Alignment Machines: Why CCD Alignment Systems Trump 3D Alignment Systems

Every vehicle needs regular alignments to prevent premature tire wear, and to ensure that suspension components are not out of adjustment. Of course, you need to make an informed decision when it comes to the alignment technology you use in your shop. The right system can offer you tremendous accuracy, cost savings, time savings, and provide you with access to a preprogrammed database of vehicles.


Today, there are two competing alignment technologies out there – CCD and 3D. Which is better for you? Actually, you’ll find that CCD systems trump 3D alignment systems in all instances, but why is this? How might your shop benefit with a CCD system over 3D alignment system?


The Myth of Age


Often, 3D alignment technology is touted as being new. It’s actually not. These systems have been around since the mid-1990s. Some distributors will make the opposite claim – that CCD is the newer technology. Again, it’s not. It first debuted a few years before 3D technology. Both technologies have been refined and advanced over the years, but both have been around for quite some time.


The Myth of Accuracy


3D alignment system retailers claim that their systems offer high-definition accuracy. The truth is that both CCD and 3D alignment systems are highly accurate. In-depth testing has actually proven that CCD machines can truly be slightly more accurate than 3D machines because the measuring sensors attach directly to the wheel, rather than relying on an image taken of a target mounted on the wheel.


The Myth of Database Size


Some retailers believe that the database made available with a 3D system contains more vehicles. The truth is that CCD systems actually have a larger database (over 90,000 vehicles and growing). Obviously, the more vehicles you have access to, the simpler and easier it will be for your mechanics to perform accurate alignments based on OEM specifications, rather than “best guesses”. In the end, this translates to better customer service – their vehicles are serviced faster, and with greater accuracy – and better customer satisfaction, both of which are important targets for any auto shop.


There’s also the fact that CCD systems can work with larger vehicles than what a 3D alignment system can, and that you can also align specialty vehicles quite easily. That opens up a lot of new possibilities when it comes to generating streams of revenue from your alignment service.


The Myth of Maintenance Costs


While no alignment system is going to have significant ongoing maintenance needs, you cannot discount the possibility of failure when it comes to the computer and its peripherals. 3D alignment systems generally use proprietary equipment, which means you’re locked into buying replacements from the manufacturer. CCD systems can work with any PC, keyboard, printer and other peripherals you might want, so you can source them from any location without having to worry about compatibility.


Think that PC replacement won’t be a reality for you? Think about how often electronics in your shop are exposed to liquids like oil, as well as to other potential threats. For instance, the PC’s cooling fan can easily suck in brake fines from rotor resurfacing, as well as other minute particles that will eventually damage the computer, causing the need for replacement. When that happens, wouldn’t it be better to have flexibility in where you source your replacement parts? 


The Myth of Ease of Movement


A busy automotive shop needs to make smart use of all available space, including the alignment bay. How often have your mechanics been so covered up with maintenance work that the alignment bay had to double as an oil change station, or be used to mount a set of new tires? What happens if an alignment needs to be done during that time?


With a 3D alignment system, you’re locked into using the same bay for your alignment work, time after time. This is because of the special lift needed (and one that you’ll spend a great deal of money on, particularly if you need an extended alignment lift to accommodate vehicle rollback during the alignment process).


With a CCD system, that’s not the case. You can easily use a CCD system in any bay with a four-post lift, and it is not locked to a specific alignment rack, meaning that you have a greater ability to use your space as you need. That offers flexibility and ensures shorter wait times for customers.


The Myth of Setup Speed


3D alignment system manufacturers like to tout the ease of setup of their systems. That’s an important consideration, too. The easier it is to get a car on the rack, the sensors attached, and the alignment underway, the faster you can get that customer on the road and the more quickly you can get another alignment going.


Interestingly, a quality CCD system can actually be set up and ready to go in five minutes or under by a mechanic familiar with the system. That’s as fast (or faster) as what you can expect with a 3D alignment system.


The Myth of Storage Space


There will be times that you need to move your alignment machine out of the way. Perhaps you’re pressure washing the floor, or resealing the concrete. You might be moving additional equipment in. Whatever the case, you’ll find that moving and storing a CCD alignment machine is easier than a 3D alignment machine. Many 3D systems must be mounted directly to the floor, and even those that have a mobile base require additional room because of the 3D system. CCD systems can be rolled out of the way and require much less space.


Making Your Decision


Ultimately, both 3D alignment systems and CCD alignment systems offer the ability to provide your customers with an essential service. While 3D technology might sound flashier, it does not really provide you with any tangible benefits to justify the extra cost associated with these systems. In the end, CCD alignment systems are most cost effective, versatile and accurate, which translates into money and time savings for your shop, and better results for your customers.