Wheel alignment often flies under the radar when we think about what keeps our cars safe and running smoothly. We all think about brakes, traction control, and airbags, but did you know that having proper wheel alignment is just as important?
Wheel alignment is not only about straight steering but also about optimizing your car’s performance.
Trained technicians use specialized equipment to line up your wheels exactly as your car’s manufacturer intended.
Luckily, the process isn’t costly or time-consuming. In most cases, you’ll be in and out in under an hour.
Here’s why keeping your wheels aligned deserves a spot on your car care checklist:
Sideways drift: Even a minor misalignment, such as a wheel being 2 mm out of alignment, can make your vehicle drift sideways by as much as 24 feet over a mile. This can significantly impact your vehicle’s handling and stability.
Increased tire wear: Even just one-eighth of an inch of misalignment can lead to a 20% increase in tire wear. This not only shortens the lifespan of your tires but also affects the smoothness of your ride.
Extended tire life: Regularly aligning your wheels can add up to 12,000 miles to the life of your tires. Considering the cost of tire replacement, this is a significant saving.
Fuel efficiency: Poor alignment doesn’t just wear down your tires—it also affects your fuel economy. A car with misaligned wheels can use up to 10% more fuel than one that’s properly aligned, leading to unnecessary expenses at the pump.
In this article, we’ll explore what wheel alignment costs, how often you should schedule alignment services, and how to recognize when you need one.
Estimates for Your Vehicle: Wheel Alignment Cost
Here is how much you can expect to pay for the different types of wheel alignments:
Two-wheel alignment: This is usually the more affordable option and typically costs around $50. Two-wheel alignment services are suitable for vehicles with a solid rear axle that doesn’t require adjustment.
Thrust alignment: This type of wheel alignment focuses on aligning the rear wheels precisely with the car’s centerline. The cost for this service can be as much as $80.
Four-wheel alignment: This is the most comprehensive type of wheel alignment. It’s necessary for most modern vehicles and luxury cars, especially those with all-wheel drive. Four-wheel alignment usually costs around $170.
At Burt Brothers, we understand how important proper wheel alignment is, especially given the unique demands of Utah roads.
We use advanced machines to adjust your suspension and steering systems to original OE specifications, and we are one of the few AAA-certified repair facilities in Utah and TIA.
Wheel alignment costs depend on a number of factors. Generally, you can expect the following to influence your wheel alignment cost:
Type of vehicle: The cost of wheel alignment varies based on your vehicle type, such as a standard car, SUV, or truck, due to differences in size and suspension complexity.
Alignment type: As mentioned above, there are different types of wheel alignments: front-end alignment (also known as two-wheel alignment), four-wheel alignment, and thrust alignment. Each type has a different process and cost.
Local labor costs: Prices for the labor that goes into wheel alignments can vary between local garages, specialized tire shops, and dealership service centers.
Additional services: Your technician may recommend extra services like suspension repairs or steering component inspections to enhance your car’s safety and performance.
How Vehicle Wheel Alignment Works
Regular car maintenance is crucial, with wheel alignment playing a significant role. Bumps, potholes, and everyday driving slowly nudge your wheels out of their perfect alignment.
That’s why making wheel alignment a staple in your vehicle maintenance routine is essential for keeping your car running at its best.
Here’s what happens during the wheel alignment process:
Whether you take your car for a front-end alignment or four-wheel alignment, the process always starts with an analysis.
Trained technicians begin by inspecting three critical angles: the caster, camber, and toe. This is done using an alignment machine alongside a visual inspection.
Caster: This is the angle made by an imaginary line between the steering mechanism’s upper and lower ball joints. It’s vital for keeping the vehicle at the proper height and ensuring stability, especially at higher speeds.
Camber: This angle, formed between the tire and the road surface, affects the tire’s contact with the road and has a considerable impact on tire wear.
Toe: This refers to the angle or distance between the front of the tires. Proper toe alignment is crucial for tire wear and stability during turns.
After determining your caster, camber, and toe angles, the technicians will compare them to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Your vehicle will be placed on an alignment system, and targets will be mounted to the wheel ends.
The technician will then use the alignment machine to adjust the caster, camber, and toe angles until they align with the manufacturer’s recommended range.
Final test drive
After adjustments, your car will undergo a test drive to verify the accuracy of the new settings and to confirm that any pre-repair issues have been resolved.
Wheel alignment is not just about keeping your tires straight—it’s about ensuring your car operates efficiently to keep your passengers safe.
Here are some of the key reasons why it’s so important:
Enhanced control: Proper wheel alignments adjust the angles at which your tires meet the road. This fine-tuning makes a noticeable improvement in your car’s handling.
Steering: With correctly aligned wheels, you’ll find that steering your car is smoother and more precise. This is especially important when navigating challenging driving conditions.
Even wear: One of the most significant benefits of wheel alignment is its impact on tire longevity. When your wheels are properly aligned, it prevents uneven tire wear.
Cost-effective: Regular wheel alignment extends tire life, saving money over time by reducing the need for frequent replacements.
Stability: Proper alignment contributes to the overall stability of your vehicle, especially at higher speeds or during emergency maneuvers.
5 Ways to Tell When Your Car Needs a Wheel Alignment Service
Figuring out when your car needs a wheel alignment isn’t always straightforward, but there are a few telltale signs.
If you notice any of the following while you’re out and about, it might be time to schedule a service:
You have uneven tire wear
Uneven wear usually occurs when your wheels aren’t properly aligned, causing some parts of the tire to work harder than others.
Give your tires a once-over. If one side is more worn than the other, or if the front and rear wheels are wearing differently, it’s a sign that you need a tire alignment service.
Your car pulls to one side
If your vehicle pulls to one side while driving straight on a flat road, it’s a classic sign of wheel misalignment.
You have a crooked steering wheel
When you’re driving straight, check your steering wheel. If it’s not sitting pretty much in the center, this indicates that the wheels are not aligned correctly with the steering axis.
You notice strange noises
Pay attention to any unusual noises like squealing tires or clunking sounds from the suspension when turning or going over bumps.
Such noises can be indicative of alignment issues affecting the tires’ contact with the road or suspension components being stressed unevenly.
It’s been a year since your last tire alignment
As a general rule, you should schedule a wheel alignment service every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. Even if you haven’t hit those miles, you should get an alignment check once a year or whenever you get new tires.
Get Back on Track: Schedule Your Wheel Alignment with Burt Brothers
If you notice any signs of misalignment or it’s simply been a while since your last check, it’s time to bring your car in for a professional wheel alignment.
Don’t wait until your tires show uneven wear or your driving experience is compromised.
Our trained technicians will ensure that your vehicle’s alignment meets the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications, enhancing your safety and driving experience.
We use state-of-the-art equipment to accurately adjust your vehicle for optimal performance. Plus, with our commitment to customer satisfaction, you can trust that your car is in good hands.
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