Wheel alignment guide. How much does alignment cost?
What causes the wheels to be misaligned is something that is unique to all vehicles, because there are many factors that can contribute to it. Every so often, the adjustments go off when, for example, you change to new tires, you replace worn out parts related to steering and suspension, when you hit a bump and one of the parts gets bent, and a lot of other related defects.
How do I know that I need tire alignment?
So if you notice the following:
- Your vehicle tends to pull to one side, while driving on a straight road
- Your steering wheel vibrates when you attain high speeds
- Your tires’ treads are wearing off unevenly
- You simply need to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape 🙂
You need to have your car checked out at a garage that has wheel alignment equipment. A good service center should have sophisticated equipment that would clearly show you exactly where the problem is. Cars come with different ways of aligning the tires, and with the right equipment very soon you will be back on the highway enjoying your ride.
What is wheel and tire alignment?
When driving on a straight road, you need your vehicle to go on a straight line, right? You don’t want to keep fighting with the steering wheel, to try to keep it on track. If this is the case, your vehicle’s wheels, that make the contact with the road, need to be aligned. Wheel alignment is the adjustment of the tie rod ends, and the king-pin angles so that the tire surface contacts the road at a perpendicular angle, and is parallel to each other. It involves the camber and caster adjustments, the toe-in and toe-out adjustments, to ensure the even wear of the tires, and of course, the straight-ahead movement of the vehicle.
- Camber: This angle is measured in degrees that measures the difference between wheels vertical alignment perpendicular to the surface of the road. If a wheel is perfectly perpendicular to the road’s surface, its camber would be 0 degrees. Common reasons for this would be due to ball joints, worn bearings and some other wheel suspension parts.
- Caster: it is the angle of the steering axis that can be viewed from the side of your vehicle. It is actually an angle created by the steering pivot point from front to back of your vehicle.
- Toe: It measures the angle derived to which your tires turn inward or outward when viewed from above. Correct toe measurement gives even tread wear and extended life for tires. If the tires are pointed inwards or outwards, they cause wear along the edges of the tire.
Cost of Wheel Alignment?
The first thing that an auto technician does, when checking for wheel alignment, is to inspect all the components in the steering system; from the steering wheel, right to the wheels themselves. Wheel alignment cost varies with the procedures involved. If there are certain parts to be replaced, like tie rod ends, labor costs may be charged according to the hours taken to replace them.
Even the type of alignment they do depends on the type of suspension your vehicle have. If your vehicle is all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive with independent and adjustable rear suspensions, you will receive a Four-Wheel Alignment. In this case, both the front and back axles have to be properly aligned such that all the four wheels are parallel to one another and perfectly perpendicular to the ground. If you don’t have all-wheel drive vehicle, you require a Front-End Alignment, where front axle components are only adjusted.
- A four wheel alignment at any car maintenance shed typically costs around $30-$150, depending on the make and model of the vehicle. If can vary from 6-months or 6000 miles whichever comes first.
- A two wheel alignment (front-end alignment) at any car repair shop varies from $20-$100, varying on vehicle make and model, their location and warranty.
Before you order a wheel alignment check coupons which offer service centers. This will help reduce the cost of alignment. A survey of several service centers that specialize in wheel alignment, here in the US reveals the following:
- Firestone gives you a choice of two costs. I filled out the check fields with the make and model of my car, a 2014 Toyota Rav4 Limited, and the results gave me a choice of standard alignment at $80 and a lifetime cost of $170. The lifetime alignment means that they will carry out the alignment every 6,000 miles, for the lifetime of the car, that is, if I don’t sell it to someone else. The standard one’s warranty period is 12 months, or 12,000 miles. I think that is cool, the fact that they give you a quote, instead of pulling a surprise on you at the end.
- NTB also gave me just about the same wheel alignment cost, of $90, for a standard alignment and additional services like other maintenance inspections and a one-time option to transfer this service offer to another vehicle. You can choose from either the 1-year Select ($125), 3-year Advantage ($180), or 5-year Premier services.
- At Pep Boys, they have a $109 offer for wheel alignment with a 12 months or 12,000 miles warranty. As you can see, this is much more compared to the Firestone offer, for the same period.
- Mr.Tire: one time alignment cost – $50
- Walmart Auto Service: 2-wheel one time alignment $50, 4-wheel $75.
- SEARS Auto: 6-mohth $85, 1-year $115, 3-years $165
So it really depends on the amount of work involved, the equipment used, the experience and know-how of the technicians and where you prefer to take your vehicle. The wheel alignment cost, to me, comes second. First, is to ask yourself, “Will I get the right service?”
While this is not a review of the different service centers, the point I’m trying to drive home here, in a straight line for that matter, is that, wheel alignment cost saves you a lot, in the long run. If you neglect it, it goes without saying; you will wear out or damage other parts that will cost you more.
Your safety and comfort comes first. Do not overlook this seemingly minor and bearable condition of your vehicle, just add the wheel alignment cost to your budget, the next time you visit a garage.