Add-Ons: Wheel Alignments

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What if I told you six out of 10 cars rolling in and out of your bays could benefit from a wheel alignment. Would you be surprised? More importantly, would you be prepared to service those vehicles quickly?

Alan Hagerty, product manager for Hunter Engineering Company’s quick check vehicle inspection systems said this isn’t just a “what if” scenario.

“If you were to check every vehicle that came into your shop, you’d find there’s about a 60-percent failure rate for alignments,” Hagerty said. “That means if you have 10 cars going through your shop and one is getting an alignment, you are missing five opportunities for sales that are already sitting in your shop.”

The quick lube competition is tough these days, and many operators are looking for ways to increase their bottom line without compromising their commitment to their customers. Value-added services like alignments are superb solutions because most of them initially cost the customer nothing and offer peace of mind. If a technician notices something needs attention, most of the time, the customer can rest easy because it was caught before it became a bigger, more expensive issue. While alignments require the operator to make an initial investment in equipment, the return on investment is typically high.

You’re probably already familiar with some of the most common things that can throw a vehicle’s alignment out-of-whack. Potholes, “curb-checks” and general vehicle wear can all cause a car to become misaligned over time. A misaligned vehicle can result in many parts wearing out prematurely. In drastic cases of misalignment, the car can pull to one side or another affecting the driver experience and safety. But did you know one of the main reasons alignments are beneficial to your customers has to do with tire wear?

“Wheel alignments and tires go hand-in-hand. For the customer, having a re-alignment performed is like buying insurance for tires. Most tire purchases are in excess of $500-$1,000 depending on the size, quality and guarantee that comes with them. Customers want to make sure their tires are tracking straight as they go down the road,” said Kaleb Silver, senior project manager for Hunter Engineering Company’s wheel alignment systems. “Making sure a vehicle is driving straight ensures the tire is accruing the least amount of wear and the customer is getting the longest life out of their tires.”

Chances are, you agree alignments are a necessary service. But, due to various reasons, like the amount of time it usually takes to check a car’s alignment, you choose not to check every car coming through your bays. After all, you can’t make money if performing alignment checks clogs up your bays. You definitely can’t afford to jeopardize the quality of your fast oil changes for a service that may or may not need to be performed in the end. However, performing alignments doesn’t require putting vehicles on a lift and manually taking precise measurements anymore.

“To use our Quick Check Wheel Alignment System, simply attach the targets to the wheel, roll the car forward and the system will automatically provide measurements in seconds according to the manufacturer’s specifications,” Hagerty said. “It only takes a few seconds before you know whether or not the vehicle needs to be re-aligned.”

Since uneven tread depth is a symptom of poor alignment, it’s a good idea to perform a tread depth check alongside alignment services, too. This way you can rotate the tires if the car does need to be realigned, so the customer doesn’t undo your hard work by the next time they see you.

You’re probably familiar with the penny test — if you can see the top of Uncle Abe’s head, it’s time for a new set of tires. But since tires can wear unevenly if the car is misaligned, there’s a faster and more effective way to test tread depth.

“To check the tread depth of a tire, the Quick Check Tread Depth System captures 280,000 data points and builds a digital model of the tire,” Hagerty said.

And no, you don’t have to place 280,000 reference points all over each tire. All the customer has to do is drive over the specialized equipment with all four tires. In a few seconds, you’ll have a better idea of what their vehicle’s tires look like and if they’ve likely affected its alignment.

“The Tread Depth System is very easy to drive over and not a training intensive product,” Silver said.

Depending on the bay set up you have, you can customize the alignment and tread depth systems to fit your needs, bay configurations and customers.

“Quick lubes have a multitude of varied bay layouts. From two-bay pits to eight-, 10- and 12-bay stores, the system will fit into any bay, including lube-style bays,” Silver said.

To maximize your success when offering either alignment or tread depth services, Silver suggests presenting it as a complimentary inspection you’re going to provide every time your customer comes in.

“It’s a value addition that sets you apart from the competition. Not only does it find additional profit potential, but it also has a big effect on the way the customer feels. A large majority of the time you’ll have good news to give them. It gives them an additional good feeling as they drive away, because not only did they get their oil changed, new wiper blades or a tail light fixed, but they also got confirmation —things are OK with their car and they don’t have to worry,” Silver said. “It also becomes a preventive service and not something the customer thinks, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to take care of this problem today.’ You can find things before they become an issue.”

The more services you can squeeze into the short amount of time your customer is in the bay for a routine maintenance, the better. They’ll appreciate the complimentary service, and you’ll find more opportunities to make money. Instilling customer loyalty while increasing profit margins — it’s a good idea!

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