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2010 2011 BMW 5 Series Forum F10 BMW 5-Series (F10) Forums General 5-Series Sedan and Wagon (F10 / F11) Forum Should you aligned your BMW only at BMW dealership?
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      07-29-2011, 12:37 PM   #1
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Exclamation Should you aligned your BMW only at BMW dealership?

The guy at the BMW dealership gave me a contempt look when he found out that I aligned my 535 at firestone which I thought should be an identical thing to do at places other than BMW with a whole lot cheaper price.
He told me that firestone doesn't even have the right equipment to align a BMW, they neither have the ability to do it right. He insist that only BMW dealership can align a BMW right as it should be.
I can't take his words as truly unbiased, just wanna know how you guys think.
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      07-29-2011, 01:43 PM   #2
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id say it probably doesnt matter as long as you trust the shop
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      07-29-2011, 02:44 PM   #3
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When I had my last BMW the alignment offered by the dealership was pretty poor compared with the performance alignment specialist I took it to (a guy who only does alignments and nothing else, mainly for performance cars and race cars).

It's a tougher proposition if you have IAS. I'm not sure whether IAS affects the mechanics of the alignment process.
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      07-29-2011, 03:20 PM   #4
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It has been my personal experience that BMW has done a better job of aligning my cars. For one thing, they weigh the car down with the specified weight, and have never marred or scratched my wheels with the aligning equipment. For sure, they seem to do a lot better job at balancing wheels. I don't know why but it seems that none of the Firestone or Goodyear guys around me can balance worth anything. Unless it is a specific shop that only does alignment, I might question others experience on using someone other than the dealer.
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      07-29-2011, 03:29 PM   #5
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I'd have neither Firestone do it nor the dealer. Go to a BMW specialist, they can probably do it correctly and cheaper than the dealer.
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      08-02-2011, 10:24 AM   #6
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Where can I find those "BMW specialist"? Sorry for my ignorance
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      08-02-2011, 10:28 AM   #7
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      08-02-2011, 12:35 PM   #8
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I don't think it matters where you get it done or on what equipment. All that matters is the technician; someone who knows what he is doing. At the same shop I've had different levels of satisfaction from the job done on the same car on the same rack depending on who did it. If you're happy with the job, then that's all that matters.
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      08-02-2011, 01:20 PM   #9
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I would say you should go to a specialist who does only alignments. I think Firestone and Sears is no better than dealer, and there is risk they will get oil on your leather.

I use The Alignment Factory in Miami. The guy does nothing but alignments. A lot of Porsche, BMW M, and Corvette owners go to him. And the alignment comes out perfect. Much better than the dealer.
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      08-02-2011, 03:59 PM   #10
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I may be able to shed some light here as I do own an independent BMW shop and we do alignments.

BMW's alignment system is called KDS and in the US it's a system manufactured by Hunter and loaded with some BMW-specific software features. The core system, though, is Hunter's.

Some dealerships feel that they have the market cornered on BMW alignments as they are the only ones with easy access to the BMW-specific features in the software. Furthermore they'll insist that they are the only ones able to deal with some of the BMW-specific vehicle features, such as active steering.

In reality, any shop with the proper equipment and experience on BMW's suspension systems can provide an excellent alignment service. The key, as mentioned earlier, is the experience of the tech performing the alignment. In many ways this single factor makes the typical dealership the wrong place for alignment work as "alignment techs" are typically one step above "oil change techs."

Here are some things to consider when shopping for an alignment:

1) What equipment does the shop have and how up-to-date is it? We have Hunter's latest-and-greatest equipment and I can tell you that it's a major investment. Some smaller shops simply can't afford to tool up at this level.

2) Does the shop have the equipment needed to re-calibrate the steering angle sensor? This functionality is built into our alignment computer, but some older systems don't have this capability.

3) Does the shop have the equipment needed to handle active steering and/or the calibration of the vehicle cameras. This is much more advanced functionality and is really only available in some vehicle-specific diagnostic tools. In the case of the F10 the shop really should be using BMW's ISTA/D diagnostic system. Autologic is working to build this functionality into their software, but I'm honestly not sure if they are there yet.

Finally, I would highly recommend looking for a shop that can perform a road force balance along with the alignment. Our experience has shown us that a large number of "pulling" issues are indeed due to issues with the tires rather than the alignment. A proper road force balance can minimize the contribution of tire eccentricities.
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      08-03-2011, 10:43 AM   #11
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AMP - I have a question for you as an independent shop owner.

Are you able to do navigation map updates also? What is the least expensive service or path for a map update? Going through BMW is something like 10 times the cost of updating maps on an Garmin.
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      08-03-2011, 11:36 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stealth.pilot View Post
AMP - I have a question for you as an independent shop owner.

Are you able to do navigation map updates also? What is the least expensive service or path for a map update? Going through BMW is something like 10 times the cost of updating maps on an Garmin.
The map updates come in two parts:

The map data -- provided on a set of DVDs or downloaded to the car via the ISSS (programing / coding tool). This is the actual data that is loaded onto the car's hard drive.

The activation code (or FSC) -- this is the license key that enables the map data and allows the nav system to access and display the maps. The activation code is generated on-demand by BMW and is based upon the VIN of your car and the version of the map data.

The cost of updating the maps is the cost of the activation code (which lists in the $350 range) plus the shop time to install and activate them. Due to the nature of BMW's process for requesting and delivering activation codes it's very difficult for individuals to get them. It's tough for independent shops to get them unless they have a very good relationship with their selling dealer.

Note that the nav map activation code is the only one which can be entered using the iDrive controller. It's possible for an individual to update his own maps, but that will require the dealer's parts department to understand the process enough to be able to deliver the activation code.
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      08-03-2011, 11:43 PM   #13
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Thanks for the explanation AMP.
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      08-04-2011, 10:19 AM   #14
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Thanks for all the feed backs and the thorough instruction of AMP's, really helpful!
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      08-04-2011, 09:58 PM   #15
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AMP-quick question... I was quoted $850 for a kw3 install; told i need an alignment and balance with several drive cycles. Sounds reasonable logically but expensive as hell.
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      08-05-2011, 01:00 AM   #16
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I'm not familiar with the specifics of the KW3 on the F10, but that sounds like a good price given all that is involved.

The key to an adjustable suspension like that is what is called corner balancing. This is a process in which the 4 corners of the car (wheels) are placed on scales and the weight of the vehicle is balanced so that the sum of the left front + right rear = right front + right rear. This process is essential to maintaining suspension geometry and tire contact under all driving conditions. Measuring ride height at the four corners isn't sufficient as that doesn't take into account the actual load on the suspension and will lead to a situation in which one wheel isn't carrying it's full load. This will cause the car to rock back and forth much in the same way a table with a short leg is inherently unstable.
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      08-05-2011, 12:49 PM   #17
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Thanks AMP. Super response!
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      08-10-2011, 12:27 PM   #18
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I always go to independent place to do alignments, I have the car dropped on H&R springs and 20 inch wheels, but even if didn't I would still avoid my dealership
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      12-01-2012, 05:58 AM   #19
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old thread, but i hope someone chimes in. i personally have purchased a lifetime alignment at firestone which is 179.99 i believe . One particular gentleman always does it. i have been happy with the results. before i get into tech specs i will say i have not had an issue with alignment. as a matter of fact under my CPO i took the car in for a problem that i thought was related to struts (a whirling sound correlated with acceleration) which i found later to be low air pressure, because they couldnt determine. anyway. BMW said the alignment was fine. So i trust my Firestone tech.

that being said, there IS a specific weight that needs to be applied and i believe Sears said it was like 65 lbs . Not sure in what matter you do it.

When i went to Firestone i fished for determining if the tech knew about this. They said they dont have the exact equipment and filling up the gas tank works fine. now, this is obviously not exact and I'm ok with it. But now im curous if the bentley manual lists what method to achieve the specified force. anyone?
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      12-01-2012, 11:35 AM   #20
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Fascinating thread even though old. It answers many questions I had. I always thought it was because of the active headlights.
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      12-03-2012, 09:50 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SideSwipe_24 View Post
I always go to independent place to do alignments, I have the car dropped on H&R springs and 20 inch wheels, but even if didn't I would still avoid my dealership
My rule of thumb is to let the dealership do the work while it's under warranty. Given the complexity (and price) of these cars, if someone screws it up, I'd rather be able to go after someone BMW supports.

BUT, I like my dealer, so that doesn't hurt either.
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      11-01-2014, 11:05 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AMP View Post
Finally, I would highly recommend looking for a shop that can perform a road force balance along with the alignment. Our experience has shown us that a large number of "pulling" issues are indeed due to issues with the tires rather than the alignment. A proper road force balance can minimize the contribution of tire eccentricities.
Thanks AMP. So, this last part is nothing I can do as the driver, like mess with pressures? That road force balance test has to be done by a tech?

FYI - my car pulling to the left, bought it 3 weeks ago. Not sure what the root cause is. I read something that tires are only covered for the first 30 days too but haven't been able to confirm.
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