Last week, I was called out to another ADAS issue. This time it was a problem based on ADAS calibration (so the technician thought). The vehicle was involved in a front-end accident.
The forward-facing camera (FFC) was damaged; replacement was necessary. The collision shop delivered the crossover to a nearby auto center for alignment and to take advantage of their latest equipment acquisition — a complete ADAS calibration kit, advertised as the latest shop "specialty."
And that's where the "fun" began.
I know what you are thinking: "Ah! They didn't know how to 'work' the new equipment." No, this went deeper. This breakdown occurred in the beginning — the alignment — and filtered its way into the calibration process.
When shops and technicians purchase ADAS equipment, the distributor emphasizes how critical the alignment is to the success of the calibration/recalibration.
Success is reliant on a technician's steering gear and suspension expertise, checking for worn parts, knowing how the aligner functions to ensure the best choice in its listing of programmed vehicle specs, performing a thrust alignment, among other things.
Subscribe to the monthly Aligning With ADAS newsletter to keep up with the latest news and information on Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.
Like ADAS, an alignment is all about triangulation.
Triangulation means setting three angles — camber, caster and toe — to meet at a specific, engineered spot on the pavement. It's the optimum point of contact where the steering gear, suspension — and brakes — perform at their designed level.
We got the vehicle aligned within specifications — according to the aligner — and ready to perform the ADAS calibration.
Stop! Not so fast! How do you know the alignment is correct? When was the last time you checked to see if the aligner software is up to date — especially noted for the year, make and model (YMM) on which you are working?
Before we started setting our angles, I asked if they double-checked for manufacturer's trouble service bulletins (TSB) that may affect the alignment outcome. They are out there; it happens.
Going deeper into this steering and suspension correction dive, we noted all of these "what ifs" were fine. But they won't do you any good unless the alignment hardware is solid.
I have seen alignment racks throughout my post-shop career improperly installed or damaged due to lifting vehicles above the posted load capacity.
After confirming your alignment rack — four-post or scissor — is level and the mount bolts are torqued to specs, there is one more item to inspect: the turntables — the Achilles heel at the base to all off-centered steering wheels for decades.