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The safety features on your vehicle include more than anti-lock brakes, traction control devices and airbags. Your wheels and tires are important in keeping you safe by helping you drive straight, turn corners and stop whenever necessary. To achieve optimal performance, have your vehicle tires properly aligned, which can cost as little as $50 or close to $170.
The process of adjusting your vehicle’s suspension, ensuring your tires connect with the road at the proper angles.
How much does a tire alignment cost?
The complete service typically costs anywhere from $50 for a two-wheel alignment to $168 for a full four-wheel alignment, depending on the provider. It should be done about once a year, but the exact timing will depend on your car and driving habits.
How to know if you need a tire alignment
Preventive maintenance is critical for keeping you and your passengers safe. Although experts recommend that you should get your tires aligned every one to two years, there are some other signs you should head to the autobody shop.
- Your car has been damaged. Following even a minor collision or accident, getting your tires checked out is smart. This is especially true if you have hit a curb or damaged your tires in another way.
- You hear noises. Although some sounds are expected when operating your vehicle, loud squeaks when turning are a cause for concern.
- Steering issues. If you have recently had any steering parts replaced or noticed a vibration when driving, the issue could be your tire alignment.
- Uneven wear. Next time you are parked, look at how your tires are wearing. A tire alignment could be in order if one looks balder or an individual tire is wearing asymmetrically.
Factors that impact alignment cost
The cost of an alignment depends on several factors:
- The number of wheels. A front-end alignment, which involves only the two wheels on the front of the car, typically costs anywhere from $50 to $75. Four-wheel alignments cost more, usually $100 to $168.
- Type of car. If your model requires specialized equipment, has a design that makes the job more difficult and time-consuming or is a luxury vehicle, service will cost more.
- Extra services. Services like tire balancing or car suspension repairs, which the mechanic might need to complete before the alignment, increase the cost of the alignment.
- Local labor costs. The cost of alignment depends on your location and can also vary from mechanic to mechanic.
- Alignment packages. Some automotive shops, including Pepboys and Firestone, offer lifetime alignment service packages. In this case, you will receive alignments every six months or 6,000 miles for a single up-front cost.
Expected wheel alignment costs
The cost of a wheel alignment varies by establishment, type of vehicle and even your ZIP code. Here is a breakdown of the expected cost for a four-wheel vehicle alignment, by state, for a 2022 Toyota Camry according to Kelley Blue Book’s fair repair range.
|New York||New York||$146 to $172|
|Los Angeles||California||$133 to $156|
|Chicago||Illinois||$135 to 155|
|Dallas||Texas||$110 to $129|
|Orlando||Florida||$117 to $136|
|Atlanta||Georgia||$122 to $142|
|Richmond||Virginia||$122 to $142|
|Phoenix||Arizona||$142 to $166|
|Philadelphia||Pennsylvania||$143 to $169|
|Charlotte||North Carolina||$119 to $139|
What happens during an alignment?
When you take your car into a shop for an alignment, the technician starts by analyzing angles at three checkpoints — caster, camber and toe — by using an alignment machine and performing a visual inspection.
- Caster: The angle between the steering mechanism’s upper and lower ball joints. This angle affects the vehicle’s steering so that it stays at the proper height and has more stability at higher speeds.
- Camber: The angle between the road and the tire. Camber determines how much of the tire contacts the road and can affect how the tires wear.
- Toe: The angle between the tires. This setting affects the wear of the tires and stability when turning.
Some mechanics also take the vehicle on the road for a test drive to check for signs of alignment problems, like a steering wheel that vibrates or a vehicle that veers to the left or right when the steering wheel is in a resting position.
The mechanic then compares the angles with the manufacturer’s recommendations for best performance.
After completing the analysis, the technician places the vehicle on an alignment rack and mounts targets to the wheel ends. The technician then uses the machine to adjust the caster, camber and toe until they are within the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended ranges.
Most mechanics take the vehicle out for another test drive to check the new adjustments and ensure everything functions properly.
Why vehicle alignment matters
Regularly adjusting your vehicle’s alignment offers several benefits that save you time, give you a smoother ride and keep you safer on the road. Tire alignment ensures that your car works as the manufacturer intended. Having improperly aligned tires could lead to worse gas mileage, more wear on your tires and damage to your vehicle’s components.
Properly aligned tires maintain better contact with the road’s surface by extending the life of your tires and reducing skidding on slick roads. This also reduces rolling resistance and better absorbs road shock, resulting in improved gas mileage and a smoother ride on paved surfaces.
During the alignment, your mechanic may discover worn suspension parts, giving you an opportunity to replace them before they turn into a costly or dangerous mechanical problem that takes your car off the road for an extended period.
Getting your alignment
You can get an alignment done at any local mechanic or auto repair center. If you don’t have a relationship with a mechanic, call around for quotes or use resources like Kelley Blue Book to compare prices in your area.
While you should call ahead for an appointment, the wheel alignment itself should take only about an hour. With that said, the process could take longer if the mechanic finds any underlying issues or needs to replace additional components.
The bottom line
If getting an alignment seems expensive, remember that skipping it could ultimately be more expensive. Forgoing this preventative maintenance means you’ll have to replace the tires more frequently. Driving with unaligned tires could also wear out components like your suspension. Spending a hundred or so dollars each year on tire alignment could save you much more in costly repairs.