Have you been in for an oil change lately and the mechanic told you that your car needed a wheel alignment? Maybe you thought the auto repair shop was trying to make some extra money and perform some unnecessary work. However, wheel alignments are essential maintenance items, and they can have many benefits. So, just how much will that tire alignment cost you, and how long will it last? We will tell you everything you need to know about this procedure, including how much it costs, how long it takes, and how often you should get it done.
How Much Does A Wheel Alignment Cost?
So, how much does an alignment cost? Thankfully, a wheel alignment is not an extremely expensive job. In most cases, you can generally have an alignment performed for around $100. There are a few factors that might affect this price, though. First, the price will depend on whether you need a two-wheel alignment or a four-wheel alignment. The four-wheel alignments are usually a little more expensive because they require a little more work. Most modern vehicles will need a four-wheel alignment.
Next, the size of your wheels and tires can affect the price. If you have oversized wheels and tires or a lifted suspension, performing an alignment can be more complicated. Achieving a front-end alignment on a lifted vehicle or one with large tires can require more time and expertise from the mechanic, thus leading to a slightly higher price. Even in those situations, the cost will still be reasonably low. Most alignments will be under $200. In rare cases, you might need to replace worn suspension components like a control arm, wheel bearing, or ball joint to complete the alignment correctly. Depending on what needs to be replaced, that might raise the price by $100 to $200.
Signs You Need A Wheel Alignment
So, how do you know when you need a wheel alignment? Some auto repair shops recommend specific intervals, but you can generally tell when you need an alignment by looking for the following symptoms.
— Uneven Tire Wear
When everything is nice and straight, your tires should wear evenly. This means that the tread on the outside edge of the tire should be about the same depth as the tread on the inside edge. When the caster or camber adjustments are not within the correct specification, then it can cause your tires to wear out unevenly. The inside tread might look fine, while the outside edge of the tire is almost bald. This uneven wear is a sure sign that your car needs an alignment, and it will likely cause you to need new tires sooner than expected too.
— Car Pulling To One Side
As you might imagine, when your car alignment is within spec, it should drive straight. You should be able to remove your hand from the steering wheel on a straight road and have the car almost drive itself for a few seconds. However, if your vehicle pulls to one side, then the alignment is off. This means that when you remove your hand from the steering wheel, the car instantly veers off to one side. This almost always signals a vehicle out of alignment. It would be best if you got the issue addressed right away. Not only could your car be dangerous to drive when it pulls to one side, but it will also cause other parts to wear out more quickly.
— Poor Fuel Economy
An aligned car should glide down the road almost effortlessly. The less drag and friction that your car experiences, the better your fuel economy will be. However, a bad alignment can add increased friction. When your tires and wheels are not correctly aligned, they can almost fight against themselves as your car moves down the road. This wears your tires more quickly, and it also causes increased friction with the road. In turn, your vehicle requires more power to drive down the highway as the car rolls along. You might notice that your fuel efficiency is going down, which could be due to a misaligned front end.
— Failed Alignment Test
A mechanic can quickly test your vehicle to determine whether the alignment is bad. Most alignment machines today use lasers and computers to get exact measurements. If any of the measurements on your vehicle are off, then the computer will know right away. The automotive technician can tell immediately that your car needs an alignment, and they will likely suggest that you go ahead and get one. They will even provide you with a copy of the alignment check report so that you can see exactly what the problem with your vehicle is.
How Long Does A Wheel Alignment Take?
Many people ask, “How long does an alignment take?” Thanks to the modern alignment equipment available today, most alignments will take less than an hour. A trained technician should be able to perform an alignment on your vehicle in about 30 minutes in most cases. If the alignment is really off, it might take a little longer. There are a few different things that must be measured and adjusted during the alignment process.
First, the technician must measure and adjust the caster. This measurement deals with the angle between the wheel and the steering point. The next is the camber of your vehicle. This tells you how vertical the wheels on your car sit. You might notice that your wheels and tires lean inward or outward, and this is due to the camber adjustment. Lastly, the toe of your vehicle needs to be measured and adjusted. You might have either a toe in or a toe out. Toe-in means that the wheels are turned slightly in from straight, and a toe-out implies that the wheels are somewhat pointed out from straight. These measurements occur on the front wheels in most cases, although many modern cars have rear-wheel adjustments that are necessary as well.
There are a couple of things that could cause your alignment to take longer than an hour. First, if your repair shop does not have access to modern alignment equipment, more manual measuring and labor will be required. In addition, if your vehicle has oversized wheels and tires or an aftermarket suspension, then more time will likely be needed. This could add to the cost as well.
Benefits Of Regular Tire Alignments
So, why do you even need a tire alignment? Does misalignment cause any problems? It does cause problems, and there are several benefits to performing regular four-wheel alignment services on your vehicle. First, routine alignments will extend the life of your tires. A car out of alignment will wear tires more quickly than a vehicle with a good alignment. If your alignment is really bad, you might wear out your tires very quickly. Tires are pretty expensive, so performing regular car maintenance like an alignment can help you put off this expense as long as possible.
Next, you can also save money on suspension parts. A bad alignment will wear out other pieces of your suspension, like shocks and struts, more quickly as well. You might even find yourself spending money on the cost of a wheel-bearing replacement more quickly. A proper wheel alignment keeps everything working properly and leads to fewer wear and tear breakdowns. This can save you the replacement cost of some expensive suspension parts.
Finally, misaligned wheels will cause you to spend more money on gas. Therefore, a proper alignment will save you money on your fuel bill. This increased fuel economy could add up to quite a bit of money over a long period of time. Not only is it safer to drive a car with a proper alignment, but look at all the money it can save you!
How Often Should You Perform A Wheel Alignment?
Many people wonder how often they should have a wheel alignment performed. Some mechanics recommend performing wheel alignment service at every other tire balancing and rotation. However, if your alignment is good, there is no real need to perform the service. You can ask your dealership to perform a check for you to determine whether your vehicle needs an alignment. Most dealerships and tire shops will perform a free alignment check, so it will not cost you anything to determine whether your car needs an alignment.
It would be best if you always got your alignment checked after hitting a pothole. This can easily knock your vehicle out of alignment, and you might need to get it repaired right away. If you drive on rough roads, then your car is likely to need an alignment sooner than someone who drives on smooth streets all the time. Generally, your vehicle is expected to require an alignment every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. This service will usually not be covered under warranty as it is considered a maintenance item.
The Bottom Line
A wheel alignment is not very expensive as it usually only costs around $100 to $150. This essential service item provides many great benefits like longer tire life, better fuel economy, and less wear on your suspension. Since most shops will perform a free inspection for you, make sure that you keep an eye on your alignment to determine when your vehicle needs one. If your car fails an alignment test, then go ahead and get that service performed right away.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a 2 or 4 wheel alignment?
This depends on the make and model of your vehicle. Most older cars require only a two-wheel alignment. However, many modern vehicles require a four-wheel alignment. If you have an all-wheel-drive vehicle or any vehicle with an independent rear suspension, then you probably need a four-wheel alignment. This means that the rear wheels can also move in several directions, and their alignment might need to be adjusted. If your rear suspension is fixed, it is nearly impossible for the rear wheels to become misaligned.
What does a four-wheel alignment do?
A 4 wheel alignment adjusts the alignment of all four wheels and tires. In addition to adjusting the front wheels’ caster, camber, and toe, the technician will also make adjustments to the rear wheels. This is required when your vehicle has an independent rear suspension. The rear wheels can also become misaligned and can cause some of the same problems as misaligned front wheels.
Can I drive my car with a bad alignment?
Yes, you can generally drive your car with a bad alignment. However, it would be best if you got your vehicle aligned as soon as possible. If your alignment is extremely bad, then your car might pull very hard to one side. This can be dangerous for you and others on the road. At a minimum, you will wear your tires more quickly and spend more money on gas with a bad alignment. This is why you should try to avoid driving with a bad alignment and have your vehicle repaired as quickly as you can. Remember, if you’re wondering, “How much is an alignment,” it’s only about $100 in most cases.