A provincial grant has made it possible for Portage Collegiate Institute students to learn the latest in wheel alignment technology. 

Automotive instructor Sean Benedictson says a new Hunter Road Force Elite wheel balancer was installed last week. 

"It is used to balance the tire to make sure that there are no vibrations that you would feel going down the road and to extend the life of your suspension components, basically, after we install the tire," says Benedictson. "What gives this an advantage over the previous balancer we had is it has a lift that can actually be used to bring heavy tires up, so that our students, who are not capable of lifting the tires, can install them easily without injury. It has a road force component that actually simulates the vehicle being on the ground."

He explains this means that there is 1200 pounds of force applied to the tire.

"That can check for tread separations, and things like that, in the tire that may not be readily apparent by the eye," continues Benedictson. "It's touch-screen now, which is pretty cool. It has all kinds of TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems) sensor data in there that's stored. So, if you need to reset sensors and stuff like that, it tells you how to do it without using another tool. It has auto-inflation. You hook it up and you tell it what pressure the tire needs to be inflated to, and it does it by itself. It's a really smart piece of technology."

Road Force technologyRoad Force technology

Benedictson says it has more features than he realized were included. 

"It's the top-of-the-line thing that's available," adds Benedictson. "We have the goal where we want our equipment and the things that we're teaching to be five years ahead of where we are currently, so that when our students go out into the workforce, they're prepared with the new stuff that they're going to see."

He says the old machine is still functional and will continue to be used for some things. 

"We don't use it at quite the pace that a dealership would, so our stuff seems to last a little longer, but that's old-tech," notes Benedictson. "This is new. This is what our students are going to be seeing when they go out. Some manufacturers are requiring this machine now for their installation of tires. We want to be prepared for that, and have the kids able to use it when they see it."

Touch screenTouch screen

The alignment system comes at a price tag of about $27,000. 

"That was a government grant, so we're very happy to receive that. Conversely, below 13 years ago, the old one was $13-grand," says Benedictson. "This new one is mainly the unit that they're installing around the province."

Benedictson says the students aren't using it quite yet, but they had some training on it this past week.  He adds they might start using it this week.