Table of Contents Hide
- What is car tire alignment?
- Importance of Wheel Alignment
- Alignment Time Frame
- Signs the Car Needs Alignment
Wheel alignment is an important task that should be carried out whenever you notice there is a problem with the car’s alignment.
Many people have no problem taking their cars for alignment, but they often think it would take too much time out of their schedules.
You should not have to worry so much about how long it would take to get the alignment done. It should take an average of 30 minutes to one hour. The timeframe depends on the suspension complexity and how many adjustments have to be made.
What is car tire alignment?
Tire alignment is the adjustment of the suspension parts to ensure the car can drive straight and align the tires with the road correctly.
If you do not have the car properly aligned, you might notice that the car pulls to one side when you release the steering wheel, or the tires also wear unevenly.
As much as tire alignment can be done at home, it might not be advisable as you might make a lot of errors. This is where you have to take the vehicle to a professional shop equipped with the right machines for a tire alignment.
The tire alignment machine will have the recommended alignment settings for the different cars. That is why you can get an alignment for a Toyota Rav 4 that is different from a Toyota Corolla even though they are from the same car maker.
Importance of Wheel Alignment
Wheel alignment is quite important to avoid having misaligned wheels. One thing that could come out of misaligned wheels is that the car’s handling ability is compromised. So, have the car aligned properly to have the right steering feedback and handle the car better.
You might notice that at times it becomes like you are wrestling with the car. That is what having a misaligned car does to you. It will keep pulling to one side and you will find yourself trying to correct it back.
The continuous pulling to one side will definitely affect the tire wear you have generally. Some people have experienced uneven tire wear with time when they kept postponing the alignment of their vehicles.
Other than uneven tire wear, you may also experience tire blowouts too and additional suspension damage. Anyone who has done a suspension overhaul knows it is not cheap so make sure it does not get to this point.
This video talks more about what tire alignment is all about
Alignment Time Frame
We have already established that tire alignment can take around 30 minutes to even an hour depending on how much adjustment has to be made.
If it is a four-wheel-drive vehicle, then you might have a lot more time. This is because you have to do all four corners ensuring the car is well-balanced as per the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Once the vehicle gets to the alignment machine, it is calibrated based on the manufacturer’s specifications.
The alignment computer is loaded with various specifications for different cars. So, it should not be a problem to find where the vehicle needs alignment and have it adjusted properly.
Depending on the shop, sometimes testing might be necessary. The technician can test the car to get the feel of it before making the adjustments.
Even if it is a model with complicated suspension, it will not take more than 2 hours to have it properly aligned. Most front-wheel-drive cars would just need 30 minutes and they are good to go.
Once the alignment is done, you can drive the car around to get a feel of the new changes. Most people would notice that the alignment helps to keep the car straight even if you stop holding the steering wheel.
The vehicle could also benefit from wheel balancing too while checking the alignment. If the wheels are aligned and balanced, you should generally experience a smooth ride that works great for you.
Here is a video on how wheel alignment is done
Signs the Car Needs Alignment
Understanding when your car needs alignment is important. That is why we look at some of the signs to have in mind so that you know next time that the vehicle needs wheel alignment as soon as possible.
There is the off-center steering wheel
It is possible you have experienced this already. You just feel the steering is all wrong. This is large because there is a problem with the wheel alignment.
Always observe the angle of your steering wheel while driving. In case you notice it is no longer centered, then it means there is an issue with the alignment. Have the mechanic adjust the tie rods so that the steering comes back to the center.
You will also notice that the vehicle keeps pulling to one side. This can be dangerous and strenuous as you have to keep getting the car back in line as you want.
Vibrations in the steering wheel
Steering wheel vibration can be many things, but also wheel alignment can make it even worse. When the steering is always vibrating, it would make it hard for you to control the car.
Also, the unbalanced tires would make the steering vibrate at high speeds. So, you will have a problem with alignment and still unbalanced wheels.
Slack in the steering wheel
You may also experience slack in the steering wheel. This indicates there is a problem with your alignment and other suspension parts. A loose steering wheel is not what you want. This is because the steering wheel is key in ensuring there is proper control of the car.
Uneven tire wear
When the car has to keep pulling to one side, it is possible to expect that the tires would generally have uneven wear.
It is advisable to inspect your tires more often so that you can notice such issues as early as possible. If the tires are wearing unevenly, consider proper alignment and also check the tire pressure to ensure it is what the car maker recommends.
How much does it cost for tire alignment?
Alignment costs from around $75 to $200 depending on the vehicle’s complexity in terms of suspension and how many adjustments have to be made.
How often should alignment be done?
In most cases, it should be done every two to three years. However, you can do it sooner in case you notice there are signs that the car needs alignment.
Can I align the car myself?
It is possible to do it yourself if you have the right tools. However, if you do it without tools, it is possible to worsen the situation.