The safety features on your vehicle include more than anti-lock brakes, traction control devices and air bags. Your wheels and tires play an important role in helping you drive straight, turn corners and stop whenever necessary.
To perform optimally, the wheels need to be properly aligned, a service provided by local mechanics and auto repair centers.
How much does an alignment cost?
Understanding how much a wheel alignment costs and the factors that influence those costs gives you the knowledge you need to protect your vehicle, its passengers and your wallet.
Factors that impact alignment cost
The cost of an alignment depends on several factors, including the number of wheels, warranty length, make and model of the vehicle, and local labor costs.
A front-end alignment that only involves the two wheels on the front of the car typically costs from $50 to $75, compared to $100 to $150 for a four-wheel alignment.
Purchasing a limited warranty that covers the work for a specified period of time or based on mileage limitations costs less than a lifetime warranty.
At the same time, some car models require specialized equipment or have a design that makes the job more difficult and time consuming. Mechanics charge more to cover the cost of the equipment or the additional time it takes to complete the alignment.
Adding other services like tire balancing or car suspension repairs, which the mechanic might need to complete before the alignment, also increases the cost of the alignment.
What happens during an alignment?
When you take your car into a shop for an alignment, the technician starts by analyzing angles at 3 checkpoints — caster, camber and toe — by using an alignment machine and performing a visual inspection.
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 optimal performance.
- Caster is 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 is the angle between the road and the tire. This determines how much of the tire comes in contact with the road and can effect how the tires wear.
- Toe is the angle between the tires. This setting affects the wear of the tires and stability when turning.
After completing the analysis, the technician places the vehicle on an alignment rack and mounts the 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 to make sure everything functions properly.
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Benefits of an alignment
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.
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 of time.
When considering the question — how much does an alignment cost, keep in mind what it costs to skip the alignment. Forgoing this preventative maintenance means you have to replace the tires more frequently as they start to show signs of uneven wear, which is an added cost all its own.
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