Before moving on, we should probably talk about what wheel alignment is. It’s a type of car maintenance that involves aligning the vehicle’s wheels so that they are at the correct angles. At the end of an alignment, all wheels should be aligned properly. Wheel alignment has been changed quite a bit over time. A long time ago, mechanics had to manually adjust wheels to make sure they are properly aligned. But nowadays, it’s easier than ever to carry that out. They use special machines that make this possible and very quick.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize when they need to have their wheels aligned.
If you want a professional, licensed, and experienced mechanic, you’ll have to pay for it since they aren’t inexpensive. You can probably source out parts for your car online or in auto car parts retailers, but the labor cost of even the simplest repairs might keep you away.
It’s a common mistake to believe that ignoring smaller problems is easier than dealing with wheel alignment or axle repair costs. Leaving them untreated will result in you paying more later for replacement parts and labor than for maintenance.
When your car leaves the factory, all of its wheels will be properly aligned. The two front tires and back tires stay in consistent positions relative to each other.
When you get out into the open road, you’ll be dealing with bad drivers, potholes, and icy curbs, which means you are at risk for misalignment. When you strike an object, one of your wheels has its ’resting position’ moved slightly to one side. Once that happens, you’ll notice several symptoms. Your car will start drifting right or left even when the steering wheel is centered, and the wheel itself might start vibrating.
You can check for misalignment by looking at your tires. All four should wear at pretty much the same rate and on the same edge. If you notice excessive wearing in an odd location, you need an alignment. You’ll pay between 50$ and 75$ for a two-wheel one, and double that for a four-wheel one. It’s usually recommended that you get a tire rotation at the same time. This only means moving tires from front to back and side to side, which promotes an even wear pattern.
It’d be wise to get an alignment at 10,000 miles, but you might need to get one sooner if you get involved in an accident, or you have many bumpy roads where you live. If you’re a careful or lucky driver, you might not need to get one for three or four years. If you want to be extra careful, you can consider having it done every time you change the oil in your car. There’s no limit you can exceed.
If the wheels need to be aligned badly and you don’t do anything about it, it might not cause major issues right away, and this is why many people postpone dealing with it until it gets worse. But you really need to keep in mind that ignoring it will catch up with you. These are some ways a bad alignment can affect your car:
• Your tires might wear down so much that they’ll no longer be safe out on the road
• They will also drag along the road, thus forcing you to use more fuel than you would otherwise
• They won’t stop as quickly as you might like, and this might create safety issues
Damage to your car’s axels is considered a more serious issue. This is because it’s integral to steering ability. Warning signs of a bad axle are a clicking noise when you turn the car or a whole-vehicle vibration when you’re driving. Sometimes, this is caused by a constant velocity CV joint at one end of the axle, which is cheaper to fix but no less damaging in the long term.
You can get a mechanic to check whether you have axle problems by hoisting up your car and doing a visual inspection. Visible cracks or warping mean there’s an issue, and if the axle moves more than half an inch when handled, it needs to be repaired.
Axles differ in price depending on the car make and model. 75$ to 150$ is typical for the part itself. Labor will be double that amount, and you’ll probably be advised to replace both CV joints at the same time, which means you’ll have to pay a bit more.
When in need of a wheel alignment or axle repair, you can start by searching sites like Angie’s List for reviews of body shops near you. It will help you avoid mechanics who add unnecessary services or try to replace parts that don’t have any wear and tear. You can watch local papers and websites for wheel alignment specials because many shops will offer discounts to attract new customers. Don’t forget to confirm before work starts what the coupon/discount covers and sign off on any work before it begins. Once the repairs are complete, your mechanic should provide a report that details what was done, what parts were used, and it should cover any guarantee of service. Even though parts manufacturers usually offer limited structural warranties, hiring a trustworthy mechanic means you’ll probably get a limited guarantee of work.
You might think wheel alignment and axle repair are unnecessary expenses, and especially so if your car is only several years old. But if you deal with smaller problems like alignment or minor axle issues right away, it’ll save your money on repairs in the long term and make sure you’re always in control.