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A close up shows the target installed on a rim during a wheel alignment.

10 Fast Facts About a Wheel Alignment

Maintaining your car is a responsibility that you will need to take on when you become a vehicle owner. That shiny new set of keys will only remain new and exciting for so long before you’ll need to take action and keep your ride in peak condition, and one of the main aspects of car care is a wheel alignment, also known as a tire alignment. Your car’s four tires should all wear at the same rate and in the same fashion, so keeping up with regular wheel alignments should be a part of your regular maintenance schedule.

On average, a wheel alignment will cost you about $50-$150 depending on whether you’re getting a two-wheel or a four-wheel alignment, but costs will vary with where you live and what kind of car you drive, which if you think about it, isn’t that much money to help keep your car running smoothly. Here’s what I learned about wheel alignments so that if you’re debating on whether or not you need one, you make the right choice for your vehicle.

#1. Enjoy a Better Ride

When you maintain your vehicle properly, it will reward you with a smooth and safe ride. Performing a wheel alignment on your car, whether you choose to do this yourself or with the help of a professional, keeps your car’s steering in check and also helps your tires wear evenly. What does a wheel alignment have to do with steering? Well, when your vehicle’s wheels aren’t aligned properly, it tends to pull to one side or the other, which can cause you to have to make adjustments to your steering when driving. Too much wear on the front or back tires will also decrease the responsiveness of your vehicle in situations where you need to brake quickly or navigate slippery road conditions, jeopardizing the safety of you and those around you.

#2. Increase the Lifespan of Your Vehicle

When you keep up with your vehicle’s wheel alignments, you’re helping to maintain the integrity of your vehicle, increasing its ability to serve you for a longer period of time. By performing a wheel alignment on your car, you’re able to get the most out of your tires, as there won’t be as much uneven wear and tear present. Having a wheel alignment also helps to keep your car’s suspension operating properly as well, and when your car is running smoothly, it will be able to travel with you for miles without issues.

#3. The Best Time to Get a Wheel Alignment Will Vary

Because everyone’s driving habits are different, what works for some drivers may not work for others. It’s best to get your wheels checked once or twice per year for those with normal driving habits. If you frequently travel on rough terrain, however, you may need to get your alignment checked more often to ensure that your vehicle remains aligned properly. Another good time to get a wheel alignment is after you get new tires put on your car, as this has a tendency to impact how your car drives. In playing it safe, you’re able to handle any issues that may arise before they do too much damage to your vehicle.

#4. Don’t Ignore the Telltale Signs

Your car may be trying to tell you something, which you shouldn’t overlook. When it comes to needing a wheel alignment, look for some telltale signs that this service may be warranted. If you are experiencing pulling to the left or right, your alignment may be off, which should be addressed as soon as possible to prevent further damage to your vehicle. If you have recently gotten into an accident, no matter how minor, if you have lifted or lowered your vehicle, or if you notice that your tires are wearing unevenly, it’s time to take your vehicle in for service. When you pay attention to your vehicle, there won’t be any guesswork when it comes to when you should have a wheel alignment performed.

A close up shows the alignment specs during a wheel alignment.

#5. It’s Best to Schedule a Wheel Alignment Before a Road Trip

You may be really looking forward to your upcoming road trip, and the last thing you want to worry about is having trouble with your vehicle when you’re far away from home. Don’t miss out on any memories of your legendary trip. Take your car in for service, and be sure to have your technician check to see if you need a wheel alignment before embarking on your journey. There may be a lot of wear and tear on your vehicle, especially if you’re traveling a long distance, so handling this before you leave is recommended.

#6. There’s a Difference Between a Wheel Alignment and Balancing

Tire alignments and tire balancing are two different services that address different aspects of your vehicle’s performance. When you balance your car’s tires, your technician is ensuring that the weight of the vehicle is evenly distributed among the tires. This is typically performed with a wheel alignment, and you can normally tell if you need this when there’s a vibration when you travel. This is due to improper weight distribution causing your tires to wobble.

#7. Take Care of Other Repair Needs Before Scheduling a Wheel Alignment

Certain things can impact your vehicle’s alignment, so it’s best to handle these first before scheduling an alignment appointment. If you need a repair or replacement part for your vehicle’s suspension system, get it repaired or replaced before getting your wheels aligned. Broken parts will cause the alignment of your vehicle to become altered, and if you get your wheels aligned with a broken part, replacing it after will cause your vehicle to fall out of alignment again. It’s advised to handle repairs first so that you don’t have to schedule your alignment twice.

#8. Other Factors Can Affect Your Vehicle’s Alignment

Did you know that if you’re hauling around too many belongings in your trunk that it can affect its alignment? That’s right, hauling heavy items, especially in a vehicle that isn’t built for hauling can cause unwanted damage to your alignment. Do yourself a favor and remove the clutter from your trunk so that it’s not unnecessarily weighing you down.

#9. Three Areas Are Checked During a Wheel Alignment

When you get your car’s wheels aligned, your technician will check three areas to see the amount of wear and tear present. The camber is the angle of the tires when viewed from the front, and when there is too much of an angle inward or outward, this means your vehicle is misaligned. The toe is the view of the angle from above, and again, too much inward or outward tilting means an alignment is in order. Finally, the caster is the view of the angle of your tires when viewed from the side, which can impact the steering, handling, and stability of your vehicle.

A car on a lift is shown from a low angle with two mechanics inspecting a tire.

#10. Choosing the Right Technician Matters

Finding the right technician for your vehicle is more important than you may think. Not only do you want a professional who is experienced in performing maintenance on your particular vehicle, but you also want to ensure that they have good credibility and a pristine reputation in your area. This is why it’s recommended to get your vehicle maintained at the dealership from which you bought it, as these service centers employ trained technicians and carry the right parts for your vehicle.

Wheel Alignments Are Necessary Maintenance

As you can see, there’s a lot to learn about wheel alignments, and the more you know means, the better you’re able to take care of your vehicle. In keeping up with its regular routine maintenance and staying aware of any changes in its driving performance, you’ll be able to avoid costly repairs later. When it comes to a wheel alignment, this simple yet important service should not be overlooked, and if you want to preserve the integrity of your vehicle, staying on top of this is highly advised.