When Is a Wheel Alignment Necessary on a Vehicle

Does your car automatically deviate from its course when you take your hands off the wheel? It needs a wheel realignment. Read this article to learn more.


Dealing with a multitude of mechanical issues is a common part of an automobile owner’s life. Regular maintenance of a motor vehicle is necessary to keep it in tip-top conditions and ensure the safety of the driver operating it. Wheel alignment is one of the key aspects of maintenance, and for good reasons too. Not only are the wheels extremely important to the overall system but they also determine how efficiently the entire vehicle is or would be running.

This article intends to make people aware of the importance of keeping the wheels of an automobile adequately aligned so that the safety and overall driving experience can be worth writing home about.

What Is Wheel Alignment?

Although the name does say “wheel alignment,” in reality, this does not refer to any adjustment of the wheels themselves. What wheel alignment refers to is the adjustment of a vehicle’s suspension and steering, as they are directly connected to the wheels.

If proper alignment is not done, the way the tires make contact with the road’s surface can be uneven – leading to some tires consistently enduring more damage than others. The alignment angles vary between different wheel models – something which you would need to consider before purchasing the wheels in the first place.

What Is the Average Cost of Getting a Wheel Alignment?

The average cost for alignment can vary between different brands as the type, build, and shape are not the same in every option you see out there. A typical wheel alignment job may cost somewhere within the range of $50 to $200. Aligning a 2WD wheel on one axle can cost up to $80, while that of a 4WD wheel on two axles may go up to $130.

Certain 2WD engines also allow the alignment of all the wheels, which many experts even recommend. However, that is not a common scenario as most models do not allow the alignment of anything apart from the front wheels.

Furthermore, additional expenses may arise because wheel alignment requires the removal of multiple car parts before the actual job can even be attempted. This usually tends to expose hidden, recurring damages which need to be addressed before the alignment can be done. Below is a list of popular car models and the average costs (in the US) of getting a wheel alignment job done on them.

  • Model: Ford F-150
    Average Cost: $100
  • Model: Chevrolet Silverado
    Average Cost: $100
  • Model: Honda CR-V
    Average Cost: $150
  • Model: Ram 1500/2500/3500
    Average Cost: $100
  • Model: Toyota Camry
    Average Cost: $80
  • Model: Toyota RAV4
    Average Cost: $150

How to Know if Your Vehicle Needs a Wheel Alignment?

Knowing when to go for a wheel alignment can be pretty straightforward if you know what to look for. Many vehicle owners do not take this issue seriously and keep using unaligned tires for a considerable amount of time. This poses a risk not only to the driver while driving – as accidents might happen in such cases, but also to the vehicle itself as the wheel frames can get severely damaged and unusable down the line.

The following sections describe some of the most common scenes that indicate misalignment of the wheels.

The Steering Wheel Does Not Maintain a Straight Course

Be it a car or a bike, if it is running at speed, leaving the steering temporarily should not be an automatic trigger for it to start deviating from a straight line. It should maintain a straight course. If it does not, know that there is something wrong with the wheel alignment. Although the road does play a key part in this, as uneven roads may cause unexpected drifts, I know that such issues are mostly caused due to problems in the alignment.

If the condition of the alignment is extremely below par, you will tend to feel a sharp jerk to either the left or the right every time you take your hands off the steering wheel. You will keep feeling this unknown force trying to pull your vehicle to one side even while trying to deliberately maintain a steady course.

This issue is felt the strongest while driving a front-wheel-drive vehicle compared to the four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive models. Take your vehicle to the mechanic whenever you start feeling this unusual jerk every time you press the accelerator.

The Tires Wear Down Unevenly

Considering everything is operating in ideal conditions, the tires should wear down almost at the same rate. However, if they are misaligned, you will soon start to see that some are wearing down more than others. Wear and tear usually happen at the center, where the most friction is made. Yet, you would see this is not the case with unaligned tires, as the greatest damage would not necessarily be central.

Over time this can prove to be a big nuisance. Soon you will start experiencing bumpy rides even though the road is smooth – let alone the difficulty in steering under such conditions. In addition to all that, getting a heavily damaged tire fixed can be way more expensive than having it repaired initially when the damages were still not severe. This can significantly reduce the expenses of owning a car in the first place. Thus, every vehicle owner must keep an eye on tire damages at all times.

The Steering Begins to Shake and Vibrate

It is common to feel natural vibrations while driving a vehicle on the road, no matter how smooth the surface of the road is. However, it is rare to feel the same vibrations on the steering wheel. Know that if the wheel alignments are off, the steering will also start shaking and give you an uncomfortable experience while driving the vehicle.

This mostly happens when the car is running at high speed. This is because the tires rotate significantly faster to maintain that velocity, and the alignment problems are exposed brutally. Leaving this issue unattended will only make matters worse, and the situation will keep on deteriorating with each passing day of driving.

Final Words

Wheel alignment is perhaps one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of car maintenance. However, as you are well aware by now, not caring about the condition and alignment of your wheels is not only detrimental to the health of your car but also has the potential to affect your health in case something tragic does happen. Make sure you get those wheels aligned if they aren’t already!