Do you want your tires to last longer? One of the ways you can do that is by getting a wheel alignment service. But how long does a wheel alignment take? And when to get it done?
In general, a wheel alignment service takes around one hour to complete, no matter if it’s a four-wheel or a two-wheel alignment. However, this may take longer if your car has damaged steering bushing, suspension system, track rod, or other components that a mechanic has to replace.
As you drive your car, the road conditions and driving habits affect your car’s wheel alignment. So you have to go for a wheel alignment service every two to three years.
This will ensure that your car is safe to drive. Get your wheels aligned every time you go for an oil change for convenience.
Read on to learn more about the length of time it takes to complete a wheel alignment service and how often you should get this service.
How Long Does Wheel Alignment Take?
Under normal conditions, it will take around one hour to complete a wheel alignment service, regardless of whether it’s a four-wheel or a two-wheel alignment.
However, this may take longer if your car has broken steering and suspension system components. You should replace the damaged parts to ensure the correctness of the wheel alignment.
Get a Wheel Alignment Every Two to Three Years
Get a wheel alignment every two to three years. If you want to do it more conveniently, you can schedule the wheel alignment service every time you go for an oil change.
Not Advisable to Get a Quick Wheel Alignment Service
It is not advisable to use a quick wheel alignment service. Some car repair shops will offer you a fast 20-minute wheel alignment service to get your business.
Be aware that proper wheel alignment cannot be performed haphazardly. It needs time to complete. So, if your car was released quickly, chances are the wheel-alignment done to it was not properly done.
Correct Wheel Alignment Can Enhance the Car’s Performance
You can’t afford to skip this service or ask the mechanic to do it faster. If you want a safe and comfortable ride, your car must undergo an essential preventive maintenance task. A correct wheel alignment will also enhance the performance of your car.
Your car should have its wheels properly aligned periodically. Car experts recommend that you should get a wheel alignment every 6,000 miles. It will be easier for you to do it if you have your wheels aligned every time your car has an oil change.
How Often Should I Have Wheel Alignment?
Should Be Part of the Car’s Regular Maintenance
Getting wheel alignment should be part of your car’s regular maintenance.
This task is not a DIY job because it requires a special procedure using special tools that only a trained mechanic can handle and perform.
Go to a Reliable Auto Care Center
So, you should go to a reliable auto care center and ask them to perform a wheel alignment on your car. There should be an auto care center near you to perform this maintenance task. You should also have your wheels aligned at regular intervals to ensure that your tires wear evenly.
Don’t wait for the symptoms of a misaligned wheel to show up and affect your vehicle’s performance. If you wait too long, not only will the performance of your car be badly affected, but it will also accelerate the wearing of the treads of your tires.
Depends on Several Factors
The question is: how often should your car have a wheel alignment service? It depends on the following:
- Type of your vehicle
- Driving habits
However, most car mechanics recommend aligning your wheels once every two to three years. Additionally, the service manual of your car should have a schedule for it. You can follow that schedule.
You should be aware that after using your brand new car for one year or at most two years, its wheel alignment will be slightly off. But feel your car. If it’s already two years and it still doesn’t veer off to the right or left and doesn’t show any signs of misalignment, you can still put off wheel alignment.
Get Wheel Alignment Once a Year If You Use Performance-oriented Tires
But if your vehicle uses performance-oriented tires or wider tires, you need to align your wheels once a year. And if you happen to purchase new tires, you need to have your wheels aligned once you have mounted them.
Do I Really Need Wheel Alignment?
Car Steering Issue
If you want your car to optimally perform, you need to have its wheels aligned periodically. It is one of the necessary maintenance tasks you must perform now and then, especially if you notice something wrong in your car’s steering.
There will be a considerable degradation of your car’s handling if your wheels are not aligned well. For example, you cannot perform usual turns or drive straight.
It is also possible that the steering wheel will pull in one direction, to the left or the right, just by itself. As a result, your safety will be at stake.
Effect of Misaligned Wheels
If your wheels are not properly aligned, uneven tire wear will result. Your cost of ownership will increase because you have to change your tires more often. You may also experience tire blowouts due to increased tension on your tires.
In addition, this will affect your wheels, tire rims, and suspension system. Ultimately, the performance and the lifespan of your vehicle will suffer. That’s how important it is to have your wheels aligned.
To emphasize this point, if you ignore the importance of wheel alignment, be ready to experience the following:
- There will be uneven wear of your tires and the suspension system as well.
- You are risking tire blowouts and courting disaster on the road.
- Your car will either pull to the right or to the left without your input.
- The wheels will not respond to your steering. This means you will not be able to have complete command of the steering and you will be unable to completely control your vehicle.
- Your fuel consumption will increase, since your tires are not in complete contact with the pavement.
What Is Wheel Alignment
Vehicle’s Wheels Are Aligned with Each Other
Perhaps you are not aware of the importance of wheel alignment because you don’t know what it’s all about. Wheel alignment is a procedure where the wheels of a vehicle are aligned with each other with respect to the pavement.
A mechanic does this by making the suspension system function correctly.
A mechanic also has to adjust some of its components and position them correctly during this process. Moreover, this procedure requires the expertise of a skilled car mechanic who can use an alignment machine efficiently and effectively.
How Do Mechanics Perform Wheel Alignment?
Squares the Wheels and the Vehicle’s Axles
In doing a wheel alignment service, the mechanic squares the wheels and the axles of the vehicle with each other to move in the same direction.
Adjust All the Suspension’s Angles
The mechanic will adjust all the angles of the suspension that affect tire positioning and movement. This ensures that the steering wheel is rightly centered. The maker of your car has specified the standard angles that will align your wheels. They are given in degrees.
Four-wheel Alignment for a Four-wheel Drive or All-wheel Drive
The suspension system of your car and the way power is distributed to the wheels will determine the required wheel alignment. If your vehicle is a four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, it requires four-wheel alignment.
Thrust-angle Alignment for a Front-wheel or Rear-wheel Drive Vehicle
If you have a front-wheel or rear-wheel drive vehicle, it needs a thrust-angle alignment or front-end alignment.
Again, how long does a wheel alignment take? On average, a wheel alignment will take about one hour, regardless of whether you have a two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle. If your car has a damaged suspension system, track rod, steering bushing, or other parts, this will take longer.
When to Get Wheel Alignment Service
You cannot ignore when your car needs a wheel alignment service. There will be some symptoms that will show up to tell you that it is time. If you are already experiencing the following symptoms, you need to visit a reliable wheel alignment service:
1. Steering Wheel Pulls Sharply to the Left or to the Right
This is possible if you have under-inflated tires. But if it happens continuously after inflating your tires, it could mean your wheels are up for alignment.
2. Uneven Tire Wear
If there’s uneven wear on your tires, either the front or the rear tires, it can be a sign of misaligned wheels. If your car is a front-wheel drive, check its front tires.
Check if the wear on the front tires is the same as the wear on the rear tires. If they are not the same, then your wheels are not aligned.
3. Vibrating Steering Wheel
If your steering wheel vibrates, it could mean that you have unbalanced or misaligned wheels. Your steering wheel will vibrate if your tires are pulling in opposite directions. This is a clear sign of misaligned wheels.
4. Steering Wheel Pulls Slightly
The pull is not as sharp, but it is still being felt. Nevertheless, it is also a sign that the steering wheels are already misaligned. To ensure that the steering wheel pulls slightly, drive to a level ground surface.
Drive your car in a straight line, and then take your hands off the steering wheel. A car drifting to one side means it has misaligned wheels.
5. Off-center Steering Wheel
There’s a right position of the steering wheel when you are driving straight. If you notice that your steering wheel is off-center while you are driving straight, it means you are compensating its position. Misaligned wheels can cause it.
How Wheel Alignment Works
You will appreciate wheel alignment more if you know how it works. In performing a wheel alignment service, the mechanic essentially adjusts and corrects three things:
- Camber: The wheel angle as it is viewed from the front
- Caster: Steering pivot angle
- Toe-in: The difference in distance between the front of the tires and the back
Requires a Trained Mechanic
As you can see, this is not your usual DIY stuff. So, only a trained mechanic is qualified to do this job.
In addition, the mechanic will not do this manually, just by using his hands, vision, and ordinary car mechanic tools.
Mechanics Use Computerized Wheel Alignment Machines
Most mechanics use computerized wheel alignment machines to properly perform a wheel alignment service. Gone are the days when mechanics used strings and tape measure and their visual acuity to perform the job.
Generally, there are two kinds of wheel alignments that auto care centers perform. The exact alignment type required depends on whether a vehicle four-wheel drive or a front or rear-wheel drive.
The four-wheel alignment procedure is the most comprehensive type. It is usually done for four-wheel drives, but it can also be performed on the rear wheel or front-wheel drives if the car owner wants it.
How Long Does a Front Wheel Alignment Take?
The mechanic will take around 30 minutes to one hour to complete the job in four-wheel alignment; if they will not find any other problem with the car and its steering and suspension components. If a mechanic has to replace broken parts, this procedure will take longer.
The two-wheel alignment is an alternative to the four-wheel alignment procedure. It is quicker, cheaper, and can correct wheel alignment problems to a certain extent.
The wheel alignment of the front wheels (for front-wheel drives) or the rear wheels (for rear-wheel drives) are the only wheels that are checked and aligned.
How Long Does a 2-wheel Alignment Take?
The time it takes to align the front, or rear wheels is almost the same as four-wheel alignment. Both procedures require the same time to set up and dismantle the equipment you need.
One wheel alignment process takes only from 15 to 20 minutes. This is the ‘toe and go’ alignment. But most of the top-quality car mechanics frown upon this wheel alignment method because it is not that accurate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some questions by car owners who are not very familiar with the value of wheel alignment.
Reading this part of the article will give you a better idea of why you need this car preventive maintenance service:
How Long Will It Take to Get My Wheels Aligned?
If you have a damaged suspension system, track rod, steering bushing that a mechanic must replace, it will take longer than one hour.
But if they take your car out of the rack in less than 30 minutes, check if they have performed the wheel alignment correctly. If they could do it this fast, chances are they didn’t perform a decent jot of it.
How Often Should My Car Get Wheel Alignment?
Usually, a typical wheel alignment procedure will take around one hour. The same amount of time is usually spent with a front-wheel or a rear-wheel vehicle.
Car experts recommend that you take your car for a wheel alignment every two to three years. But if you want the best option that will ensure optimum vehicle efficiency, you should go for a wheel alignment service each time your engine oil is changed.
How Often Should My Wheels Be Aligned?
Many car experts recommend that you get your wheels aligned every 6,000 miles. If you want a convenient way to do it, get your wheels aligned each time you change the oil.
How Do I Know If My Cars Needs Wheel Alignment?
You will feel it in the steering wheel. As it responds or does not respond to your command, you will be able to see if your wheels are no longer aligned. If you are already sweating while turning the steering wheel and the vehicle does not respond, you must align your wheels.
Other things will show you if your wheels are already up for alignment. The signs are things like uneven tread wear on the tires, off-centered steering wheel, vibrating steering wheels, and so forth.
How Much Do They Charge for a Wheel Alignment Service?
On average, the cost of a wheel alignment job starts at $90. The actual fee varies depending on the location. There are car service chains that have the same service charge everywhere.
Do I Need to Align My Newly Mounted Tires?
Wheel alignment is recommended for new tire installations. This practice will enable you to get the most from your new tires. It will extend the life of the tires, not to mention the safe and comfortable ride handling you will get.
Do I Need Four-wheel Alignment or Just Two-wheel Alignment?
If you have a car with four-wheel drive, the recommendation is to have a four-wheel alignment. All four tires have independent suspensions.
So, each wheel has to be correctly aligned. The caster and toe of the front wheels will be adjusted, and the camber and toe of the rear wheels will also be adjusted.
Can I Drive with Badly Misaligned Wheels?
This is a bad idea. There will be times when the wheels will be weak, and your car will bend to the left or right, depending on the situation. This will make it hard for you to control your car.
Conclusion: How Long Does Wheel Alignment Take?
A typical wheel alignment service will take around one hour to complete, regardless of whether it’s a four-wheel or a two-wheel alignment.
However, it will take longer than one hour if there is extensive damage to the steering bushing, suspension system, track rod, or other components because broken parts may have to be replaced.
Driving with badly misaligned wheels is not good for you and your car. Your safety is at stake. If you don’t encounter an accident, your tires will wear out faster and unevenly. So, no matter how long it takes, you should have them corrected if you think your tires are already misaligned.