Over time every car starts to develop problems out of the blues. This is very normal and expected from any vehicle as it grows old. In this guide, we shall talk about the time it takes to align the wheels at an alignment shop. But before we know how long does an alignment takes we need first to understand what Wheel alignment is, how it affects the performance of the car and why it is dangerous to ride a car with misaligned wheels. We shall also get to know what the right wheel alignment procedures are and the kind of symptoms that makes you certain that you need a wheel alignment.
Wheel Alignment Procedure
The first thing you need to know is that wheel alignment is an adjustment of the suspension system that is connected to the wheels but not adjusting the wheels themselves. You, therefore, adjust the angles of the tires which translate to how they make contact with the road. Let us now learn the right procedure to make successful wheel alignment.
- The first thing is to make some preparation and do some checks ups. Start by checking the air pressure inside each tire. The wheel pressure must be accurate as the manufacturer recommends. Secondly, check if the wheels have any uneven shapes or cracks in them. The tire itself must meet standard quality and have a recent production date. Go ahead and check the suspension parts to make sure that every part is in order since any excessive wear in these factors may affect the quality of wheel alignment.
- Hook your vehicle into a computerized wheel alignment machine. Lock the steering wheel at the center and apply the brake pedal using specialized tools. Hook the measuring tools in each wheel and read each angle as shown on the computer screen. These readings will guide the mechanic on how to adjust angles in the right way.
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Each vehicle has 3 angles that should be fully adjusted, and the angles are:
Camber Angle: If you are watching the vehicle from the front and see that the tire is inclined on the vertical line, then the camber angle needs to be adjusted. Camber misalignment happens due to failure in bearings or ball joints.
Toe Angle: The toe angles are viewed from above the car. If the two wheels are angled inwards or outwards, they need to be adjusted.
Caster Angle: The caster angle is responsible for balance steering, stability, and cornering. This is identified from the side view of the car. If it is a positive caster, the wheel will be bent toward the driver, and if it is a negative caster, it will have bent toward the front of the car.
We have now known the procedures of alignment, but one crucial question is; why is alignment a vital operation? Misaligned wheels cause uneven wear to the vehicle’s wheels. It makes the vehicle imbalanced at high speeds. It also produces a high noise during driving which causes damage to the wheel bearings.
How Long Does an Alignment Take?
Adjusting wheel alignment is a way to ensure that all wheels’ angles are adjusted correctly. It ensures that there is full right contact between the wheels and the road. It also ensures that your vehicle moves in the intended direction when driving. This is the primary purpose of the wheel alignment. Let us now answer the question of, how long does a standard alignment take?
To have an entirely accurate alignment, you have to choose a workshop with a wheel alignment machine that is preprogrammed with your car’s measurements. This ensures that your wheels get a precise alignment.
Before you start the wheel alignment process, check the car’s suspension parts carefully, tighten every bolt well, and repair or change any part that has a defect. This is the only way you are going to get good results.
Wheel alignment on average should take at least 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the type of the suspension system, how complicated the process is, and the adjustments that need to be made to get the correct angles. This time is only for the 4 wheel alignment. It does not include any suspension work such as changing damaged parts such as the ball joint, steering bushing, or centric groove. You need to do a test drive before and after wheel alignment. This will help you identify the real problem that needs to be handled. The after-work test drive is to confirm that all things are in place and the process is a success.
There is an accompanying process that should be done besides the wheel alignment known as wheel balancing. So, how long does a wheel balance take? The answer to this is that it takes 40 minutes to 2 hours. This time is enough to balance the wheels with the right measurements using the proper machines.
How Long Does an Alignment Last?
After you get to know the importance of wheel alignment, what it takes to get your wheels aligned, and the process to get this done, here is a fundamental question, how long does an alignment last?
Only you can answer this question since this depends on the road conditions, driving habits, and the status of the suspension parts and the car wheels. All these factors affect how long the alignment will last. This is because hard driving conditions such as driving through pumps at high speed or through potholes will damage alignment sooner than a lightly used car.
You now understand wheel balancing and how it may affect the balancing of the car. Many car experts state that you need to balance the wheels whenever you perform a wheel alignment.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: How Much Does An Alignment Cost?
Wheel alignment cost varies depending on the car model and how complicated the suspension system is. It will also depend on whether there are any other adjustments or repairs needed before carrying out the wheels’ alignment process. Another factor that determines the cost is how modern the wheel alignment machine is. As expected, the more modern the machine is, the more accurate the alignment is. Aligning two wheels is also not the same as aligning 4 wheels. It all depends on the suspension system of the vehicle. So, generally, you are expected to pay around $200 to align four wheels.
Q: Why Do Alignments Take So Long?
In most cases, there are many adjustments that need to be performed to have correctly aligned wheels. Some of them include tightening and adjusting the control arms or steering tie rods. All this takes time to be done to ensure that you have a fully accurate alignment.
Q: How Do You Know If You Need An Alignment?
There are some signs which help you know that you need an alignment. The first sign that you feel is whenever you drive straight the car bend to the right or left. This is a sign that you have misaligned wheels. The second sign is hearing a high noise when driving at high speed. The third sign is steering wheel vibration. Finally, the vehicle will move in the wrong direction when taking a corner.
Q: Is It OK To Drive With Bad Alignment?
It is never advisable to drive a car with bad alignment. The wheels became very weak at some points, and the car will bend to the right or left, making it difficult to control the vehicle.
Q: How Can I Self-Align My Car?
- Raise your car on jack stands
- Look at the wheels from the front of the car and see if the wheel is bending. If it is bending towards the center of the car, it means that the outer tire rod needs to be tightened. If the wheel is bending in the outside direction of the car, it means the tire rod needs to be loosened.
- If the tire needs to be turned inward, the tire rod should be turned counterclockwise. If it needs to be turned outwards, the tire rod should be turned clock-wise
- After aligning one wheel, test if it has worked the way you want. If yes, then you can repeat the same process to the other wheel.
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Keeping your car in good condition protects you and your family when on the road and prevents you from costly repairs. One of the ways is to have a periodic wheel alignment check if it is misaligned. This will keep the tires last longer than expected. You need to know that wheel alignment is mandatory after repairing or replacing any suspension parts. Always make sure that the wheel alignment center you work with has the correct alignment measurements purposed for every car model. These simple maintenance tasks protect you and keep your driving always safe.