Tire alignment involves altering the position of a vehicle’s tires so they all roll in the same direction.
Because of the benefits this procedure offers, most drivers prefer that their tires are aligned to their car immediately after purchase.
Is this really the case with all tires? Find out in this piece.
Are tires aligned when installed?
If you don’t request for an alignment, the tire technician will probably not perform the procedure after installation. But most mechanics will advise getting an alignment after installing new tires. And driving with misaligned tires will also reduce their longevity.
Can I Trust that My Tires Are Aligned When Installed?
No, you can’t. Dealers might advise you to align your vehicle with your tires, but they won’t do it unless you request one. Usually, the price of new tires only covers the cost of the tires and installment.
So, when you need a tire alignment, you’ll have to pay for it separately.
However, dealerships sometimes run promos and may offer free alignment for customers who buy four new tires at once during a promo.
You may prefer to align your new tires at the dealership to save yourself some stress. However, tire expert Bruce Samuels recommends that you do your alignment at a tire service center for these reasons:
While technicians in tire centers do a lot of alignments per week, mechanics at dealerships only get to do a few alignments per week.
So, tire service center technicians will most likely do a better job than mechanics.
Tire service center technicians often use new and updated equipment as opposed to dealership mechanics that use old equipment.
Is an Alignment Necessary with New Tires?
While dealers often suggest alignment, it’s not necessary. That said, your vehicle will suffer some problems if you don’t align your tires.
These problems include:
- Low lifespan of tires:
When you don’t align your car with your new tires, it can cost you hundreds to thousands of miles on your tires. When these tires are not directed towards the same point, every minor hit or bump takes its toll on them. For this reason, they don’t last long. So, if you fail to align your tires, you’ll end up buying more tires than you should for your car.
- Low gas mileage:
Unaligned tires often drag rather than roll when a car is on the road. This means it takes a lot more energy to drive with these tires. Since energy consumes fuel, you will spend more on gas with unaligned tires.
- Frequent and major repairs:
Without alignment, your car could develop faults at every hit or bump it encounters. For instance, when your car strikes a pothole, chances are it will harm your car’s suspension and tires. The result is that you spend a lot more on avoidable repairs. Apart from this, excessive repairs put a lot of stress on your tires and car. In the long run, failure to align your tires will not only reduce the longevity of your tires. Even your car will suffer from your indifference, as it will most likely break down more frequently.
- Poor Handling:
It is often more difficult to control your steering wheel with misaligned tires. To keep driving on a straight line, you may have to strain your hand muscles on your steering. In the end, misalignment will slow down your driving pace.
Other problems that may occur when your tires lack alignment are:
- Vibration of your steering wheel whenever you are driving at high speeds.
- Your four tires wear out and tear at different paces.
- Your tires may emit squealing noises when you drive.
- Your car drifts from side to side without your prompting it.
- Your vehicle pulls to the right or left.
- A crooked steering wheel while driving straight.
How Do You Know if Your Tires Are Aligned Correctly?
Here are ways to know whether your tires are aligned properly:
Even wear of tires:
If your tires are properly aligned, they will all wear out evenly when you purchase them at the same time. Also, they will take longer to wear out than when you do not align them.
If the mechanic aligns your tires correctly, they can last for an average of 60,000 miles.
Aligned tires keep you in control of your car. So, when you can drive smoothly even on wet and bumpy roads, it’s a sign that your tires are aligned correctly.
However, this is not always the case. If you are driving with summer tires in the rain, you might experience instability, even if your tires are properly aligned. Where the car you are driving is not suitable for rough terrain, you may also lose control of your car on bumpy roads.
What Are the Benefits of Aligning Tires?
Here are some benefits of properly aligning your tires:
Improved Fuel Economy
When your tires are angled in the same direction, the energy your vehicle consumes is spread across them. Since tires are built to save fuel, each of them can contribute evenly to reducing gas mileage when they are aligned.
In contrast, driving with unaligned tires puts too much pressure on one or two of the tires, increasing heat, fuel consumption, and tread wear.
Greater Tire Durability
Your tires will last longer if you align them. When tires are not aligned, they wobble when the car moves. So, the tires get stressed and wear out faster than they should.
But when they are aligned, they move with ease. Hence, alignment strengthens their life span.
Moreover, aligned tires wear out evenly because the weight of the vehicle is spread evenly across the tires.
Tire alignment saves you money in the long run.
Fewer Repairs and Replacements
Misaligned tires put a lot of strain on other parts of the vehicle. For instance, the car’s suspension weakens because misaligned tires cannot properly deflect the impact of bumps and potholes.
The car’s steering will also drift from side to side without the driver’s prompting.
Even the driver has to strain his muscles to keep the steering under control. Eventually, these components will break down faster than they should and the driver would have to replace them.
In contrast, all these problems are few in a vehicle with aligned tires.
Aligned tires ensure the safety of a vehicle’s occupants. On rough roads, a driver may lose control of his vehicle if his tires are misaligned.
If this problem catches him unawares, he may take too long to regain control of the vehicle and cause a crash.
How Often Should You Align your Tires?
Some tire experts advise that you do a wheel alignment after every 6,000 miles or twice per year. Others suggest an alignment every time you replace your tires.
Nevertheless, it is not uncommon for tires to lose their alignment much earlier. In case your tires belong to that category, request for a new wheel alignment after every 6,000 miles for optimal drivability.
If you drive a sports car like an Audi or a Nissan 370Z, you’ll need to align your tires more frequently.
In addition, whenever you encounter large bumps, check if your alignment is still in place.
You might be tempted to do your alignment yourself, but we advise you not to do so. Being an amateur, you might end up damaging other components of the vehicle.
Rather, take your vehicle to an experienced technician to do the alignment on your behalf. He/she will know how to do a perfect tire alignment without harming other parts of the car.
How Much Does It Cost to Have Your Tires Aligned?
The answer depends on the alignment you want, the tire center, location, and other factors. There are two types of wheel alignment:
- Front-wheel Alignment: Here, only the two front tires are aligned.
- Four-wheel Alignment: In this case, the position of all four tires are adjusted so they roll in the same direction.
The price of a front-wheel alignment ranges between $50 to $75. For four-wheel alignment, prices go for about $100 to $150.
Nevertheless, other factors like the vehicle brand, the model year, and the duration of the tire warranty can affect the amount you pay:
- Warranty: Requesting a lifetime warranty on your wheel alignment will cost you more than an alignment with limited warranty.
- Vehicle brand: Some vehicle brands require sophisticated equipment for their wheel alignment. Owners of such vehicles will have to pay more for the complexity of the procedure. It is not unusual for luxury car wheel alignments to cost $200 or more at local dealerships.