2015-08-21: Wheel Alignment at a non-Tesla center

Saara’s mileage is almost 9000 miles now and she definitely needed a wheel alignment. The Austin Tesla service center charges $240 for an alignment which I think is insane given what it takes to do it. It is not much of a difference in doing an alignment for an ICE car v/s Tesla. A well established place like Firestone does it for about $80 for an ICE car, but unfortunately they do not handle Teslas atleast for now (as of 8/21/15). Please note that Tesla’s yearly recommended service plan does not include wheel alignment, which not many people know!

I enquired around and found a fellow Austinite who also is a Model S owner who recently started an automotive business where they do wheel alignments on Teslas for $80. Even though the business owner owns a Tesla, given the fact that it is a new car with new technology, I was pretty sure that not every technician there would be aware of how to handle a Tesla, so I decided to have the alignment done only if they have me watch them do their whole process. Meanwhile before I went there, I did a fare amount of research online on how an alignment is done on a Model S.

When I took her there, I asked the shop guys if they would let me into their garage while they work on my car and they gladly obliged. Below listed are the steps that were involved during the alignment process on my car. Please note that I am neither a technician nor an expert on cars but have listed as much details as possible to the best of my knowledge:

1. Car was parked on the rack and the technician drove a little back/forth to park the wheels right over the markings on the rack floor so that the alignment can be measured.

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2. Rack was raised to the appropriate height.

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3. All 4 wheels were hooked up to a Hoffman alignment machine and the alignment was measured. They noticed a slight misalignment in 2 of my wheels (one front and one rear).

Front wheel hooked up to the Hoffman alignment machine
Rear wheel hooked up to the Hoffman alignment machine
Hoffman alignment machine with monitor in front of car

4. When one aligns wheels on a rear wheel drive, the rear wheel is aligned before the front one is. This is where the inexperience of the technician kicked in! I am not going to get too technical in here but am aware that in a Model S, rear is camber, toe and max thrust angle and front is toe, camber & caster. To do the alignment on the rear, all the technician had to do was to locate the available opening near the rear wheel to reach out to a bolt and then use a ratchet/wrench to loosen it before adjusting the toe gradually to match it to the Tesla factory specs by looking at the monitor. The first technician who was assigned to the task did not know how to access the bolt directly, instead he was thinking about removing the underneath floor panels to reach out to the bolt. He then had a discussion with a 2nd technician.

Underneath floor panel
Opening (near left rear wheel) to access bolt to adjust alignment
Opening (near left rear wheel) to access bolt to adjust alignment

5. I had earlier read somewhere that the floor panels need not be removed for doing an alignment so I explained that to them.The technician figured out on how to reach the bolt without removing the floor panels and from then on, there were no hiccups and he wrapped up the work for the rear and the front wheels.

Measurements display on monitor before alignment
Measurements display on monitor after alignment

Size of ratchet/wrench used to adjust wheels:
Rear: 19/19
Front: 25/19

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Ratchet and wrench used to do alignment
Wheel Alignment Specs and Report
Wheel Alignment Specs and Report
If taking your car to a non Tesla shop, do your own research and gather/have the instructions ready for the technician to save time and to avoid doing unnecessary work on the car.

One thought on “2015-08-21: Wheel Alignment at a non-Tesla center”

  1. Next time take it to some shops who have the newer, calibrated Hunter machine.
    The machine will let the technician know how to do it and which bolt to losse to adjust each parameters.
    Ask to center all measurements and don’t get satisfied by green color. Just keep in mind that it may be impossible to make it with zero tolerance. But what I have been seen it is the technician ignore all green range expect toe. Pay even more but get the job done in right way.
    And keep your wheel’s away from pathole and curve’s to keep the adjustment more longer.

    Liked by 1 person

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