What You Need To Know About Wheel Alignments

December 11th, 2020 by

A close up is shown of the alignment target mounted to a wheel.

Wheel alignments, also known as tire alignments, may not receive as much attention as oil changes and tire rotations, but they’re just as important. Improper wheel alignment can affect everything from tire wear to steering, and in a worst-case scenario, even your suspension. So how often should you perform a wheel alignment, and how much does a wheel alignment cost? Well, it can be free in some cases and as costly as $235 in other cases.

What it costs to get a checkup and whether your vehicle even needs a wheel alignment can vary from place to place. This is why it’s important to get informed about the costs of wheel alignments, why you need them, and what sort of risks your vehicle faces if you don’t get timely wheel alignments. Visit Romeoville Toyota for the best service around when it comes to keeping your vehicle’s wheels aligned and the tires in proper order.

A close up is shown of a mechanic adjusting the suspension during a wheel alignment.

Average Costs for Wheel Alignment

Various dealerships and specialty shops offer different kinds of wheel alignment services, including one-time wheel alignment maintenance or lifetime warranty alignments. In the case of a one-time wheel alignment service, you pay a flat fee for the one-time service to get either the front wheels aligned or all four wheels aligned. When it comes to a lifetime warranty alignment, you pay a flat fee, and you have the option to receive free alignments within the parameters of the warranty. The difference between the two is that you’ll have to pay a fairly high price for the lifetime warranty on the alignment compared to the one-time alignment, but you get free alignments with the lifetime warranty.

Firestone, for instance, offers service for a standard wheel alignment that averages just under $100 (depending on the make and model of the vehicle, as well as your location) that includes camber, caster, and toe angle adjustments good for 12,000 miles. Alternatively, you can get a lifetime alignment warranty for around $200, where every 6,000 miles, you can get a free alignment for as long as you own the vehicle.

Pep Boys also offers wheel alignment services, with each wheel alignment sometimes going for around $99.99. The reason it’s so expensive is because Pep Boys uses computerized wheel alignment services. Walmart offers pricing between approximately $30-$100 depending on the drive and model. Midas also does wheel alignments for anywhere from $50-$150.

However, if you want the best deals available in Illinois for wheel alignments, you’ll want to visit Romeoville, where you can get a free alignment checkup and free alignments with no additional purchase necessary. There are also discounts for four-wheel alignments provided by Hunter Engineering, so every aspect of getting an alignment is covered by Romeoville’s technicians.

Can You Drive With Bad Wheel Alignment?

The short answer is that yes, you can drive with bad wheel alignment, but what happens is that you may encounter constant drift from one side or the other due to misalignment of the wheels. This can sometimes be in response to the vehicle’s camber forcing the vehicle to veer, which in turn forces drivers to have to fight with the vehicle to keep it stable. That’s why it’s essential to keep the wheels for any vehicle properly aligned. Without proper alignment, you take a number of risks when it comes to driving your vehicle on the road.

Misaligned rear wheels can also alter your thrust angle, which means that even if you think you’re supposed to be moving straight, you’re actually going to be moving at an off-angle, which will then require you to have to compensate while driving. This can add extra stress to driving as you constantly find yourself having to fight to stay aligned in the lane.
Camber or toe-in problems can also cause excessive tire wear in a very short span of time.

Putting off getting a wheel alignment for any reason means you will have to pay more for tire repair in the short term. Not to mention that as misaligned wheels get worse, you may experience jolts or vibrations in the steering, possibly due to the caster angle being affected. The more energy your car requires having to propel itself forward in a straight line, the more fuel you’ll consume and, in turn, the worse your gas mileage. So while it is completely and entirely possible to drive with misaligned wheels, you’ll not only do more damage to the tires but also experience higher costs for gas mileage and a disruptive driving experience.

A close up is shown of a man with a coffee and cell phone in a waiting room.

How Long Does an Alignment Take?

Mechanics have to adjust four main points of the suspension to align the wheels. With today’s technology, it is possible to get an alignment done within an hour at a certified technician station. However, wheel alignments may take longer if a checkup unveils additional damage to the vehicle’s suspension. Driving on worn down tires or misaligned wheels can sometimes lead to other problems with the suspension that may also need to be addressed for safety and efficiency purposes.

Additionally, the time it takes to get an alignment may also vary depending on if other alignment adjustments need to be made, such as thrust alignments for rear-wheel drive vehicles or aligning the wheels in parallel to one another for all-wheel drive vehicles. If any parts or suspension components need to be replaced, or if you get any tire replacements alongside the wheel alignment in case of excessive wear, the process could take longer.

While average times may take an hour for wheel alignments and tire replacements, the time escalates to replace damaged suspension parts such as the ball joints or tie-rods, which can also be affected by driving for long periods of time with misaligned wheels. Ball joint replacements can take several hours, while tie-rod replacements can take anywhere between three to six hours, depending on the make and model of the vehicle. Typically wheel alignments are also performed when tie-rods and ball joints are replaced.

What Are the Benefits of a Wheel Alignment?

There are a lot of benefits to getting wheel alignments. The most prominent being better steering alignment and the vehicle having perfectly centered wheels. This means that it requires fewer adjustments and steering adherence from the driver to stay on the road, as well as better gas mileage since you have to expend fewer amounts of fuel to keep the car steady or up to proper speed. Spending less on fuel is probably also a pretty big incentive for most people to keep their tires and wheels properly aligned and in good health.

The other benefit of a proper alignment is less wear and tear on the vehicle’s suspension and its parts. Constantly fighting with the vehicle and dealing with steering vibrations requires constant adjustments while driving and hastens the degradation of parts, such as the ball joints, tie-rods, and shocks. Reducing the amount of depreciation of the suspension with regular wheel alignments means that you won’t be spending as much after your next checkup.

At Romeoville Toyota, our free checkups ensure that you can keep track of your vehicle’s performance and structural health. With our free alignments, you have one less worry when it comes to maintaining your vehicle and being able to drive safely on the road to and from your destinations. Visit a Romeoville Toyota dealership today or schedule an appointment for a free checkup by calling one of our representatives.

Posted in Wheel Alignment