Blog 4: Alignment Has Changed Dramatically in 50 Years

Bob Ulrich
Posted on November 7, 2019

The alignment performed on this Ford Galaxy was unique in 1969. "Back in the day, you dug a hole in the floor and moved the technician instead of the car," says Hunter's Kaleb Silver.
The alignment performed on this Ford Galaxy was unique in 1969. "Back in the day, you dug a hole in the floor and moved the technician instead of the car," says Hunter's Kaleb Silver.
As part of our yearlong celebration of Modern Tire Dealer’s 100th anniversary, we continue to compare the past to the present with an eye toward the future. Today, as part of my 5 blogs in 5 days series, we take you back to our October 1969 issue, when we wrote about Hunter Engineering Co.’s new Compute-A-Line F-60 computerized wheel aligner.It performed a dynamic alignment “capable of furnishing precise read-out of toe, caster, camber, tire–pull and front-end looseness in less than a minute.”

Here’s how the revolutionary – and expensive – aligner worked, as we described it in 1969: “In operation, the front wheels of the vehicle being tested are spun by sensor-rollers that are positioned on hydraulically-actuated frames. According to the company, the sensor frames automatically ‘tilt’ sideways and ‘rotate’ through the horizontal frame to reflect the alignment settings of the wheels. The settings are determined while the wheels are spinning at approximately 40 mph.”

The Compute-A-Line then recorded and “memorized” the readings. In addition, controls were “push-button operated to perform all programmed test functions with the remote unit.”

At the time, it probably sounded likes something out of The Jetsons.

By comparison, the Hunter Hawkeye Elite static alignment system is multi-generations ahead of the Compute-A-Line in terms of technology and use. I talked with Kaleb Silver, director of product management-systems technology, in the Hunter booth at the Global Tire Expo to reflect on the differences.

“Everybody in the industry has really moved more to a static alignment, where you are measuring the vehicle without the tires spinning,” he said. “The tires are on top of free-floating turn plates and slip plates to remove any friction that may be there.” That allows the suspension to relax, and makes it easier to make adjustments on the vehicle.

The Hunter Hawkeye Elite alignment system features a new adaptor design and patented high-resolution cameras.
The Hunter Hawkeye Elite alignment system features a new adaptor design and patented high-resolution cameras.

In 1969, a standard consumer tire aligner maybe cost $4,000. The Compute-A-line was priced at about $35,000. “You can buy a Hawkeye Elite aligner to use with your existing rack for about $30,000,” said Silver. And it is more accurate.

“Just like tolerances and specs on cars have gotten a lot tighter over the years, so have alignment specs and requirements for wheel alignment. Today’s machine would be significantly more accurate than the ones we saw back in the day.”

How accurate? Silver said at that time, measurements were in tenths of an inch. “Today we measure wheel alignment in hundredths of a degree (two degrees represent an inch).

“Back in those days, (toe and caster) were very close to zero, per OE specifications. But in today’s modern vehicle, suspensions have changed significantly… OEMs will specify something significantly different than zero today on many vehicles and many alignment angles because they know what effect that’s going to have on handling, safety, braking and tire wear as the vehicle is driven. So they can predict that just because I am setting it at .2 without the vehicle moving, I know that .2 is going to turn into a .02 once the vehicle is in motion at 60 miles per hour.”

Changes in the future may be just as dramatic.

“The next alignment frontier has to do with ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems),” he said. “Wheel alignment has an effect on the electronic systems or safety systems on the vehicle. As such, wheel alignment is an important first step in any ADAS calibration.”

Hunter does not manufacture ADAS alignment equipment, at least yet. “One of the things we are (demonstrating) at the show is the ability of Hunter’s equipment to integrate with the other companies’ ADAS calibration.”

And that interaction with tire and equipment manufacturers and marketers is what made, makes and will make the Global Tire Expo so valuable to tire dealers.

Related Topics: 100th anniversary, 2019 Global Tire Expo, B.O.B., consumer tires, dynamic alignment, Hunter HawkEye Elite, Kaleb Silver, light truck tires, passenger tires, static alignment

Bob Ulrich Editor
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