Wheel alignments are an essential service. When your vehicle is out of alignment, your tires will wear faster, your fuel mileage can be lower, and in serious cases, your car will pull to the left or right. Alignments should be done once a year, after new tires are installed, or after any suspension work. You may wonder what is involved in a wheel alignment, and how long they take. In this article, we will go over the details of this service!
What is Involved in a Wheel Alignment?
Alignments ensure the wheels of your car are aligned parallel to each other. As you drive, your vehicle will slowly come out of alignment, and impact with potholes, curbs and other debris can cause it to become completely misaligned. Aligning a vehicle involves adjusting three different suspension angles.
The caster angle determines the angle of the steering axis. A positive caster angle places the steering axis ahead of the tire contact patch, allowing the wheels to return to center after a turn, and contributing to much greater stability while driving. The caster angle is not adjustable on most modern vehicles, but if it is off due to worn-out components it must be corrected.
The camber angle determines the amount of inward and outward tile the wheels have. A slightly negative camber can positively impact weight distribution while corning, but too much camber can lead to uneven tire wear due to a smaller contact patch
The toe angle impacts the way your vehicle steers and goes down the road. When the toe is out of alignment, your car can end up “dragging” one or more of your tires, leading to uneven, rapid tire wear.
How Long Does a Wheel Alignment Take?
A wheel alignment is a straightforward procedure. Modern alignment racks allow technicians to quickly determine any out-of-line components with precision. On average, you can expect a wheel alignment to take around an hour. Some factors can make the procedure more challenging for the technician, and thus take longer.
The age of the car has a significant impact on the time it takes a technician to align it. Suspension components are exposed to extreme temperatures, road salt, water, oil, and debris, and are not touched very often. As a result, hardware can become seized to the point of needing to be replaced.
Type of Vehicle
The type of vehicle can drastically impact the amount of time required to perform an alignment. Any car with sport-oriented suspension will typically take longer to align. For example, a Porsche 911 can take up to three hours to align correctly!
Classic vehicles utilize shims to correct the toe and camber. Installing shims and rechecking alignment is time-consuming. Many times, this will compound with issues like old and rusted components, further contributing to the time needed to align it.
High End/Luxury Vehicles
Certain higher-end vehicles will have more adjustability in the suspension that can take a technician a significant amount of time to access.
How Often Should I Get an Alignment?
For preventative maintenance, it is not a bad idea to get your vehicle aligned once a year. However, if you hit a curb, pothole, or large debris, or get in an accident, you should have an alignment performed. Additionally, any time the suspension is worked on or modified, such as when installing a lift kit, an alignment must be performed.
Get your Wheels Aligned at Scott’s U-Save!
If it is time for an alignment, visit Scott’s U-Save! With three shops in New Lenox and Steger Illinois, as well as Schererville Indiana. We can align any vehicle, from cars to medium-duty trucks. Give us a call or schedule an appointment online today!