A Tire Alignment Guide: Cost, Benefits and Frequency
Tire alignment is one of the necessary points of maintenance that must be performed regularly in order to keep your vehicle running safely and reliably. The most basic tire alignment services will adjust the front wheels to be sure the vehicle is driving properly. Ensuring this helps to avoid wear and tear to the tires and the entire steering mechanism. There are many benefits, in particular, to performing an alignment regularly, and the average costs are relatively inexpensive.
Benefits of a Tire Alignment
Overall, tire alignment maintenance will keep your wheels uniform while driving. In particular, properly aligned wheels are more economic, prevent wear and tear and improve the stability of your ride, potentially saving you a substantial amount of money in the long run. Following is a list of specific benefits to keeping up with tire alignment on all your vehicles:
- less wear on tires
- better gas mileage, due to less work on the engine
- smoother driving, lack of vibration at high speeds
- straighter driving with no pulling to one side or the other
- improved safety
- shorter stopping distance
Tire Alignment Details
In order to better understand the process of tire alignment, there are several important details to keep in mind. Many auto mechanics, garages and tire retailers offer tire alignment as a service to be performed at regular intervals. It's always a good idea to consider the cost for this service when purchasing a new set of tires for your car. Having a wheel alignment done once every 20,000 to 30,000 miles is sufficient, unless other problems are present. Costs will differ, depending upon the size of your vehicle and whether you choose to purchase a front-end alignment or a 4-wheel alignment. You may also find that these services are included as a free perk for purchasing tires or having other work performed at particular maintenance locations. You can expect to pay an average of $30 to $60 for a front-end alignment and $50 to $90 for service to all four wheels.
How Tire Alignment Works
Once you decide to proceed with a tire alignment, you can expect it to take just under an hour. Your car will be driven onto a platform that allows the wheels to spin while the rotation and orientation of each wheel is assessed by a computer. Specifications will be checked electronically for the year, make and model of your car. If these specs are off, an adjustment will be made to each appropriate wheel until they match up properly. Your vehicle will likely be test-driven both before and after the alignment, and it may be recommended to have your tires balanced during the process.
Having your vehicle checked for improper alignment is often necessary to diagnose problems. For example, steering wheel vibration, pulling to one side while driving, or uneven tire wear may indicate that a tire alignment is necessary, but these things can point to other problems as well. Also be sure to describe your vehicle specifically when calling for quotes. Some vehicles cost more to maintain, while any changes to the wheel structure, such as oversized tires or a lift kit, may require other means for alignment.