Lisa H. Asks: Should I get an alignment done on my car when I replace my tires?

Well you saved up your money to purchase four new tires, that’s great! Before we get too deep into the importance of performing an alignment, you need to take a close look at your old tires. How did they wear? Were your tires worn on the outside edges? Were they choppy or feathered on the outside edges? If so explain this to the advisor as a concern. So you make the appointment to have your tires replaced and the service advisor asks you if you would like to have a four wheel alignment. Now any good service advisor should automatically know to ask you this question, especially with four brand new tires. At this point in time you feel that you are put on the spot because you did not expect to spend the extra $89.95 for an alignment and you do not know what you should do.

Ask the shop that will be doing your alignment if they have a separate price to just “check” the alignment. If no adjustment is needed in my opinion you should be charged a little less. Shop around a little by phone and see if any shops offer just an alignment “check”.  Understand that any time that you replace your tires an alignment should be performed, or checked no questions asked. It is not a bad idea to have it checked annually especially here in the Northeast after frost heave/pothole season! If you have an older vehicle and it has rarely ever had an alignment performed I have a suggestion to make sure the alignment is done correctly. Most alignments take approximately ten minutes or so to set the vehicle up on the machine. The mechanic will basically get a little over an hour to complete the alignment, and he can only hope that everything that needs to be adjusted can be adjusted. What do I mean by this, one word “RUST”!!!  See picture below  of a rear toe adjuster that will not likely move,the other toe adjuster  is new and will move without a problem. Sometimes the rust can be so bad that certain components in the suspension may need to be replaced in order to complete the alignment correctly. How do you know if your alignment has been done properly? You should get a printout of before and after results, the service advisor or mechanic should explain to you what was adjusted. If you look at the print out  above anything printed in red ink is out of specs. Anything that is in green ink is in specifications, or has been adjusted to specifications. You need to know that if you have an older vehicle extra time may be needed to get your vehicle back into alignment where it should be. Make sure that before you hand your keys over to the service advisor to tell the mechanic to take his time to get the alignment done correctly. Be prepared to spend a little extra to get the alignment done right, especially if your car has higher mileage on it. Lastly If you have a suspected  warranty issue with your new tires in the future you will want to staple your alignment print out specs to your receipt from your new tires. If you read the fine print in some tire warranties you must have an alignment done upon new tire installation for it to be valid.

New rear alignment adjuster

Now this rear toe adjuster will move without a problem!

Rusted rear toe adjuster

Think this will move? Not!

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