Wheel Alignment FAQ

How Are Wheel Alignments Done?

A wheel alignment is done using an alignment machine that measures your wheel angles. These are calculated and compared against your vehicle’s original specifications.

  • The technician makes adjustments to the camber, caster, and toe of each wheel as needed.
  • A real-time computer readout shows when the target angles are met.
  • Your steering wheel is checked to ensure it is centered.
  • Finally, your vehicle is given a quick test drive.


Is Four-Wheel Alignment Only for 4-Wheel-Drive Vehicles?

Regardless of whether they’re 4WD, front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive, most cars and many SUVs today are four-wheel alignable. These vehicles should get a four-wheel alignment because the rear is just as likely to be out of alignment and cause uneven tire wear as the front.


Does Misalignment Affect Gas Mileage?

Yes. When your wheels are properly aligned, there’s less rolling resistance. Tires with less rolling resistance experience less friction which may improve fuel efficiency. If the situation continues, the tires will wear unevenly and lead to worse gas mileage.


Is Alignment the Same As Balancing?

No. Alignment and balancing are two very different repairs. Rebalancing tires is a process of attaching small weights, just fractions of ounces, to the wheel. This ensures the weight of the wheel is even around the entire unit. Although they’re round, tires have manufacturing imperfections and wear that create lighter and heavier areas. The weights compensate for this.

Rebalancing is done in a tire shop by putting the wheel-tire unit on a tire-balancing machine that detects imbalance in the tire/wheel assembly. This shows where the imbalance is and the amount of weight needed to counter that imbalance. It’s most often done when new tires are installed. Les Schwab performs tire balancing with every rotation. However, it is not part of an alignment.


What’s Included With an Alignment?

Wheel alignments include a tire inspection, test drive before, steering and suspension inspection, tire pressure check and adjustment, alignment angles measured and adjusted, test drive after, and a printed report showing before and after measurements. 


Will an Alignment Fix a Crooked Steering Wheel? Loose Steering?

An off-center steering wheel is one sign of misalignment. A wheel alignment may restore the steering wheel to a centered position if there aren’t other undiagnosed problems.

When alignment angles are out of the vehicle’s original specifications, steering can feel slightly loose. This condition can be corrected by a wheel alignment. But if you’re noticing a lot more steering wheel movement than normal, there may be worn steering or suspension parts. In this case, the loose parts should be identified in the pre-alignment inspection and repairs should be recommended before aligning.


Are Wheel Alignments Covered Under Warranty?

Check your vehicle’s owner manual for the original warranty.


How Much Does a Wheel Alignment Cost?

It varies according to vehicle type, shop, region and type of alignment. A quality shop will advise in advance what type is best and what it will cost before performing the work. A great shop only charges for work that is actually needed once the job is underway.


How Long Does a Wheel Alignment Take?

A wheel alignment service, once your vehicle is in our service bay, can take up to one hour. The time frame depends on the severity of the misalignment and whether or not your vehicle requires a thrust, or four-wheel alignment. 

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