Buying a wheel aligner

What to consider when buying a wheel aligner.
Treadway Equipped
Published on
Wheel alignment is a common auto maintenance procedure that involves correcting the angles of the wheels to meet the requirements set by the vehicle's manufacturer. 

Aligned wheels will lessen tyre wear and guarantee straight and true vehicle travel (without "pulling" to one side).  Alignment angles can also be changed outside of the manufacturer's guidelines to achieve a particular handling characteristic. Some vehicle owners may want the angles to be altered well beyond what is typical for road use, typically this is for off-roading, drifting, and other motorsport applications.

When purchasing a wheel aligner, there are several important factors to consider. Here's a buying guide to help you make an informed decision:

Alignment Technology

There are several different alignment technologies available:

Laser Wheel Aligners
Laser alignment is a basic technology that can be used for simple alignment jobs, but it is not as accurate as other technologies. A mechanic will fasten gauges to your car's wheels and shine a light from one to the other to assess the alignment. The technician can determine if the wheels are in or out of alignment based on where the light beams land on a scale. Camber and Castor can both be measured with a Digital Camber Castor Gauge.

CCD Wheel Aligners
The basic principle behind a CCD wheel aligner is that it uses cameras and light sensors to capture images of the wheels from multiple angles. These images are then analysed by specialized software to determine the position and orientation of the wheels in relation to each other and to the vehicle body. CCD systems can be impacted by ambient light in the workshop.

3D Wheel Aligners
A 3D wheel aligner works in a similar way to a CCD wheel aligner, but with the addition of three-dimensional imaging technology, delivered via the use of a large cross structure that acts as a reference point for the vehicle mounted sensors.

The large cross structure locks the owner into having a dedicated alignment area. Some systems will have 4 camera sets and do four wheels at the same time, whereas cheaper systems will only have 2 sets and do an axle at a time.

Hybrid Technologies
Some aligners use a combination of infra-red sensors, inclinometers and gyros mounted to the wheels to collect data for processing. The data is processed by a base unit that creates a 3D model of the wheel positions. These systems are highly accurate, fast to set up, are mobile and are not impacted by ambient light conditions.

Ease of Use

The wheel aligner should be easy to set up and use. Look for a system that comes with clear instructions and intuitive software. Some machines will support remote access from the supplier, this is very useful for database updates as a technician will not need to come on site for software related upgrades.

Look for a quick and simple clamping option. This will speed up set up and accuracy. How the sensors attach to the wheel can be important, clamping directly to the rim may risk damage and depending on the system can be fiddley or time consuming.


Make sure the wheel aligner you choose is compatible with the types of vehicles you work on. Some aligners may be designed specifically for cars, while others may be more suitable for larger vehicles such as trucks or buses.

If your car is custom like a hot rod, drift or, American muscle car take care. Look for a machine that can accommodate a custom set up – many will only allow selection from the vehicle database.

Vehicle Database

The size of the vehicle database is an important consideration, as it will determine how many different makes and models of vehicles the aligner can work with. Make sure the system you choose has a large enough database to cover the vehicles you work on. 

Consider imported and home market vehicles, will the aligner database cover local vehicles and vehicles likely to be imported second hand that are not usually sold via dealerships in your country of operation. Being able to add custom alignment settings is especially useful for Classic, custom build and racing vehicles.


The accuracy of the wheel aligner is essential, as even small errors can lead to problems with the vehicle's handling and safety. Look for a system that offers high accuracy and precision.


Wheel aligners can range in price from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Work out your budget and the needs of your business when selecting a system.

Consider the cost of ownership over several years and not just the initial investment. Are there charges for database updates, often does the machine need to be calibrated, and how frequently are these performed. Do you need to have dedicated space in your workshop that limits vehicle through put? How quickly and easily can an alignment be carried out and how doe that compare to your staff costs and the amount you charge your customer.

After-Sales Support

It is important to choose a reputable supplier that offers good after-sales support, including technical assistance and training. Ask if the machine has remote support that allows remote troubleshooting – or do you need a technician on site (usually at an extra cost).

In conclusion, when buying a wheel aligner, consider the alignment technology, ease of use, compatibility, vehicle database size, speed and accuracy of alignment, total cost of ownership, and after-sales support. By carefully evaluating these factors, you can select the right wheel aligner to meet your business needs.

Treadway Equipped can help you choose the wheel aligner that is right for you and back your purchase up with installation, training, and our 100% satisfaction promise.

See our range of wheel alignerscontact us for help selecting a wheel aligner, or book a wheel aligner demo.