Like all other shop tools and equipment, alignment equipment and lifts have come a long way over the years. Advances in technology have made these automotive repair shop essentials more profitable and productive — increasing a shop’s ROI (return on investment) faster than ever.
Alignment systems that use digital imaging technology offer shops alignment service that is quick and efficient with simple operation and low cost of ownership.
Using precision cameras, modern top-of-the-line wheel alignment systems measure the position and orientation of targets mounted to each wheel. Some take as little as 90 seconds to raise the vehicle to work height, mount targets and set air pressure, roll forward to compensate sensors, scan VIN number and print vehicle results automatically.
Look for equipment that features cross diagonal measurements, which identify frame or structural damage. Mismatched tire sizes are a potential cause of vehicle pulling and driver complaints, so a rolling radius check will identify those problems.
Wireless communication eliminates connections between the camera towers and the cabinet to ease mobility and provide a variety of installation configurations.
Vehicles that are equipped with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) oftentimes require resets after an alignment. Special equipment is available for that. Wheel-off adjustment kits allow the easy installation of alignment sensors on hubs with the wheel out of the way. Also available are adapter accessories, ride height measurement and adjustment systems and self-centering wheel adaptors.
Be sure to check equipment manufacturers’ websites for details and videos that demonstrate the equipment’s features and specs.
With a multitude of lift types, models and suppliers in the market today, it’s best to do some research on the features and benefits of each type before deciding to buy one for your shop. Besides determining your budget, ask yourself questions such as: What type of lift is suitable for my shop? What kinds of vehicles do I service? How large or small is the space available to install a lift?
Inground lifts are completely contained in a sealed polymer housing made from plastic (which may be recycled). Available in 10,000-, 12,000- and 15,000-lb. capacities, inground lifts are designed to meet all the demands of a professional automotive service facility.
With no columns or overhead obstructions, these lifts eliminate the risk of vehicle door damage, have a smaller footprint than surface-mounted lifts and enable the shop to project a cleaner and more showroom-like appearance. Their stainless steel air lock release cylinder is resistant to corrosion and promotes a longer life.
Multi-post lifts are usually configured as four-post, surface-mounted lifts. This design, which allows the vehicle to be driven onto two runways and lifted by its tires, enables full access to the underside of the vehicle being serviced. Four-post lifts can also be configured to provide wheels-free services. These lifts can handle just about any type of vehicle that may come into your shop — cars, minivans, SUVs, light-duty trucks and even heavy-duty commercial vehicles.
Multiple locking positions enable technicians to work at an ergonomically comfortable height. A single-point lock release system allows the technician to disengage all four-post lift column locks simultaneously. Available from 14,000- to 60,000-lb. capacities, these lifts offer maximum workspace underneath. Since they are supported on all four corners, they are known to be sturdier, safe and reliable.
By far one of the most popular lift types used in automotive garages, two-post lifts can lift cars symmetrically or asymmetrically within the same service bay. They provide open-door clearance for cars, vans, SUVs and trucks for access to controls. Look for rubber door guards that protect the doors of the vehicle being serviced. A two-post lift may feature a single-point mechanical release that disengages dual safety locks simultaneously, as well as a space-saving base plate that provides an obstruction-free work environment. An overhead shut-off system prevents vehicles from being raised too high.
Parallelogram heavy vehicle lifts are available for 36,000- to 100,000-lb. capacities. They can be surface-mounted, recessed or flush mounted. A variety of track lengths are available from 26’ to 48’. They provide, full under-vehicle access without a cross brace or torsion bar between the platforms, thus eliminating a trip hazard.
Mobile column heavy-duty lifts are available from 13,500- to 18,500-lb. capacities and can be hydraulically operated, battery powered or wireless. These lifts provide the flexibility and convenience of lifting any vehicle with rubber tires from small passenger cars to the largest two- and three-axle vehicles weighing 148,000 lbs. without pits, wires, cables or compressed air. These lifts may feature integrated touch screen controls and come with integrated weight gauges.
Scissor lifts are called as such because they utilize a metal frame of Xs, one above the other to raise the platform on which the vehicle is standing. Available in both wheel and frame-engaging models, scissor lifts come in a variety of lifting capacities and heights.
Depending on your need, a variety of accessories is available for each type of lift, whether it be a two-post, a four-post or any other lift option. These include but are not limited to rolling jacks, oil drain pans, alignment kits, turning radius gauges, air electric workstations, three-stage swing arms, swing arm safety head guard, swing arm tool holder, safety weight gauges, adjustable screw pads and more.
According to Pat Weber of Weber Automotive Service, Inc. in Glenview, IL, “any known brand of asymmetrical 9,000- to 12,000-lb. lift would serve most shops well. A drive-on lift provides some benefits as well, but a two-post lift would be a good one to start with.”
More importantly, he advises, “When you are in the market for a lift, first assess the space required and the height of the ceiling in the shop. Also, check to make sure there is enough clearance with the garage door open and closed.”
With a 6,000 sq. ft. shop, Weber has eight lifts, seven of which are asymmetrical two-post above-ground lifts, and one is a 12,000-lb. drive-on four-post lift. Having been in business for 47 years, he said he has learned the value of investing not only in well-trained technicians but also in quality equipment.
He advises that investing in a good lift is important for quality and efficient service. Don’t skimp, because the consequences can be dire. Look for one with a safety device and from a reputable company, one that manufactures its products to the highest standards of quality, durability and safety.
Weber concluded by saying that as a shop owner or technician, your goal is to maximize your service capabilities and your revenue potential. Therefore, when purchasing shop equipment, pay attention to cost, ROI space required, saving on tech time, and ease of use with training needed or provided.