Alignment technicians must learn to use alignment equipment to determine if the vehicle is tracking properly. They inspect for caster, camber, and toe. These are the names for the three geometric angles of alignment, thus an understanding of geometry is important. Although usually referred to as front-end alignment, the entire vehicle's total geometry is becoming very important with smaller cars. There is a phenomenon known as "rear axle steer" that is becoming very important, especially in smaller cars. The technician will correct the rear axle geometry for total vehicle alignment.
The systems that the alignment specialist must understand include the suspension, steering gearbox or rack-and-pinion assembly, steering linkage, spindles, wheel bearings, and shock absorbers. He or she uses precise diagnostic tools to make determinations for wear and then repairs or replaces defective parts.
When it comes to steering, the alignment specialist has quite a bit to understand on repair. There are two basic types of steering being used on today's cars - recirculating ball and rack-and pinion. The recirculating ball system has been used on American cars for many years. Most people refer to the device as the "steering box." The second type of steering is rack-and-pinion. This system was once most popular on imported sports cars, but since American cars are getting smaller, it is used much more frequently in the vehicles coming from Detroit.
Wheel balance is another important part of the job. Sophisticated balancing equipment is used to make sure the car rides smoothly at all speeds and to prevent premature tire wear.
The alignment specialist replaces shock absorbers, using a variety of special tools for removal and installation,
The McPherson strut is fast becoming the dominant front suspension system, because it takes up much less space. As the cars get smaller, the strut system is used more and more. The alignment specialist rebuilds the McPherson strut assembly, and after reinstalling it, corrects the vehicle geometry.
The alignment specialty field is growing very rapidly. Once popular in the 1950s, it waned for many years. Now the alignment specialty shop is again coming into vogue.
TOWING AND ROAD SERVICE
Sooner or later almost everyone will require the services of the tow truck or road service person. Persons interested in road service must have a driver's license, and in most states, a special designation may be required for those who operate heavy trucks.
Most road service people should have a working knowledge of minor repairs and should understand the basics of ignition and fuel systems. It is mainly an outside job, and the person should be prepared to work during bad weather and unusual hours or to be on call.
Most towing or road service companies are small businesses with fewer than three vehicles. Many service stations offer towing service, and they are good prospects for employment.
Most of the work for the electrical specialist is in the area of the battery, alternator, voltage regulator, and starter service and repair. To do this, the specialist also must be able to handle many other electrical and electronic devices.
Ignition contact points are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Today's engines are controlled by electronic ignition-control devices. On-board computers are abundant. Sometimes repairs are made by linking the car's computer to the shop's "master computer." Instead of replacing parts, you change programming or recalibrate the on-board computer units. The electrical specialist uses sophisticated equipment to determine the source of malfunction in these systems, be they the sensors, actuators, or the computer-controlling devices themselves. There's an emerging specialty for computer diagnostic technicians.
Additionally, the specialist repairs many electrical accessories like power seats, door locks, convertible tops, radios, instruments, sound systems, and lighting systems. The specialist also is involved in the diagnosis and repair of electric motors such as for windshield wipers, heat and air-conditioner blower motors, and starter motors.
This field requires extensive knowledge of electricity and electronics. The specialist must be able to use diagnostic equipment like ammeters, voltmeters, and ohmeters as well as other specialized diagnostic equipment. He or she must know how to read and interpret wiring diagrams. A strong aptitude for mathematics is necessary.
The number of electrical and electronic devices in the automotive industry is destined to grow. There is always a demand for good electrical specialists.
The lubrication specialist is responsible for lubricating the working parts of the vehicle. He or she must check fluid levels in the crankcase, transmission, brake master cylinder, and other areas. He or she also may inspect the radiator, differential, and battery. The lube specialist lubricates the front-end parts using specialized equipment while watching for worn or damaged parts.
As they become more proficient, lubrication specialists may be called upon to make critical measurements of components for excessive wear. They usually are responsible for making a safety inspection of other components, such as brake linings, fuel and brake lines, and tires.
There has been a great increase of independent lubrication shops that specialize in quick lubrication service. For the convenience of the motorist, the oil and filter are usually changed and the front end lubricated while the customer waits.
The lube specialist has the opportunity to learn about many of the basic systems, and this familiarity can be a stepping-stone to advancement to more complicated and responsible service.