Did you notice a shift in how your car handles? You could probably use a wheel alignment. Before you clear your Saturday, you probably wonder, “how long does a tire alignment take?” Don’t worry since a good mechanic can do it in one hour.
However, if you still have more questions like “How long would a 4 wheel alignment take?”, “How long would a two-wheel alignment take?” and “is a wheel alignment necessary?”.
The answers are all here, so let’s get to it. Shall we?
How Long Will a Wheel Alignment Take?
Different wheel alignments usually depend on the type of suspension on your car. Your friendly neighborhood mechanic can determine this for you. However, it’s still best to know what’s what.
- Front-end alignment – Also known as a 2-wheel alignment, it aligns your front wheel axle. An hour should suffice and could be a reasonable timeframe for how much time would like a front-end alignment take.
- Thrust alignment – If your vehicle has a solid rear axle, a thrust alignment is the best way for it. It combines a front-end and thrust alignment to ensure that all your wheels are precisely aligned.
- 4-wheel alignment – This alignment is usually done on 4-wheel drive vehicles. It combines elements from the front end and thrust alignments to accommodate independent suspensions. A 4-wheel alignment can also take about an hour.
Factors that Affect Wheel Alignment Time
Wheel alignment isn’t necessarily a long-time ordeal. As I’ve said, an hour is all you need to get your wheels back in tip-top shape.
However, some factors can affect the time and how long your car alignment takes.
Usually, these can stem from a multitude of reasons. Depending on your wheel’s overall condition, some can take longer than usual since repairs might be in order or some parts need replacing.
If you notice extensive damage in your car, expect longer waiting times.
Here are the usual factors for how long a wheel alignment could take:
- Too much wear and tear – Extensive damage to your wheels can require replacement parts or even buying new ones. Get an assessment from a reliable and trusted mechanic for an accurate time frame.
- Damaged suspension system – This is a far more significant problem than damaged wheels. Your suspensions are considered the backbone of your car, and extensive damage to this essential part can make your waiting times longer.
- Damaged steering bushing – If you damage your steering bushing, it could affect how your car can handle vibrations more effectively. Consider getting this essential part fixed before trying your car’s wheel alignments.
- Damaged track rods – Damaged track rods could affect your steering in a very detrimental way. Replacing these, however, depends on how many track rods you damaged. If all two are damaged, you’re on for a lot of waiting.
Is Wheel Alignment Necessary?
Yes, proper wheel alignment ensures that your steering and car handles are entirely optimized. Misaligned wheels can make your car move in unpredictable ways, compromising a smoother driving experience and making your car a potential danger to you or others.
Moreover, misaligned wheels can depreciate the value of your car if you’re planning to sell it. As with all damage to any vehicle, your car’s selling value would dip considerably, so always keep this essential factor in mind during car maintenance.
How Often Should My Wheels Be Aligned?
Well, it depends. Cars, like people, are very varied. And like people, annual check-ups are necessary so you can determine if there are potential signs of concern. A good rule of thumb for wheel alignment should be once every two to three years.
However, if you want what’s best for your vehicle, annually is best recommended. Taking your car to service centers can help you accurately diagnose wheel alignment problems, and if there are any.
While you can diagnose these problems yourself, a professional eye is still the most ideal.
Usually, a car’s wheel alignment skews slightly after a year or two. The effects you feel from this can be slightly noticeable to negligible.
However, if you feel that your car’s performance isn’t that great, don’t wait for a year to do so and let a mechanic perform some proper maintenance.
What Are the Signs of Misaligned Wheels?
Symptoms of a misaligned wheel may vary and can present in several ways. But, if you feel these handling problems when driving your car, it’s probably a cause for concern.
Signs of misaligned wheels
- The vehicle’s handling is off – This problem could be hazardous, so always keep this in mind if you feel like your car is steering on its own or it suddenly turns. If you notice this, it’s probably time to go to a mechanic.
- Your tires aren’t evenly worn – Wheels are always parallel to each other. So if one tire looks worn out, the other wheel must be misaligned since it isn’t in contact with the ground as much.
What Causes Wheel Misalignments?
The main reason for misalignment is usually impacted. Suppose you have been driving your car forcefully, especially if it’s not suited to it, unlike on a pick-up truck or on an SUV. In that case, your wheels could take the brunt of the impact and skew their alignment.
These are the things you should avoid to maintain your vehicle’s alignment.
- Accidents – This should go without saying that accidents can damage your vehicle.
- Off-roading – Cars are built for pavements; unless you’re driving a rally car, it’s best to avoid dirt roads entirely. As protruding rocks or uneven surfaces can put some undue stress on your axles.
- Potholes – Hitting these road hazards can misalign your wheels since a sudden force shift is subjected to your wheels.
- Driving aggressively through speed bumps – Speed bumps are there for a reason. It deliberately forces you to slow down. So respect traffic rules or risk damaging your vehicle in the process.
How Are Wheel Alignments Done?
Wheel alignments are usually done by an alignment machine operated by a mechanic. Alignment machines can either be mechanical or computerized. Depending on the machine used, a wheel alignment’s duration may vary.
The steps in wheel alignment are:
- If required, a mechanic adjusts each wheel’s camber, caster, and toe.
- Determine if the correct measurements are met
- The steering wheel is assessed
- Your car should be ready for a quick test drive.
Would a computerized wheel alignment take less time? Yes. The measurements would also be very accurate, almost up to their final decimal point. Big companies have state-of-the-art computerized alignment machines, like at Firestone or Michelin.
At the end of the day, you’ll want to ensure that your car is aligned as quickly and accurately as possible to get back on the road. Wheel alignments are critical to ensure that your vehicle runs at peak performance.
With the many nuances involved in the question “how long does a tire alignment take?, proper knowledge is integral in giving you an idea of how much time you’ll need. Remember that a well-serviced car is a safer car.