You use the steering wheel to maneuver around when you drive a car. When you turn the wheel in your hands, it turns the car’s wheels. The wheels of the car are aligned to the steering wheel. This alignment needs to be perfect if you want your car to go the way you want. A little defect in this alignment can cause a lot of trouble.
Importance Of An Alignment
The alignment of your car’s wheels is very important for both a comfortable and safe drive. If you are a regular driver, there would’ve been times, especially after changing one of the wheels, where you might have felt the car doesn’t move as you intend it to. You might feel a pull in some direction, opposing the steering wheel’s movement.
When your car’s wheels are not in proper alignment, they do not all move together in sync. When there is no sync between them, the driving experience won’t be smooth. Despite a power steering wheel, you will tug more on the steering and put more weight behind it while turning.
How Long Does An Alignment Take?
In earlier days, the alignment had to be done annually, so you had to find the right mechanic. They will manually align each wheel to a particular setting and check if they are all proper.
Today, with the advancement of technology, wheel alignment is all done by computers. On a raised platform, your car and the wheels will be hooked to computers, and these computers will do the alignment. Though it is definitely faster than manual alignment, it does take time.
Different types of alignment will take different times. It depends on the car model, the number of wheels you want to align, and how much alignment is actually required.
The four-wheel alignment is the most common type of alignment. Here all the four wheels of your car will be aligned. Both the front and the back wheels will be checked and aligned. So, expect this to take you some time.
For the alignment of all your four wheels, you can expect it to take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour. If there are certain issues, it can take even more than an hour. A four-wheel alignment is your vehicle’s more comprehensive and better alignment option.
If you are looking for a cheaper and quicker alignment, you can opt for the two-wheel alignment. Here only the front two wheels are checked and aligned. As expected, it takes less time and costs you less than a four-wheel alignment.
Unless you specifically ask for a hind wheel alignment, a two-wheel alignment is typically done only for two front wheels. Though only two wheels are being aligned, it can still take approximately 30 minutes or sometimes even more.
So, when does a two-wheel alignment take almost as much time as a four-wheel alignment? Why do shops offer it if they have to spend a similar amount of time on it compared to the four-wheel alignment?
Shops charge almost 75% of the total four-wheel alignment cost for a two-wheel alignment. Though the time taken might be the same, they do only half the work but get more than half the pay. Also, not all shops have the capacity to align four wheels. Some shops only have the equipment to align two wheels.
A quick type of alignment where only the front part of the vehicle is aligned and checked within a short period. The entire alignment can be completed in as little as 15 minutes. Most mechanics are not in favor of such an alignment. They prefer thorough checking and alignment.
Shops that offer such alignments claim to do a very effective job. If not aligned properly, the toe can damage the tires easily. Though other important parts need to be checked and aligned too, many machines can align only the toe, and hence the shops offer just that.
How Can You Know
When you take your car for an alignment, and the shop returns the car to you much quicker than your expectation, how can you know what type of alignment they did? Well, ask them. When you ask them if they did a four-wheel, two-wheel, or just a toe alignment, they will know you are aware of the options.
You can also ask for your wheels’ before and after measurements to check if the alignment is fine. Some vehicles allow only for the toe to be adjusted; in such cases, there is nothing more that can be done.
Can It Take Longer?
Many factors can influence the alignment time taken by the shop. Some of the most influencing factors are:
1. Car Model
As mentioned earlier, different car models take different times for alignment. A small car will understandably take less time than a long sedan. The manufacturers also influence the time taken. Different manufacturers have different parts to look into while aligning the wheels. The more the steps, the more time it can take.
2. New Vs. Old
New vehicles are easier to align when compared to old ones. Older cars will take more time for an alignment. This is because the parts underneath will be new and easy to work with, in a new car.
Many parts might be replaced in older cars and may not be the manufacturers. So, a combination of different bolts and nuts could increase the time taken for alignment.
. As you already know, older cars will have more wear and tear when you compare them to the newer ones.
It all comes down to your mechanic or the technician aligning your car wheels. If they use the new age technology and equipment and are well experienced in aligning, they can do the work quickly and efficiently.
Aligning your wheels is a very important part of safety when it comes to cars. It is an integral part of your car maintenance and you need to spend time and money on it. Whether you need to spend a lot of time on it depends on various other factors. Immaterial of the time taken, this is something you cannot avoid doing for your car.