You have probably asked yourself, “Why can’t I use a laser from Sears, Home Depot, or my local hardware store to do a wheel alignment on my street car or race car?” This is a very good question. However, the following information will give you enough basic information to help you understand why you should NOT use “home store” lasers to do wheel alignments. This information that we are sharing with you comes from data we have collected over the years, by contributing countless hours of labor, and thousands of dollars spent in research and development.
First, Advantage Wheel Alignment has been in the wheel alignment and chassis setup business using laser wheel alignment for over ten years. We cover almost every type of vehicle, from BMWs to Indy Cars, and we sell to the most influential wheel alignment shops and race teams in the world, including major car manufactures. We have over 25 years of experience in “Tool Design”, 8 US patents, and 6 publishes. All our products are designed specifically for its application.
Why you don't want to use a CONSTRUCTION LASER To do a wheel alignment.
A construction laser from Sears, Home Depot, or your local hardware store is extremely inaccurate for use with any motor vehicle wheel alignment, so inaccurate in fact; that you would be better off using string to do an alignment. Construction lasers are just that made for “constructing” a deck, hanging a picture, or putting in a fence post. For this situation, the age-old phrase “you get what you pay for” holds true. I am making this statement to hopefully save you some money and a very bad experience.
Another acronym, “what you see is what you get” is a little bit different with regard to construction lasers. It is more like “what you see is not necessarily what you get.” It is what they do not tell you is where the trouble starts.
MYTH: Laser’s beam shoot straight out of the center line axis and parallel to its main mechanical axis. Yes it is a myth. They are never on centerline axis and parallel.
CASE IN POINT: A Construction Laser Level. This product has a laser that shoots a beam out of the end of the level and parallel to the edges of the level’s surface. Right? Well, sort of. They have a tolerance. We have seen specs on these levels where they are as much as +/- ½ inch at 50 feet relative to the level’s surface. So you place the level on a flat surface and at 50 feet the laser is ½ inch higher than that at the laser output.
Turn the level onto the other side and you have the opposite. Now the specs for the laser beam are relative to the level’s main surface. What about relative to the sides of the level? Well, it could be worse. Now you have a laser level where the laser beam not only can be shooting up or down but it can also be shooting left or right at the same amount or more.
When you put it up against the rear wheel of your car, and it could be shooting up or down or left or right. Get the idea? Is that string looking pretty good now? And did I mention their lasers do not have any method for calibration?
Now - go out and search all the wheel alignment system suppliers who use (improvise) construction laser levels as a laser source for their product. Gee they all do! EXCEPT for Advantage Wheel Alignment.
If that is not enough, here’s more information for your records:
• The laser wavelength and power they use are the same as the laser construction level. CHEAP!!
• They say the laser can be flipped 90 degrees. Well sort of.
• The laser plane is perpendicular to the base? Well sort of.
• The laser cannot be calibrated to the bubble level.
• There are no methods of calibration for anything.
HERE IS THE KICKER!!!!!!!
The “Cheap” laser line is NOT straight. The laser plane is actually parabolic. This means that if you drop a plumb line and shot the laser on the plumb line, the laser will not follow it from top to bottom.
So now you have a low power laser plane that is not calibrated to the bubble level, not necessarily perpendicular to the mechanical base, doesn’t swing a true 90 degrees, and the laser plane is curved.
After reading this, would you use this construction laser plane to set up your car or truck?
What about the Advantage Wheel Alignment Laser String laser planes?
They are 10 times brighter and 2 times more powerful.
They are American made and use special optics of extreme high quality.
The laser plane output is factory calibrated to eliminate curvature.
Relative to the Standard Laser String, the alignment bar is factory calibrated to the laser plane for parallelism to +/- 30 Thousands over 100 feet. The laser is also factory calibrated to the level for vertical plumb.
SOME BASIC LASER WHEEL ALIGNMENT SPECS:
• Lasers are basically specified by wavelength, power, and beam divergence.
• The three most popular red lasers have wavelengths in nanometers (Nm).
• They are 670 nm, 650 nm and 635nm. (cheap lasers)
• The 650’s are 5 times brighter than the 670’s.
• The 635’s are 10 times brighter than the 670’s. (this is what we use)
• The cost of the 650 is around 20 times that of the 670.
• The 635 is about 100 times more expensive than the 670. (this is what we use in our lasers)
• Power is rated in milli-watt (mW).
• More power means more money.
• The highest power allowed by the federal government to be eye safe and not require special safety glasses is 5mW.
• Beam divergence is the angle of the edges of the laser beam in radians.
Every laser has beam divergence.
The farther out the laser’s beam goes, the more the spot size grows.
Cost: the smaller the angle, the more money you have to spend.
The most common beam divergence used in construction lasers, without giving you a number, is of course the worst since it is cheapest.
• What does Advantage Wheel Alignment use? We know and are told by our customers that we have the most consistent and uniform beam width over the distance of the vehicle on the market.
• The most common wavelength used in construction lasers is of course, the cheapest 670nm.
• What does ART use? 650 for most single point lasers, 635 for all laser string lasers.
• The most common power used in construction lasers is once again the cheapest 2.5mW or less.
• What does Advantage Wheel Alignment use? All Advantage Wheel Alignment lasers are the highest power allowed by law: 5mW.
In special cases we do use higher power lasers.
• Wave length is 532nm, the brightest laser to the human eye that will ever be produced, and are currently the most expensive. At this time they are typically not found in construction lasers.
• Does Advantage Wheel Alignment offer Green lasers? Yes
The Wheel Alignment System buyers guide: BUYER BEWARE!
The bottom line is that without an understanding of lasers it can be easy to see why people could view all lasers as being the same. Most importantly, they are often viewed as being accurate. Our wheel alignment products use the finest quality lasers and components available. Most importantly, you can use our wheel alignment equipment with the highest confidence that you are achieving the highest quality wheel alignment that you can.