone like my American friend Bob.
Servex wheel clamps
So how can wheel alignment make money?
If you buy wisely and spend less on your equipment you can get a feel for this market rather quickly. If you are in the USA you need to speak to Bob at Allstates
Bob has the biggest selection of used wheel aligners you will ever see in one place. He ships too!
Some wheel aligners are far superior to others in broadly differing ways, some require a lot of space, others very little. Ask Bob or his staff.
Any aligner must align all four wheels very accurately and quickly to be really useful these days.
A used set-up is a good alternative sometimes as new equipment is mostly very expensive. You can still buy spare parts for machines that are 30 years old in most countries including America, England, Europe and the USA.
If you decide to buy second-hand, buy quality.
Quality hoists, quality wheel clamps, quality turntables, quality on-hoist suspension jacks and a John Bean or similar quality wheel alignment machine.
The larger manufacturers still make string
aligners, but also have the latest in microwave, laser, camera, reflected light
and other technologies as well.
The wheel clamps if used need
to fit the new larger wheels, but be aware that there are many adaptors
out there for quality clamps to do the job and take wheel sizes up to
23" Another good reason for buying the best.
There are many manufacturers of new wheel alignment machinery. Here are some of the well known ones.
Hoffman, John Bean, Hunter being some better known makes , and although some
have been good, many more have been troublesome to some degree. Others
have been downright horrible!
Units that involve mounting delicate receiver/sender heads on the wheels with long cables running across the floor are asking for trouble yet this is still a common way to do wheel alignments and these machines are still made today.
By the way I will say that a top operator can run an old string aligner
machine if he and his staff are smart enough to set up the alignment bay
so that only the one operator walks inside the designated alignment
area around the heads.
The problem for the workshop owner is that if the operator trips over a cable it may pull the head off the wheel. Dropping a head needs to be a federal offence! I have repaired many heads and the components are expensive as hell, and sometimes the time setting up for testing can eat up several hours of labour time!.
Wheel alignment Heads commonly cost $1,200 to $4,000 each to repair.
That is a lot of wheel alignment money down the tube, and a good reason to use a different type of system.
all alignment systems are not equal, and selecting the right new
alignment machine that will work in your workshop can be a pain.
Hoffman wheel aligner
I am assuming here that I am talking to a small operator with top mechanics and unused capacity. To do alignments you need good mechanics with full training on the machine of your choice.
It is a lot easier to enter the alignment market if you already have the space, ability and capital required all sorted first of course.
The best equipment list is subjective when it comes to wheel alignment.
If you get an operator he comes with the knowledge of what he has used in the past. That does not mean the machine he was using was the best or that he will even know how to switch your machine on or use it to align wheels.
I know some old timers who can get great results from their ancient almost historic wheel aligner. The same guys can usually repair it themselves as well. There are some exceptionally talented older mechanics in the market still, and it has been an honour to know many of them through selling them hoists, wheel aligners, brake lathes, injector cleaners, gas conversion equipment, engine lifters, hydraulic presses, high pressure cleaners and hundreds of items that go into a workshop including hand tools and air compressors, air tools, cutters paint booths etc. I had 2500 mechanical workshop owners on my customer list at one time.
That is a big number of independent small businesses and workshops, yet all could earn a living because they are generally good at what they do. I can attest to the successful ones mostly of course as they bought more machinery from me as they expanded their workshops.
to secure more breadth in the auto repair market place, I would always combine alignment with a disc rotor and brake drum machining service using an Ammco 4000 series brake lathe.
I would do this in house to avoid hoist downtime and increase both market share and profit. Machining makes a nice net profit for most operators who can follow simple directions properly.
The way your business presents is very important always and wheel alignment bays need to look tidy with all alignment components carefully put in their place on the alignment machine when each job is completed.
With wheel alignment work, the same principals apply to making a profit as for other workshop repairs and adjustments.
it is the initial job assessment that is the hardest part to get right.
If the alignment is a mess because of poor maintenance generally, thus worn filthy suspension components with broken rubbers on components the job is gonna cost a bomb and the owner needs to know that. In these cases I take 2/3rds of the estimate up front if I take the job at all, and in many cases it is best to pass on these jobs. Learn how to spot them and pass them nicely to your competition!
It becomes an art form!