Even though you know that your vehicle needs a regular wheel alignment to keep the ride at its best, you might balk at having the service done because you are worried about the expenses. Thankfully, the wheel alignment cost isn’t typically that much.
In this article, we take a closer look at the cost of a wheel alignment. We also examine what factors influence this cost and discuss when it’s a good time to get a wheel alignment.
Average Wheel Alignment Cost
While the alignment check might not cost you anything while you have other maintenance performed, the alignment could cost between $50 and $150. If you have all four wheels aligned, the cost might be closer to $100 and $200.
Of course, this cost depends on multiple factors, and the estimates above were roughly calculated. Your price will change based on where you live, the type of shop you go to, and what vehicle you drive.
|2WD Wheel Alignment||Low: $50||Average: $80||High: $150|
|4WD Wheel Alignment||Low: $80||Average: $120||High: $200|
Average Wheel Alignment Cost by Car Model
|Car Model||Min Cost||Max Cost||Average Cost|
What Influences the Wheel Alignment Cost?
Service center prices are widely different based on where you live. Work on the west and northeast coasts seems to be the most expensive. Not only does it matter what state you live in, but it also depends on what type of area you get work done.
Sometimes, it can pay to visit a service center outside the busy city. However, you don’t want to choose a no-name shop in the middle of rural America that lacks experience or the equipment to get the job done right.
2. Type of Service Center
If you visit a dealership, you are going to spend more than if you visit a neighborhood service center. These dealerships cost more than almost any other location, but they are also staffed with factory-trained technicians that understand your vehicle make the best.
However, you don’t want to overlook the value of visiting a dedicated tire service center. Many of these locations offer superior deals and because they only work on tires, they have perfected the service.
3. Alignment Type
Two different alignments are available, either manual or digital. With a manual alignment, you can save a lot of money. All of the tires are measured by hand with the help of a string. Your technician uses the string length to measure the distance between the tire angles.
The digital alignment costs more because of the equipment that needs to be used. Your vehicle is lifted up on a rack and sensors are attached to each tire. Measurements are taken from each tire and the necessary adjustments are made. While this digital alignment costs extra at the time, you will see a tremendous difference because of the extreme precision.
4. Vehicle Type
Not every vehicle needs a four-wheel alignment. If you only need to have two wheels aligned, you can save a lot of money. An educated tire shop will be able to figure out what’s needed based on your car make and model.
If your suspension has been altered in any way, the alignment might cost more. Anything that requires the technician to perform more work will lead to a higher cost.
5. Service Packages
A good way to save some money on wheel alignments is with the help of service packages. If you shop with a local tire shop, they might offer alignment service agreements that cover your tire rotations and/or alignments for the life of the tires.
If you spend $250 for a lifetime agreement and the normal alignment costs $95, you will have paid for the plan by the time of your third visit. These service plans can be a good value, especially if you require more frequent alignments because you drive down rough roads or you hit a lot of potholes.
6. Additional Work
It’s easy to determine what your wheel alignment will cost. A simple call to your local service center offers that answer. However, you don’t know what other parts need to be replaced.
If there are broken components, you might need to have them replaced before the alignment can occur. All of the parts and labor for these repairs will add to the average wheel alignment cost.
What is a Wheel Alignment?
The wheel alignment service requires that a technician adjusts the wheel’s angles to meet the manufacturer’s specs. There are three vital measurements looked at during the wheel alignment service. Here are the differences between the toe, caster and camber adjustments.
Toe is the term used to describe what direction the tires are pointing. It’s arguably the most critical aspect of any alignment, but it isn’t difficult to alter. With the right toe in place, you can drive in a straight line without making many adjustments to the steering wheel. It also helps you take turns with more safety and prevents wear to the tires. The toe will be measured as toe in or toe out.
- Toe in: The tires are pointing inward, facing one another.
- Toe out: The tires are pointing outward, facing away from one another.
For most vehicles, it’s better to have a mild toe in alignment than a toe out.
The caster shows the angle of the front suspension or steering axis. This measurement affects how your steering feels but won’t have an impact on the wear of your tires. Caster is measured as either positive or negative.
- Positive caster: The steering axis remains tilted slightly toward the vehicle’s rear. Ideally, this is where your wheel alignment is. When it is positive, the steering wheel can quickly return to its original position after you make adjustments or take a turn.
- Negative caster: The steering axis pulls in the opposite direction than where it should be. Most often, this occurs after you run into something with the vehicle.
Both caster angles on the left and right of the vehicle should be nearly equal. Even the smallest difference can lead to trouble handling the vehicle. However, caster isn’t something that’s spotted easily without a wheel alignment.
The camber is a term used to show whether the wheels are leaning in or out. It’s the angle the wheels sit compared to the flat road surface axis. With the camber out of spec, the tire edges on the inside and outside can wear prematurely. Camber is described as either positive or negative.
- Positive camber: The wheels are tilting outward, facing away from one another.
- Negative camber: The wheels are tilting inward, facing into one another.
In some cases, negative camber can increase performance. If it’s occurring slightly on the rear wheels, the vehicle takes turns easier because there is more contact with the road. However, having too much of this negative camber can cause difficulty steering, plus the tires will wear too quickly.
It’s also possible to have one wheel with a different camber than the other. If one side is negative with the other positive, the positive is going to overrule the ride, with the vehicle pulling to that side.
How to Know if Your Car Needs a Wheel Alignment
Wheel alignment is considered a regular maintenance service. You should have an alignment performed every 6,000 miles or six months. Some people choose to have the service done at the same time as an oil change. However, not all vehicles need to be serviced this often. If you drive on smooth highway roads and avoid rough terrain, you might not need service this frequently.
The biggest determining factor to how often it should be done is to use your intuition. If it feels like something is wrong with the ride and your tire inflation is where it should be, you should have the alignment checked. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Other than the regular checks during traditional service, you should also get a wheel alignment if you notice any of these symptoms or problems.
- The car has been in an accident.
- You recently ran into a curb, hit a pothole or have driven into another object.
- The tires have begun wearing unevenly.
- New tires have been installed. Alignment is required if you want to take advantage of the warranty.
- If you need to replace one tire prematurely, the alignment should also be performed.
- Road noise is getting louder as you drive.
- There’s a squealing noise when you take a turn.
- Vibrations are felt in the steering wheel as you drive.
- You recently had a lift kit installed. Any time that steering or suspension parts are replaced, you might need to get a wheel alignment.
Many of these symptoms can be caused by other problems, but they should always be looked at.
Wheel Alignment vs. Wheel Balancing
When you have the wheels balanced, the unevenness of the wheels is compensated for. Each wheel has a different distribution of weight. If it isn’t evened out, there will be excessive vibration, premature tire wear, and other suspension issues. You may also need to have the wheels balanced every 6,000 miles, depending on how you drive the vehicle.
The wheel alignment isn’t balancing anything. Instead, the service focuses on keeping the wheels aligned, so the tires are pointed straight down the road. A proper alignment ensures that the car travels in the appropriate direction and it helps to prolong the life of the tires.
While these are different services, you can have them performed at the same service center. In fact, some tire shops will offer a combined service that helps you keep the cost to a minimum. Look to bundle your wheel maintenance services to save some money.