Posted by: thaishin | April 5, 2010

Four wheel alignment

Recently, I was driving on the highway when I felt the car drifted sideways while I was holding firm to the steering wheel. That’s when I started research on wheel alignment.

An article from http://www.familycar.com says:

The symptoms of a car that is out of alignment are:

  • Uneven or rapid tire wear
  • Pulling or drifting away from a straight line
  • Wandering on a straight level road
  • Spokes of the steering wheel off to one side while driving on a straight and level road.

It sounded familiar.

Wheel alignment defined in wikipedia:

Wheel alignment is part of standard automobile maintenance that consists of adjusting the angles of the wheels so that they are set to the car maker’s specification. The purpose of these adjustments is to reduce tire wear, and to ensure that vehicle-travel is straight and true (without “pulling” to one side). Alignment angles can also be altered beyond the maker’s specifications to obtain a specific handling characteristic.

More research from http://www.costhelper.com says:

Wheel alignment is all labor and involves no parts, so rates vary based on the local cost of living. According to Washington Post columnist Pat Goss, wheel alignment shouldn’t be too commonplace, “You actually have to bend steel to affect alignment.” Some tire centers recommend having wheels aligned annually or whenever the car starts to pull or drift to one side when steering, or when there is uneven tread wear on the tires.
Typical costs:
  • A two wheel alignment (such as a front-end alignment) can cost $30-$65 based on the local cost of living.
  • A four wheel alignment can cost $50-$95 based on the local cost of living.

I asked for a quote from a local car shop. They have a 159 bucks for lifetime wheel alignment and another package for 79 bucks for standard wheel alignment.

I went for the lifetime computerized wheel alignment package. Free alignment for every 6000 miles or whenever alignment is out. After discounts, I paid 149 bucks.  I got a certificate that comprises the following scope:

1) Inspect steering and suspension parts

2) Check alignment including caster, camber and toe and set angles that are adjustable

3) Correct tire pressure as required.

There is an exclusion clause in the invoice that states that if parts are required to restore vehicle to manufacturer’s alignment specifications, then those parts and the labour required to restore them are not covered.

After the work, I was given a worksheet that tells me which parts are within specs and with parts are out of specs.  The front right tire was found to be -0.16 degrees out. The left rear wheel was found to be -0.07 degrees out. I was told the front right was adjusted but they have to leave the left rear out as there was no shim kit out for the 2009 model for the rear wheels.  They say the shim kit will be developed later.

My friends, do share with me your experience of wheel alignment or anything I should take note of, thanks!

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