8 Signs Of A Bad Wheel Alignment | How Much Does A Wheel Alignment Cost?

Everyone wants to enjoy a smooth and comfortable driving. Therefore, proper wheel alignment is essential to enjoy a smooth and safe journey. The proper alignment ensures that all the wheels of your car are correctly positioned relative to each other, enabling the vehicle’s tires to travel in a straight line and preventing early tire wear. Learn the signs of bad wheel alignment and wheel alignment cost.

Signs of a bad Wheel Alignment

Driving with misaligned wheels leads to uneven and rapid tire deterioration, along with potential difficulties in steering and vehicle control. Misaligned wheels also pose a safety risk and may cause accidents.

Therefore, it’s advisable to address wheel alignment problems promptly once they become apparent. Several factors can contribute to the misalignment of the wheels, often tied to road conditions, adverse weather, and poor driving practices, among other influences. This article explains the symptoms of a bad wheel alignment and how much a wheel alignment cost.

Symptoms Of A Bad Wheel Alignment

The vehicle pulling to one side during driving is one of the prevalent symptoms of a bad wheel alignment. Additionally, if your steering wheel isn’t centered while traveling on straight roads, it’s also a clear indicator of misaligned wheels.

Neglecting a bad wheel alignment can result in escalated maintenance expenses. However, without awareness of the issue, you won’t realize the necessity for corrective action.

The following are the most common symptoms of a bad wheel alignment:

1) Vehicle Pulls to One Side While Driving

Car Pulls to One Side, signs of bad wheel alignment

One of the most common signs of a bad wheel alignment is when your vehicle pulls to one side. Ideally, your car should move straight when you release the steering wheel on a straight road, accounting for occasional road variations.

Consistent pulling in a particular direction without active steering is a strong signal that a wheel alignment is necessary.

2) Bumpy Ride

Bumpy Ride

A bumpy ride is another clear symptom of a bad wheel alignment. If you are encountering a rough and uneven ride, it suggests that your wheels might have worn unevenly, indicating the need for a realignment.

3) Off-Center Steering Wheel

Off Center Steering Wheel

If your steering wheel is perfectly centered, your front wheels should mirror this alignment.

Centering the steering wheel while steering indicates an alignment issue, which might involve steering column alignment, steering wheel alignment, or wheel alignment. Regardless of the specific problem, immediately contact the professional mechanic for a proper alignment.

4) Steering Wheel Vibration

Steering Wheel Vibration

A vibrating steering wheel is also one of the clear symptoms of a bad wheel alignment.

In cases where a wheel alignment is necessary, and the misalignment is pronounced, you might experience vibrations in the steering wheel while driving.

These vibrations stem from the tires intermittently skipping the pavement during driving. This skipping motion exerts pressure on all the steering parts spanning from the steering wheel to the tires, resulting in the perceptible vibrations you sense.

5) Squealing Noises When Driving

When the misalignment of your vehicle wheels reaches a significant degree, a distinct squealing noise may become audible while accelerating. This sound emerges when the vehicle’s tires scrape against the pavement instead of rolling smoothly.

Typically, these squealing noises manifest when misalignment is notably severe, serving as an urgent signal for immediate attention.

6) Steering Wheel Play

Steering Wheel Play, symptoms of bad wheel alignment

Excessive play in the steering wheel is a sign of bad wheel alignment. A loose and misaligned steering wheel may extend the time required to execute turns efficiently. This delay can lead to compromised turning, impacting the effectiveness and safety of your driving.

7) Tire Feathering

Tire Feathering

Failure to address misaligned tires can result in tire feathering. While regular tire rotation can alleviate some of these issues, it won’t entirely prevent the unusual and accelerated wear caused by misalignment.

Due to the constant angled contact caused by a tire not being straight while in motion, premature wear becomes pronounced. This accelerates tire deterioration significantly, necessitating more frequent tire replacements.

Moreover, the misalignment places added strain on the suspension and steering parts connected to that particular wheel, leading to their premature deterioration as well.

Read More: Tire Feathering Causes and Symptoms

8) Reduced Performance

The bad alignment of the vehicle wheels may also reduce traction, making it harder for the tire to grip the road. This issue badly affects acceleration, particularly in slippery or wet conditions. It may also cause to increase the braking.

What Causes Bad Wheel Alignment?

The alignment of the wheel may go bad due to different reasons, such as underinflated tires, damaged wheel bearings, heavy impacts, worn parts, or bad suspension parts.

Let’s discuss the causes of bad wheel alignment:

1) Worn Parts

Bad components of the vehicle are the major cause of a bad wheel alignment. In cases where you own an older car with considerable mileage, certain parts might have exceeded their intended lifespan if not replaced. This concern may also arise in the modern models lacking proper maintenance.

2) Wrong Installation

The wrong installation of the suspension or steering parts while maintaining or repairing may lead to misalignment of the car wheels. The correct installation is very important to ensure the proper alignment.

3) Improper Tire Inflation

A simple yet crucial vehicle element to assess is tire pressure. Incorrect tire inflation, deviating from the recommended PSI, can lead to reduced vehicle longevity, diminished fuel efficiency, and even contribute to misalignment. The proper PSI value is usually indicated directly on the tires and warrants regular monitoring.

4) Bad Suspension System

The vehicle’s suspension system plays a pivotal role in establishing the essential contact between the tires and the road’s surface. This interaction produces a more comfortable journey for occupants and enhances steering stability by ensuring adequate friction.

5) Uneven Tire Wear

tire wear

Tire feathering or tire cupping may also cause a bad wheel alignment. This uneven tire wear may be caused due to lack of rotation, unbalanced wheels, or improper inflation.

Uneven tread wear may cause variations in tire diameter, affecting the alignment settings.

6) Overdue Realignment

Unfortunately, maintaining accurate tire pressure and addressing worn components doesn’t guarantee protection from the need for realignment. The act of driving your vehicle can itself lead to misalignment over time.  

While the frequency might vary based on your car’s age and state, experts generally advise scheduling a realignment at least annually. This practice enhances the vehicle’s performance and extends its overall lifespan.

7) Heavy Impact

Flawless driving is an unrealistic expectation. Even the most cautious drivers can encounter road contaminants or unexpected encounters with other vehicles, leading to sudden maneuvers like sharp turns or curb impacts.

Such occurrences can induce a jolt to your vehicle, potentially causing an alignment deviation that wasn’t anticipated.

Why Wheel Alignments Are Important

The alignment of your vehicle’s wheels plays an important role in your vehicle’s well-being. Even if you believe a slight misalignment is fine, it’s important to recognize that the longer you ignore it, the worse the situation becomes, causing more harm.

A misaligned wheel may cause premature tire wear; that is just the beginning. The vehicle’s steering and suspension parts will also face increased wear. In extreme cases of misalignment, you could even end up breaking parts.

Equally concerning is the negative impact on your vehicle’s performance due to poor wheel alignment. It may cause poor traction, affecting acceleration and, importantly, increasing the distance needed for braking.

To address these performance issues, it’s vital to rectify alignment problems as soon as you detect them. However, you might perceive this as costly; it’s actually an investment that yields substantial returns.

In any case, it’s a modest expense to ensure extended tire life and protect suspension and steering parts for many years. The initial cost of the wheel alignment is minor compared to the considerable benefits in the long run.

How Much Does A Wheel Alignment Cost?

The alignment cost of a car’s wheel is influenced by your location, labor cost, and the make and model of your vehicle.

Wheel Alignment Cost

The average alignment cost of the front wheel is within the range of $40 to $160. Sometimes, the alignment check could be included at no extra charge when combined with other maintenance tasks. If aligning all four wheels is required, the cost could approach around $220.

It’s important to note that these figures are general estimates, subject to variation due to several factors.

Front Wheel AlignmentLow: $40Average: $90High: $160
4 Wheel AlignmentLow: $90Average: $130High: $220

How To Fix Bad Wheel Alignment

FAQ Section

What is a Wheel Alignment?

Wheel alignment is a mechanical adjustment process of the angles of a vehicle’s wheels to ensure they are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground. This enhances steering stability, tire longevity, and overall vehicle handling.

How to check wheel alignment?

The simplest method to assess wheel alignment is by observing the front tires of your vehicle. If they appear slightly turned inward (pigeon-toed) or outward (toed-out), it’s an indication of misalignment. For a more precise evaluation, consulting your car’s service manual can provide you with specific tire angle measurements and alignment guidelines.

Can I drive my car with a bad wheel alignment?

Yes, technically, it is possible to drive your car with poor wheel alignment. However, doing so might present challenges in maintaining a straight path on the road and executing turns smoothly. Furthermore, uneven and faster tire wear could occur due to the misalignment.

Can I perform a Wheel Alignment at home?

Performing a wheel alignment at home is possible, but achieving accurate results without proper tools can be challenging. While internet resources provide various DIY methods, the likelihood of achieving satisfactory outcomes is limited. An incorrect alignment attempt could lead to costly tire replacements.

How to know if your car needs a wheel alignment?

A clear indicator that your vehicle requires a wheel alignment is an off-center steering wheel, even when driving straight. Uneven tire wear and the car pulling to one side are also strong cues pointing to the need for alignment adjustments.

How much does a 4 Wheel Alignment cost?

The average cost of the four-wheel alignment falls within the $90 to $220 range. Nevertheless, these costs can vary based on factors such as the labor cost, your vehicle model, and the location where the service is performed. For older vehicles, a mechanic might charge extra due to potential challenges in loosening rusted components for alignment adjustments.

Is it worth getting 4 Wheel Alignment?

If your car model permits a 4-wheel alignment, it’s generally advisable. While not all models accommodate this alignment type, it’s worthwhile to check compatibility. The price difference between two-wheel and four-wheel alignments is typically modest, making the latter a sensible choice.

How much does a rear wheel alignment cost?

The average cost for a rear wheel alignment typically ranges from $40 to $160, similar to a front wheel alignment. But this cost is influenced by the type of rear wheel alignment you opt for. Choosing to correct only the toe angle might be slightly more affordable compared to adjusting both the toe and camber angles, which can be more complex.

What is the bad alignment noise?

When you start hearing knocking, creaking, squealing, or squeaking noises beneath your car, it’s a clear sign of bad alignment.

How long does an alignment process take?

On average, a wheel alignment procedure takes about 40 to 60 minutes to complete. However, there are some factors influencing this timeframe, such as the degree of misalignment, as well as whether the vehicle has two or four-wheel drive. The professional may also take this opportunity to inspect components like the steering bushing, track rod, and suspension system for signs of wear and tear.

What happens when your car is out of alignment?

Misaligned wheels tend to pull the vehicle to one side, requiring the driver to exert extra effort on the steering wheel. This misalignment may have negative implications for braking and overall vehicle handling, potentially affecting road safety. Additionally, misaligned wheels causing tire drag can lead to increased fuel consumption.

Do I need an alignment after replacing the tires?

Yes, after changing your tires, it’s crucial to schedule an alignment. This practice guarantees optimal tire lifespan and uniform wear patterns, preserving the longevity of your tires.

Read More

Leave a Comment