Real World- Take Me Out! - Test Drive Pointers For Technicians -

Real World- Take Me Out! – Test Drive Pointers For Technicians

Adapted from Andrew Markel's Articles in Brake & Front End

Road testing a vehicle prior to an alignment can be just as important as the alignment itself. Not performing a test drive can lead to comebacks and unhappy customers.

When going for a test drive, a technician should have a clear objective and methodical plan for verifying the problem. It is also a chance to inspect the vehicle for other unperformed repairs.

Before going on a test drive, a technician should have a clear list of symptoms and related conditions the customer is experiencing. Also, before hitting the road the technician should make sure the vehicle is road worthy.

Before You Go…

Verify that car has functioning brakes, lights and enough fuel. Remember, you are driving an unfamiliar vehicle and it may exhibit behavior that could be unexpected, like a seat reclining suddenly. And nothing can be more embarrassing to a technician than running out of gas while driving a customer’s vehicle.

Reasons for Leaving
The main goal of a test drive should be to verify the customer’s problem, not to go get coffee. Also, a good test driver will be able to observe conditions or problems with the vehicle that have developed so slowly the owner is unaware of them.

One of the keys to becoming a good test driver is to find a driving “loop” or route that has a variety of road conditions. Using a predetermined loop can help to build consistency that will help you to spot small problems.

For alignment road tests, your test loop should consist of sections: a flat and straight section; an area to test braking and acceleration; an area with a dip or bump, and an area that offers both left and right turns.

Flat and Straight
On the flat and straight section of the loop, test directional instability and observe steering wheel position. The road surface should be smooth and flat with very little crown. The objective is to drive on a surface that will not influence the direction of the vehicle.

A crooked steering wheel may indicate a thrust condition that should be aligned or corrected. Check for excessive steering wheel play. The vehicle may drift if the steering system is excessively loose. This condition should be repaired before the alignment.

Stop and Start
Use a parking lot or rarely used section of road for this section of the test. This test is used to detect brake pulls, torque steer and worn or loose suspension or steering components.

Check for a brake pull when stopping the vehicle. The owner may think they have an alignment-related problem when, in fact, the braking system is at fault. This is usually most noticeable during hard braking.

The vehicle may drift to one side or the other due to dragging brakes. A brake caliper that does not fully release may be at fault. This problem is often brought about by heat and may not be evident on the alignment rack during compensation of the sensors.

Check for excessive nose-diving during braking. This is not normal and may be caused by worn springs or shocks. Worn springs will affect vehicle ride height and may affect overall vehicle handling. Check for pulls or drifts when accelerating or decelerating. This may be due to a condition known as “torque steer.” Torque steer is generally associated with FWD vehicles.

Dips and Bumps
Drive the vehicle over the bump or through the dip and observe the steering wheel position. This is an excellent test to detect weak springs, weak shocks and worn or unlevel steering components. If the vehicle changes direction or the steering wheel moves excessively, the steering components may be worn, incorrectly adjusted or unlevel. This condition is commonly known as “bump steer.” Excessive suspension bouncing may be the result of weak shocks.

Bottoming out of the suspension may be the result of weak springs. Continue to monitor suspension and steering stability throughout the remainder of the drive.

Left and Right Turns
Check the overall handling response through both left and right turns. Front and rear alignment settings, as well as steering and suspension components, affect cornering capabilities.

Check for steering difficulties that may be the result of mechanical binding or interference. This condition is commonly referred to as “memory steer.” Check for proper returnability of the steering wheel after a turn. Excessive driver effort should not be necessary.

Any excessive body sway could indicate worn springs, shocks or stabilizer assemblies.

Look for any excessive squealing of tires during turns. This can be caused by incorrect alignment settings or turning angle out of specifications.

Developing a methodical and consistent test drive loop and procedure can improve your chances of coming back from a test drive with a better understanding of the problem the owner is experiencing. Having a plan and a loop can eliminate distractions that could lead to an accident. Most importantly, prepare for the unexpected and drive defensively.

You May Also Like

NPW Welcomes Automotive Installers Warehouse to Its Network

Automotive Installers Warehouse has been an NPW customer since 2013 and has merged with NPW as part of its ongoing expansion.

National Auto Parts Warehouse Companies (NPW) has added Automotive Installers Warehouse (AIW) into its network. The company said AIW, a loyal NPW customer since 2013, has merged with NPW as part of its ongoing expansion endeavors.

Under the leadership of owner Omar Mesa, AIW has consistently provided service and expertise to its clientele. Mesa has transitioned to NPW with the merger, bringing his experience and industry knowledge to the team, NPW said.

Valvoline Ushers in New Era of Environmental Stewardship

Valvoline is providing solutions for ICE vehicles to be as clean and long-living as possible to benefit the environment of today and tomorrow.

Lumileds Debuts New Philips Automotive Lighting Website

The site features an entirely new design that brings together the full breadth of the Philips portfolio of automotive lighting and accessories in North America.

MANN+HUMMEL NA Aftermarket Shows Right to Repair Support

Representatives from MANN+HUMMEL’s North American aftermarket brands recently visited Capitol Hill to express their support for H.R. 906.

Auto-Wares Group Wins TCED Super Bowl Contest

As part of the grand prize, Auto-Wares winners will be accompanied by TCED President Elise Rozon.

Other Posts

Valvoline Global to Debut Ad During Super Bowl Pre-Game

The company will showcase its Restore & Protect motor oil in a 30-second ad before Super Bowl LVIII.

Chevron Introduces New Rykon Formula to Grease Product Line

The new calcium sulfonate complex-based grease is designed for heavy-duty and extreme pressure applications.

Valvoline Inc. Opens Its 1000th Franchise Location

The addition of the 1000th franchise location brings the total number of system-wide stores to nearly 1,900 retail locations.

Standard Motor Products Expands Emission Control Program

SMP’s program features more than 3,500 parts, including EVAP, EGR and positive crankcase ventilation products.