We know that there are many auto enthusiasts out there who like to take care of their vehicles at home. We applaud this: regular maintenance is good for vehicles, and you can save a lot of money by learning to DIY a few key processes.
But can you perform tire alignment at home? Unless you’re a qualified mechanic with a well-equipped home garage, the answer is no. Tire alignment requires expert knowledge and training as well as a specialized machine to ensure the wheels are perfectly aligned.
So how long does a tire alignment take, and when should you get it done? Here we’ll answer some common questions.
A garage typically takes around an hour to perform a tire alignment. In the case of older or damaged vehicles, it may require new parts to be ordered for replacement, which may take a few days depending on the parts.
When Should You Get Your Tires Aligned?
How often should you align your tires? There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how often this needs to be performed. It depends on the vehicle. However, we’d recommend having your tires aligned:
- As often as it says in your vehicle’s user manual
- After purchasing a second-hand vehicle if the seller can’t prove it was done recently
- If you begin to notice any steering difficulties when driving
- After getting new tires
- Every 2 years maximum
Some vehicles need more frequent tire alignment. Wide vehicles and high-performance cars need more regular tire alignment. You may also need more frequent maintenance if you spend a lot of time driving on rough terrain.
How Long Does a Tire Alignment Take?
The process typically takes around an hour if there are no complications. The pros are using an alignment machine to get your tires perfectly in sync, so it’s mostly a matter of fitting things into place and doesn’t take that long at all!
However, if your vehicle has suffered significant wear and tear since its last alignment, the process could take over a week as the garage may need to order new parts.
How Soon After Getting New Tires Should I Get an Alignment?
You should get new tires aligned as soon as possible. This maximizes the lifespan of your new tires and is also a convenient time to get your wheel system checked up.
Poor application of new wheels could also cause misalignment, so it’s worth having a professional check to ensure the job has been done well.
Is it Bad to Drive with Misaligned Tires?
Driving with misaligned tires is dangerous, and you should see a mechanic as soon as you notice an issue. Such problems may include:
- Pulling: If your steering wheel pulls in one direction, or you struggle to keep it centered, this may be because of misalignment. When the wheels are misaligned, it means that one wheel is facing off at an angle when your wheels should be center facing. This will cause your steering wheel to pull or drift away from the center.
- Vibration: The steering wheel may also vibrate as a result of misalignment. If you’re getting unusual vibrations through your steering wheel, it may be trying to tell you it’s in an uncomfortable position due to the tires being misaligned.
- Tire wear: Your tires should wear evenly. Get into the habit of checking your wheels routinely. If wear is uneven, this may be due to extra stress on some tires due to misalignment.
The issue may be elsewhere, such as underinflated tires. However, if you can’t easily identify the problem, take your vehicle to a mechanic to check for misaligned tires.
Check our guide – How To Tell If You Have Directional Tires.
What Happens if You Don’t Fix Alignment?
Misaligned tires get progressively worse over time. This can lead to a variety of problems:
- Blowouts & punctures: if your wheels aren’t facing the right way, they’re more vulnerable to punctures and damage from the roads.
- Damaged suspension: misalignment can cause damage to your car’s suspension. This will lead to costly repairs and a shorter lifespan for your car, as well as being dangerous to your braking ability.
- Accidents: as noted, misaligned wheels cause your steering wheel to pull to one side. In this situation, if you don’t maintain a tight grip on the steering, your car could swerve. This is extremely dangerous as you could hit another car, go off-road, and potentially be involved in a fatal accident.
- Higher maintenance costs: tire alignment is cheap compared to the cost of having to replace your tires more frequently and fix complications caused by misalignment.
How Long Can You Drive Without Alignment?
If you’re noticing low vibrations or a slight pull on your steering wheel, don’t panic! You don’t need to pull in at the next available garage. However, as soon as you notice the warning signs, you should book a tire realignment with a garage near you ASAP.
Dealing with the problem sooner rather than later helps prevent further damage to your vehicle and minimizes the chance of accidents.
How Much Does a Wheel Alignment Cost?
Wheel alignment is relatively cheap when it’s performed regularly. If left for a long time, your vehicle may need parts replacing, which can be more costly. Read more: How Much Does It Cost To Align Tires
If you can find a couple of hours to take your car to the garage once per year, it’ll pay dividends in the long run. Get your tires aligned to save money, protect your vehicle, and avoid accidents.