Taking my Honda BR-V to a manual wheel alignment shop out of curiosity

I wouldn’t take the risk of going to such a place but the presence of cars like the Audi Q7 and Range Rover boosted my confidence.

BHPian SmartCat recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Close to my home, there is a wheel alignment shop with bland/simple frontage (no large signboard & glitzy colorful lighting). Usually, I see Innovas or Etios or small commercial vehicles getting an alignment done there. But today, I saw an Audi Q7 guy inside! Since my BRV had a minor alignment issue (steering would not self-center “smoothly”), I ventured inside. To my surprise, this shop does not have a modern computer system for wheel alignment. Instead, he has this gadget:

Made in Australia by a company called SERVEX:

Normally, I would not take the risk of getting wheel alignment done at such a place but Q7’s presence there boosted my confidence. It also helped that while I was waiting, a Range Rover rolled into the shop!

This shop is so busy that the shop owner says there is a minimum wait time of 30 minutes at any time of the day. So finally, it was the turn of my BRV’s wheel alignment:

A few things I noticed

  • These machines are attached to the front wheels only. Nothing is mounted on the rear wheels.
  • Steering wheel is straightened and held in place. But the vehicle is not rolled forward/backwards like with computerized wheel alignment.
  • In modern systems, the technician selects the make/model on a computer, loads the camber/caster/toe-in settings for that particular model and then goes under the car to make adjustments. None of that stuff here. The technician makes adjustments using the gauges on the Servex machine.
  • After that, he asks another person to move the car forward/back and asks him to turn the steering left and right. Some more adjustments are made.
  • Takes the car on a test drive and comes back. A few nuts and bolts are tightened now after which the car is ready.

And yes, my wheel alignment issue has been resolved. I was chatting up with the owner and he says premium car owners visit his shop because many modern wheel alignment shop technicians don’t have good knowledge about rear wheel alignment (which is needed for AWD/RWD vehicles or cars with fully independent rear suspension).

So how do old-school wheel aligners work? How does the technician carry out alignment without knowing the manufacturer settings or range for camber/caster/toe etc? This Youtuber says wheel alignment can be done using just a tape.

Here’s what BHPian Jeroen had to say about the matter:

A mechanic with solid knowledge and experience working with these simple tools is likely to be able to do a better job than a mechanic with little knowledge working the most advanced digital 3D alignment rig.

All these modern alignment tools don’t make the process of alignment any better. Just quicker and more convenient and it requires very little knowledge or understanding of a car’s suspension and set-up. The mechanic will look at a computer screen which will tell him/her what to do.

It works well for most jobs. BUT most of these so-called high-tech alignments actually work by working towards an acceptable average value between left and right suspension. Much better, but it takes longer to adjust every aspect of every wheel corner to the smallest possible exact tolerance.

I am having my Alfa Spider aligned in two months’ time. And it will be done by a real expert using something very similar to this set-up. Very basic and very simple. It’s not the machine or tools that make the difference but the competence of whoever does the job.

Here’s what BHPian Shreyans_Jain had to say about the matter:

Old-fashioned manual wheel alignment has been done many times on my Hexa. Especially during the early days when most tire shops did not have the data for the vehicle. You can’t go wrong with manual alignment under the supervision of a skilled technician. It takes more time but the result is always there.

Here’s what BHPian Kosfactor had to say about the matter:

I too prefer this Manual wheel alignment – even for modern cars with EPS and ESP etc, once the wheel is aligned properly and the vehicle is out on the road for a test drive, the EPS seems to calibrate itself to the new ‘Straight’, so no worries there about the lack of computer wizardry.

The Australian-made alignment scale is probably the same as you’d see in most of these shops, perhaps due to technicians being trained by someone who originated from Vijay Wheel alignment itself, they are one of the oldest shops.

Needless to say all vehicles in our group go to Vijay (JP Nagar) or Royal (Jakkur).

They do rear wheel alignment if they feel it’s necessary during a test drive or by looking at the wear pattern on the tyres. They can do the alignment for Torsion beam rear end also by heating / welding etc.

A picture of the same machine at Vijay.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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