It’s Monday morning, you didn’t hear your alarm go off, so you’re running late to work. Luckily for you, there’s no traffic. But then, you notice something’s wrong with the car.
Steering or even keeping it on the road is starting to feel like a tall order. What could the issue be? You’re due for an alignment service. But how long does a tire alignment take? It’s helpful to know, so you can put aside some time to take it to the auto shop.
Here’s a quick overview of what we’ll be covering:
- What is tire alignment?
- How long does tire alignment take?
- What are the symptoms of car alignment trouble?
- What are the wheel alignment angles of a vehicle?
- How long does a car alignment last?
What Is Tire Alignment?
Wheels alignment is adjusting the angles of your tires according to the specifications of the vehicle model. It’s pretty much all about aligning the wheels with the road’s surface and with each other to reduce wear and tear and ensure you drive in a straight line.
During the process, the car maintenance technician only has to adjust certain components and ensure the vehicle’s suspension system is in the required position and configured correctly. Therefore, it’s not a long or complicated process.
Tire alignment is not like any other car maintenance task that you can do at home. You’ll need assistance from a professional, as well as a wheel balancing and alignment machine.
Do All Cars Have the Same Alignment?
No. The type of alignment that your car has depends on two things: how it distributes power to the wheels and its suspension system. Let’s assume for a quick second that you own a four-wheel-drive or an all-wheel-drive. In that case, you’ll need a four-wheel alignment.
But if the car uses a rear-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive system, you’ll have to go for a thrust-angle or a front-end alignment. The manufacturer of the vehicle will be responsible for designating the angles for aligning your tires.
How Long Does an Alignment Take?
First off, if you’re going to get a tire alignment, you have to choose the right auto repair shop. Don’t take your car to any workshop just because you’ve seen a sign that says, “Wheel Balancing Services and Alignment of Wheels.”
The right place is an auto shop with a wheel balancing and alignment machine, already pre-programmed with measurements similar to that of your car. That’s the only way you’ll be able to guarantee your wheels get an accurate alignment.
Make sure to change all the parts that have defects, tighten your ball joints, and carefully check the vehicle’s suspension parts. You need to do all these things before starting the wheel alignment process and not after.
The Time Period
On average, the wheel alignment process should take around 60 minutes of your time. It’s really not a long process, but then again, that will depend on a couple of factors. Namely:
- The type of suspension system your vehicle has.
- Adjustments needed.
- Unforeseen complications.
This is the time period for a vehicle that needs a four-wheel alignment. But it doesn’t include other maintenance tasks such as centric grove, steering bushing, or changing ball joints and other damaged parts.
Take the vehicle for a test drive before and after every wheel balancing and alignment service. That’s the only way you’ll know what the problem is, and if the problem has been solved. If there are no other problems with your car, the wheel al should bring your steering wheel back to a centered position.
Is That All It Takes To Align a Car Tire?
There’s another process to compliment the wheel alignment: wheel balancing. Unlike the car tire alignment process, this takes quite a while. It could take up to 2 hours, and if you’ve never taken your car for a maintenance check before, it could be longer.
What Are the Symptoms of Car Alignment Trouble?
It’s really not that difficult to tell if your vehicle requires an alignment wheel service, especially if you’re an experienced driver. But if you’re still new behind the wheels, these are the signs to look out for:
- Squeaking tires.
- Noisy steering.
- The vehicle keeps pulling to the right or left.
- Uneven or rapid tire wear even though the air pressure is just right.
- Crooked steering wheel.
What Are the Wheel Alignment Angles of a Vehicle?
Every car out there has three angles that you’re supposed to adjust anytime you feel something’s off. The angles are:
Stand in front of your car. Does your tire have a slight incline on a vertical line? Is the tire wear uneven? Well, that means your camber angle is the problem.
The misalignment could be caused by several factors, but the most common reason is the failure of the ball joint or bearing. Nonetheless, you can rectify that problem on your own. And if you’re not confident in your abilities, you can take the vehicle to the mechanic.
To get a good view of your toe angles, you need a bird’s-eye view. If two of your car wheels are somehow angled outwards or inwards, that’s another sign you need to take it to the mechanic and ask for an adjustment.
Your caster angle is responsible for three things: cornering, stability and balance steering. To identify this problem, you have to view your vehicle from the side. If the caster is positive, you’ll notice the car wheel is bent towards the driver. If it’s a negative, there’ll be a bend towards the front of the vehicle.
How Long Does a Car Alignment Last?
After learning about whats an alignment, the significance of wheel alignment and what’s involved in the entire process, the next fundamental question that you’ll probably ask is, how long does a wheel alignment last?
The truth is, the only person who can give you the right answer to that question is YOU. That’s because it all hinges on several factors, including:
- Your driving habits.
- Road conditions.
- Status of your suspension parts.
- The car wheels.
All of them do have an impact on the wheel alignment in a different way. For instance, driving in difficult conditions will damage your wheel alignment sooner than a lightly used car that isn’t driven through potholes or bumps at high speed.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is It Wrong To Drive My Car With a Bad Alignment?
You better start saving up for a new car if you’ve been ignoring an alignment problem. Your wheels will eventually become weak; the car will bend on one side, and controlling it will be a nightmare.
Why Does Car Alignment Take So Long?
Think of it as a balancing act. You have to take the time to get it right. The technician has to take the time to find a way to balance all three angles.
An accurate alignment will only be realized if all the steering tie rods or control arms are well tightened and adjusted. It all requires patience.
What’s the Cost of a Car Alignment?
The cost of alignment does vary. To get the right quote, you’ll have to factor in the status of your suspension system, the car model and the auto shop rates.
The model of the alignment machine is a factor worth taking into consideration as well. If the technician trades with high-tech equipment, you’ll have to pay more.
Can I Self-Align My Car?
It’s not recommended. But if you have no other option, this is what you should do:
- Get out your jack and use it to raise the car.
- Once the vehicle is suspended, go to the front and try to figure out which wheel is bending.
- If you notice a wheel bending towards the center, that’s a sign your outer-tie rod is loose—tighten it.
- If the bend is on the outside, it’s a sign the rod is too tight—loosen it.
- Turn the tire rod clockwise if you want to turn the car tire outwards, and counterclockwise if the tire needs to face the opposite direction.
- When you’re done aligning one wheel, take it for a test drive. If you like it, do the same thing to all the other wheels.
Do They Take Tires off for Alignment?
Removing the wheels is not necessary during alignment. A piece of alignment equipment is attached to your wheels while they’re still bolted. So if you see a mechanic trying to loosen your bolts or remove your wheels, they’re just looking for a reason to charge you an extra buck.
Can a New or Worn-out Tire Affect a Car’s Alignment?
You can ask the mechanic to align your wheel before or after you install your new tires. It doesn’t matter.
A worn-out tire will only affect your vehicle’s ride height. But even that difference won’t be that noticeable considering today’s vehicles come with a highly improved steering and suspension design.
How Often Should I Align My Tires?
Your wheels will need an alignment once a year or every 10,000 miles or so.
How Fast Will My Tires Wear With a Bad Alignment?
They say a small misalignment can shorten your tire life by more than 1000 miles. A major one will take them out in just a few hundred miles. So if you notice the car wandering or shaking while you’re driving, go get it aligned. You’ll be increasing your tire’s life.
The alignment of the wheel is one of those essential maintenance tasks that no driver should skip. And if you do, your vehicle’s performance and lifespan will be significantly impacted.