So, how long does an alignment take? Getting a tire alignment takes an average of one hour. The duration, however, can depend on the level of damage around the suspension system and wheel area. It means that aligning the car wheel can take longer if there’s too much wear and tear.
Under normal circumstances, the time it’ll take to align a two-wheel-drive or a four-wheel vehicle is equally the same. Things may be a little different if you’re exploring the DIY alignment.
No doubt, the expertise or experience of your mechanic is also a factor to consider. Overall, wheel alignment shouldn’t exceed one and a half hours.
Taking your car for tire alignment is one of the routine auto maintenance schedules. Tire alignment makes your car work safely and will also keep it in good condition. Besides, it will ensure the car tires have proper contact with the road at the right angle.
While on the road, a properly aligned wheel will make the tires properly center in the wheels. The wheels themselves will also point straight. In the end, when you have a good tire alignment, you can rest assured your tire will last long.
The vehicle will also maintain quality gas mileage. Overall, you’ll enjoy a smooth ride as your car tires have a firm grip on the road.
What Is Wheel Alignment?
Wheel alignment is the process of adjusting the “axle to the proper angle”. As will be explained in detail later, there are several things that should be adjusted in wheel alignment, and adjusting them will allow the car to perform at its best.
Angle Is An Essential Part Of Wheel Alignment
Wheel alignment involves adjusting three angles: camber angle, caster angle, and toe angle.
Camber angle is the angle of the tire when the car is viewed from the front.
When the tire is tilted inward like the letter “C”, it is called “negative camber”, and when it is tilted in an inverted “C”, it is called “positive camber”.
Camber angle is an alignment related to straight-line stability and cornering performance. Negative camber improves grip while cornering. Positive camber, on the other hand, does not offer much benefit, so it is generally not set on current cars.
Extreme negative camber settings are called “devil’s camber,” but are not recommended because of the damage they can cause to other parts. Note that excessive settings may be considered a violation modification.
Caster angle is the tilt angle of the kingpin axle. When looking at the axle from the side, the more it is tilted to the rear, the larger the caster angle.
By tilting the axle, it is less susceptible to external disturbances, and “straight-line stability” is improved. However, too much tilting makes it difficult to turn the steering wheel.
Toe angle is the angle between the front edge of the tire and the vehicle body when viewed from above. When the front edge of the tire is facing inward, it is called “toe-in,” when it is facing outward, “toe-out,” and when it is straight, it is called “toe-zero.
In human terms, an inward-facing tire is called “toe-in,” and a straddling tire is called “toe-out.
Toe-in improves straight-line stability, while toe-out improves handling. The toe angle of the front wheels varies depending on the car model, while toe-zero is generally used for the rear wheels.
Why You Should Realign Your Car Tires
There are enough reasons to get your car tire alignment as soon as possible. Doing this will go a long way toward reducing your budget for tire purchases.
One of the things you’ll notice if you carry out tire alignment according to plan is that you can easily handle and maneuver your car. Typically, if you have misaligned tires, the car will experience poor stability.
As a result, maneuverability will be extremely poor, making it difficult for you to handle driving even in the easiest and most suitable of conditions.
Car Won’t Pull In One Direction
Feeling that your car pulls only in one direction can be something any driver or car owner doesn’t want to experience. One of the things that can cause the car to be puling incorrectly is when you have misaligned wheels.
The tires have to be correctly positioned on the car to make them maintain normal moving and turning positions. If this is not in place, your car won’t be able to move or turn in a straight line.
Typically, a car misalignment causes blowouts and flat spots which result from the added tension that the tires are carrying over time. The tension isn’t good for your tires, after all.
What gives a driver more joy than having a comfortable ride? One of the ways you can achieve this is by ensuring that your car tires are properly aligned. If the tires are in their proper place, they will make great and even contact with the road.
This way, you’ll feel incredible comfort when riding and the unease that comes with poor alignment will reduce dramatically. As a result, your safety won’t be threatened.
Reduced Maintenance Cost
More so, if you realign your car tires according to schedule, the cost of maintenance will be drastically reduced. Misaligned tires can affect the braking system and cause it to function abnormally. Avoiding this will save you extra cost on the brake pads, brake rotors, and other components of the car.
Interval Of Wheel Alignment: What You Need To Know
Wondering how often you should align your car tires? Usually, I consider some factors before deciding when to take my car out for wheel alignment. The intervals of wheel alignment for my SUV and Sedan differ significantly.
The manufacturer’s recommendation is my guide on this. However, your location, your driving pattern and habits, the road condition, and other factors also inform when and how often you should get alignment for your car wheel.
Also important to consider is the dimension of the tire. Wider car tires require more frequent alignment than narrower ones.
In most cases, most technicians will recommend that you get your tire alignment at the interval of two to three years. Following the car owner’s manual is the best way to go.
Sometimes the manual isn’t specific about how often you should align and realign your car wheel. In that case, you can follow the technician’s recommendation.
Even before opting for the mechanic’s advice, you should first consider taking the car to an auto repair shop or service center. The certified mechanics can carry out a proper wheel alignment check to know what the wheels need.
Let me say this as my final shot in this section. Your car’s wheel alignment will need to be inspected after the first or second year of use. Inspecting it doesn’t mean you should realign.
If the wheel makes firm contact with the road, you may not have to realign it every year. Also, if the wear on the tires is even, alignment may not be necessary. However, if you newly install tires, it is important that you get your wheel aligned.
Signs that Your Car Tires Need Alignment
Some things will indicate that your car tires need alignment. You must be on the lookout for these signs to avoid driving on unsafe wheels. When you notice any of the following symptoms, it’s time to go for wheel alignment.
Uneven Tire Wear
The easiest way to notice uneven tire wear is to check your front and rear tires. If you notice that the wear patterns are different, then, it means it’s time to get a wheel alignment.
Off-Center Steering Wheel
The steering wheel can become crooked if the wheels are misaligned or not properly aligned. The steering wheel can move away from the center, causing poor handling and pulling the car in one direction.
This can be a result of wheel misalignment. When you pay close attention to the steering wheel, signs that come indicate that your wheel needs realignment. The crooked steering wheel can also be an indication that the toe angle of the car is out of specifications. Another reason can also be due to worn steering parts.
The Vehicle Pulls In One Direction
A misaligned tire is the first culprit when driving. When this happens, your vehicle will pull in one direction. The pulling can be slight or sharp.
- Slight Pull: When it is slight, you may not notice the change or the one-directional pull of the vehicle. Even if you notice it, it doesn’t mean that the tires are not misaligned. What you need to do when you observe it is to park on a level surface.
Drive for some minutes in a straight line and then take your hand off the steering wheel. If you feel that your car is drifting towards a direction, then you’ll need to get an alignment done as soon as possible.
- Sharp Pull: another type of vehicle pull is the sharp pull. This is easily more noticeable than the slight pull. Although an under-inflated tire can cause the vehicle to drift to one side, the most common cause is misalignment. Getting wheel alignment is the only option if the problem persists after inflating your tire.
A wrong-sized tire, poorly aligned tire, or one working under low air pressure can cause your vehicle to move in one direction. I have also noticed that if a tire has an internal belt separation, it can lead to the car pulling uni-directionally.
Outside the tire, another cause of car pull I have observed is when the caster angle or camber is out of specifications. If this happens, you’ll notice the car will move haphazardly.
Steering Wheel Vibrates
Unevenly worn or unbalanced tires can cause your steering wheel to vibrate. The tires are pulling in opposite directions because they are misaligned. As a result, they cause the steering wheel a lot of vibration.
How Long You Can Drive With Misaligned Tires
Without mincing words, I will say you shouldn’t drive once you notice that your car tires are not in great alignment. Drive to your technician and get an alignment.
As a general rule of thumb, maximum safety protocols require that you shouldn’t drive if your car wheels do not align properly. However, if the wear and tear are too much, some circumstances may require that you drive the car until the tires completely wear out.
In that case, you’ll need to get new tires to replace the unevenly worn tires. It doesn’t matter whether the wear is from inside or outside of the tread.
Each time you replace old tires, you must do an alignment. If you drive with new tires without getting an alignment, the tires will quickly wear out, and be in the most uneven pattern like the old ones.
From the economic point of view, which is more cost-effective: buying a new set of tires or getting an alignment? Your guess is as good as mine, right?
Regular inspection of the air pressure in your tires is one way to avoid misalignment. The tires should not lose pressure. The more you drive with poor alignment, the greater the uneven wear you’re causing the tires.
From my professional point of view, I will suggest you ensure proper alignment all the time to avoid losing your tires or life.
What If The Wheel Alignment Is Not Adjusted?
If wheel alignment misalignment is left unadjusted, it can lead to uneven wear, where only one side of the tire wears down, shortening its life. Furthermore, there is a risk of the steering wheel drifting to the left or right. This is very dangerous because it also affects driving.
If The Camber Angle Is Misaligned
If the camber angle is off from left to right, the car will not run straight or will drift to the left or right when braking.
Why does a misaligned camber angle cause the car to drift from side to side? This is due to an effect called camber thrust: if you roll a 1-dollar coin, it will turn in the direction it is tilted. This is the camber thrust.
If the camber thrust is aligned, it cancels out, but if it is misaligned, it bends toward the direction of the weaker thrust.
Also, a misaligned camber angle can cause extreme wear on the edges of the tire. This is because the tire is at an angle to the ground, so it does not touch the ground evenly.
If the tire is extremely worn at the edges, inspect the camber angle for misalignment.
If The Caster Angle Is Misaligned
If the caster angle is misaligned from side to side, the tire with the smaller angle will be squeezed, causing the car to drift from side to side in the same manner as the camber.
This is especially noticeable during braking.
If The Toe Angle Is Out Of Alignment
If the toe angle is off from left to right, it will also cause the car to drift to the left or right. Since the toe angle represents the left-right orientation of the tire, the car will be pushed toward the side with the larger angle, causing the car to turn. For example, if the toe angle of the left rear wheel is greater than that of the right rear wheel, the car will be pushed out from the left and turn to the left.
The tires will also experience uneven wear because they will be at a strong angle to the straight line. If there is extreme wear on any tire, suspect misalignment of the toe angle.
Can An Alignment Be Done In 30 Minutes?
No, getting your car wheel to align will not be less than 1 hour. Depending on the extent of the damage, fixing the wear on the tire alone can take half of an hour. If the track rod, steering bushing, or suspension system contains too much wear and tear, alignment can take longer than an hour.
This is because you’ll have to replace some parts. Regardless, alignment is an important task you cannot overlook when carrying out routine maintenance in your car.
Understandably, mechanics are busy and want to quickly complete one repair and move to another. Taking this attitude to work on car tire alignment will be disastrous.
Hence, you shouldn’t shortchange the duration to spend on correcting the misalignment. Otherwise, if alignment is done in haste, the result will be tragic. Plus, you won’t get the maximum result you initially sought.
Should I Align My Car Tires?
Yes, you should get any misaligned car tire fixed as soon as possible. What more can I say? Apart from being one of the maintenance fixes, tire alignment is necessary for some reasons mentioned above.
The consequences of failing to realign your car tires can be far-reaching. You should avoid tire wear, poor handling, an increase in maintenance cost, and a host of other issues that come up.
A misaligned wheel is a threat to your safety and the lifespan of your car and its components. You shouldn’t compromise it as soon as your car is due for service. Even if it’ll take three hours to complete, alignment is worth every minute or hour of your time.
While driving, make sure you pay attention to the response of the wheels. Listen to the noise from the brake section. Observe the condition of the tires and the overall performance of your vehicle on the road.
In the end, the time it takes to fix the wheel misalignment won’t matter. After all, your safety and that of your vehicle should be a priority.
My name is James. Call me your ‘Born Auto Neighbor.’ I am an auto savvy with a burning enthusiasm to help vehicle owners, auto technicians, DIYer auto caregivers, and drivers like you have a seamless time with your vehicles. Do you own or work on a Dodge Convertible, a Chevy Crossover, a Ford SUV, a Toyota Hatchback, a Honda Coupe, a Datsun MPV, or a Mercedes Sedan? I have enough automotive content to help your auto service and repair on the go.
I have been around for more than a decade, examining and analyzing car issues while proffering practical fixes that will help you spend less time and money. I take auto care, service, and maintenance very seriously and my tested experience in the industry means that you can always get the best auto tips and tricks.
Don’t fall for the auto myths; take the facts as I give them out freely.
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