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A Guide to Wheel Alignment

Has your car started pulling to one side when you are driving? Maybe the steering wheel is vibrating, and you have found that you are constantly adjusting it in order for your car to simply travel straight ahead? Perhaps your tyres are already worn even though you’ve not long had them replaced, or there is uneven wear on the tyres. These are all common signs and symptoms that your car is misaligned. A wheel or tyre alignment is crucial for ensuring that your tyres perform their job correctly, issues with steering are prevented and the overall handling of the car is improved.

How Much is a Wheel Alignment?

First things first – if you suspect that your car needs a wheel alignment, how much can you expect to pay for this service? For smaller cars, you can expect to pay around $50 at least for a four-wheel alignment, while the cost for larger vehicles can be around $120. SUVs and four-wheel drives tend to cost more since the adjustments that need to be made during the service can be more time-consuming. Depending on the make of your car and the adjustments that are needed, you should budget between $125-$150, or even more.

How Long Does a Wheel Alignment Take?

In general, you can expect to wait for around one hour for your wheel alignment to be carried out. This is usually the case regardless of whether your car is a two-wheel or four-wheel drive. However, you will need to bear in mind that other issues with the steering and suspension may add time to the job. If your vehicle has any damage to the suspension system, track rods, and other parts, the process may take longer, especially if some parts need to be repaired or replaced in order for the wheels to be aligned correctly.

How Often is a Wheel Alignment Needed?

There is no specific amount of time that should pass before you take your car for a wheel alignment. This is because misalignment of the wheels can happen at any time and is often caused by simple issues that might not be avoidable, like driving over a pothole in the road. Because of this, it is recommended that you take your car for a wheel alignment around twice per year, or every 10,000km depending on which comes first.

However, the main reason to take your car for a wheel alignment is if you notice any symptoms. If there’s something unusual going on with your steering or tyres like pulling to one side or uneven wear on the tyres, then you should have your car checked by a professional as soon as possible. They will be able to let you know if you need to get a wheel alignment or if the issue is caused by something else.

How Much Wheel Alignment – Signs You Need To Get One

If you have noticed certain signs when driving, such as the handling feeling loose, the steering wheel off-centre, the car pulling to one side excessively, or the tyres wearing unevenly, then you probably need to get a wheel alignment. In some cases, the steering wheel may not return to the centre after you turn.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common issues in more detail.

How Much Are Wheel Alignments for the Car Pulling to One Side?

Many drivers mistakenly believe that their wheels are out of alignment if the car pulls away slightly for a few seconds. However, this isn’t always the case. Most cars are designed to have a slight pull away from the oncoming traffic to prevent a terrible accident if the driver loses control of the car for any reason.  However, if the car is pulling to the side excessively, this is usually a sign that the wheel alignment should be checked. When the car pulls violently to one side or the other, this might be indicative of a steering or suspension component that has failed or has become excessively worn, and this should be checked by a professional at the earliest opportunity.

How Much for a Wheel Alignment for the Steering Wheel Not Centred?

When you are driving down a flat road, your car’s steering wheel should always sit straight, with the brand emblem level and in the centre of the steering wheel. If you have noticed that your steering wheel is not centred or is crooked when you are driving in a straight line on a flat road, this is usually one of the main signs of something being wrong with the wheel alignment.

Loose Handling

If you have noticed that your car feels like it’s going in all directions around the road when you are driving, or if you feel that it’s not very stable going around corners, then a wheel alignment service or a further inspection of the various steering and suspension components for damage or wear is essential. You may notice that when you turn, the steering wheel keeps going by itself even though you are no longer turning it, or the steering wheel moves excessively if you go over a bump in the road, for example.

Uneven Wear on Tyres

If your car’s wheels are misaligned, then you may notice that the tyres are wearing excessively or have uneven wear. If this is the case, then you should have the tyre pressure and the wheel alignment checked and adjusted if needed.

How Often to Do Wheel Alignment – What Happens During?

You should book in your car for wheel alignment or at least an inspection if you notice any of the above signs. A wheel alignment is a manual adjustment of the suspension system of your car. The auto professional will make some adjustments to various components of the suspension system to ensure that they are restored to the correct setting. This can improve the overall handling of the car, prevent steering issues, and improve the longevity of your tires.

There are three main parts that are checked and adjusted when you take your car for a wheel alignment:

  • Camber: The inward or outward tilt of the tyres when looking at the vehicle front-on
  • Caster: The angle of the steering axis when you view the vehicle from the side
  • Toe: The outward or inward angle when viewing your tyres from above

How Much for Wheel Alignment Future Savings?

Driving your car for longer than necessary when a wheel alignment is required can actually cost you more money in the long run compared to having the wheel alignment carried out immediately. It is always best to have the wheel alignment carried out sooner rather than later if you have noticed any of the above signs that the wheels might be out of alignment. Some of the main financial benefits of getting your car’s wheels aligned include:

  • Save on Fuel Costs: When the tyres are not aligned correctly, they will drag more, which causes premature wear on the tyres. As a result, this means that more fuel is needed to move your car along the road, causing a decrease in fuel efficiency and leading to you filling up more often.
  • Save on New Tyres: When your car’s wheels are misaligned, this can cause rapid wear of the tyres and you may find that you need to replace your tyres earlier than usual. On the other hand, when the tyres are correctly aligned, your tyres might have thousands more miles in them before they are worn enough to replace.
  • Better Handling: Driving your car with misaligned tyres makes it harder to handle, which in turn can lead to damage and wear on the steering and suspension system over time. The longer you drive your car while it is out of alignment, the higher your risk of large future mechanic bills to repair or replace important steering and suspension components.

How Much Does Wheel Alignment Cost With New Tyres?

If your tyres need to be replaced, then it is strongly recommended that you have a wheel alignment carried out at the same time as or shortly after your new tyres are fitted. Some mechanics that offer both will offer package deals for you to have new tyres fitted with a wheel alignment or money off a wheel alignment for new tyres which might be worth checking out to save money.

A wheel alignment will help to extend the lifetime of your new tyres along with keeping you safer on the road by making sure that all the tyres are meeting the road at the right angle and are centred correctly. Along with this, you will notice better response and handling when driving your car and get more from your fuel tank.

Wheel misalignment is a common issue for drivers since it can happen by simply driving over a pothole or accidentally hitting a kerb. Ideally, you should know the signs and take your car for a wheel alignment as soon as you notice issues like pulling to one side or unstable steering.

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