Savvy service personnel know that a careful visual inspection is a vital diagnostic process instead of a tedious inconvenience.
Years of practical shop work have confirmed that good eyes and old-fashioned patience may reveal more about a problem vehicle than all the diagnostic gear in your service department.
However, tire dealers and service shop operators must set the tone — live the example — in order to convince workers to embrace the "look-see" on every vehicle.
This is particularly true on those headache jobs that seem to stymie a conscientious worker's best efforts to diagnose a customer's problem accurately.
Furthermore, experience suggests that the more often service personnel practice patient visual inspections, the more readily they'll recognize the clues they need to identify the vehicle's problem(s).
Countless times, I have found that the clue that saves the day is the one that shows me where human hands last touched that headache vehicle. The reason is that — sadly — the last person who worked on it bungled a repair and perhaps harmed something you wouldn't otherwise expect to be damaged.
Here, I'll cite several relatively basic diagnostic clues. Maybe these examples will spur you and your crew to look closer at details on problem vehicles.
The photo to the left is a worn tire — nothing tricky. It's just a reminder to inspect each tire prior to suspension work or a wheel alignment.
Logically, tire-wear patterns should correlate to wheel aligner measurements and vice-versa.
Suppose a vehicle has tire-wear issues and/or handling problems. Careless technicians may overlook, for instance, the fact that obvious tire-wear patterns don't agree with the toe or camber measurements on the wheel aligner.
Or, perhaps the tires have no wear patterns whatsoever but the aligner values indicate misalignment of some kind.
Tires that don't jibe with aligner values are a giant clue that something is not as it seems. Perhaps a tech mishandled or damaged the equipment; maybe the wheel aligner is out of calibration.