Jack of all alignments
Colorado Springs, Colo.—Nobody could argue that the $20,000 Jack Humphrey’s father invested in building a four-bay alignment shop in his backyard in 1971 wasn’t a good idea. The building and the business have become staples in the Colorado Springs community, and Jack’s Alignment Service will enter its 69th year in business in 2019 and continues to operate a “full book” daily, doing sometimes 45 alignments per day during peak season.
“Some shops do one or two alignments a week – it’s not really a specialty for them,” he said. “I think we’ve been in business so long because we’ve never turned anything away and work to figure out tough problems that maybe some other folks simply don’t have time for. Performing alignments on so many different makes and models each week means we’re seeing unique problems first and developing solutions before anybody else.”
The shop employs two full-time technicians, Jason Ochsie and Pat Jiron, as well as a part-time apprentice, Kevin Ochsie, (Jason’s son) and Jack’s sister, Grace Long, who is co-owner. Ochsie and Jiron have been with the company for more than 30 years and have done thousands of alignments, Humphrey said. That deep knowledge and specialization has earned Jack’s Alignment Service a reputation as the “go-to” shop for alignments and plenty of repeat business via word of mouth. Its main clientele is still the general public, but the shop also has a plethora of wholesale accounts and gets consistent referrals from local tire retailers – such as Discount Tire and Costco — as well as other independent repair shops.
“We have a three-truck fleet that helps us service our wholesale customers. We’ll go pick up any vehicle they need aligned and drive it back to our shop, then usually return it the same day,” Humphrey said. “We service a lot of one-ton trucks because most shops can’t fit them on their alignment rack. When my dad built the shop he laid it out with two ‘pit’ alignment bays, so as long as the vehicle isn’t too wide, we can do a four wheel alignment on it.”
In 2016, Jack’s Alignment Service invested $60,000 in two new Hunter Engineering Hawkeye alignment machines with WinAlign software and Codelink technology. It was an upgrade from the old Hunter 311 system Jack’s had been using for more than a decade. But as technology in cars is beginning to have an effect on undercar repair, Humphrey said it was clearly time to invest in something more modern.
“When it’s time, it’s time,” Humphrey said. “With the new ADAS sensors on vehicles being so sensitive, we needed something for the future. This machine has certainly helped us speed up productivity – we can get a measurement done in about 30 seconds.”
The new equipment was installed by southern Colorado Hunter Engineering rep Kevin Belisaro, who Parts & People reached out to for comment regarding its capabilities and how it might assist technicians who are aligning today’s vehicles with ADAS technology.
“All of Hunter Engineering alignment systems are steering angle sensor capable – meaning they’re designed to incorporate ADAS sensor reset steps into the alignment process. The Hunter Codelink technology links to the vehicles OBD II aligner and safety systems to guarantee precision with exact steering system sensor thresholds,” Belisaro said. “Because Codelink connects directly to the ECM module, a technician will know after performing an alignment if recalibration of any ADAS sensors is necessary.”
Jason Ochsie added that the new machines have made aligning, not only the latest vehicles, but all makes and models, easier. “Our set up and run-out time has definitely increased with the new equipment in place.”
Humphrey has also used Hunter Engineering for training, but most recently sent Kevin Ochsie to basic alignment training through Specialty Products Company in Longmont, Colo., which he relies on for suspension parts in addition to Undercar Plus.
“I can get most of my bushings, control arms and suspension parts from Undercar Plus, but Specialty Products Company has been good for hard-to-find items such as adjustable control arms and some of the parts we need for recreational vehicle alignments,” Humphrey said. “We keep our service limited to suspension and alignments so we don’t do tires, brakes, or service of any kind. There used to be a few other exclusive alignment shops in town, but I guess we outlived them.”
The shop has contracted Hibu to manage its online media presence, including management of social media presence and reviews on Facebook, Yelp and Google. Humphrey said the recent boom in population in the Colorado Springs and Denver-metro have helped increase his business, but the majority of the work still comes via referrals.
When asked about the future of the 68-year-old business, Humphrey said that as the industry continues to advance at breakneck speed, Jack’s Alignment Service will keep doing what it’s been known for since it was established in 1950: alignments and suspension work.
“No matter how advanced the industry gets, you can’t please everybody all the time,” Humphrey said. “But it’s nice to try.”