Keeping On The Straight And Narrow: When And Why To Get a Wheel Alignment

Tires are expensive – so you want them to last as long as possible!

One of the best ways to protect your tires is to make sure your wheels stay aligned. If your wheels are misaligned, they’ll wear out unevenly – and up to 2x as quickly.

Luckily, alignment problems are usually pretty quick and easy to fix, and will save you a bundle in the long run. After all, would you rather pay for a $100 alignment or an $800 set of tires?

That’s what I thought!

What Exactly Is A Wheel Alignment?

Alignment deals with the underlying structure of the wheels; if you have a problem with steering or suspension, that issue will translate down into tire wear. You can’t fix alignment problems just by swapping on a new pair of tires. You have to fix the underlying problem.

Sometimes that problem is a component that has worn out or become loose. Sometimes it’s because you’ve put in a brand-new component and it doesn’t fit as well as the old one did.

I’ve written a little more about the relationship between suspension, steering, and alignment in this post. It also gives you an idea of what to look and listen for when diagnosing suspension or steering problems.

How Often Should I Get A Wheel Alignment?

Manufacturers and dealers might recommend you realign your wheels as often as once a year for maintenance purposes. I find you don’t need an alignment nearly that often. If you keep your car in good health, every three or four years is just fine.

That said, you should get your alignment checked after certain repairs and situations:

  • After repairing or replacing suspension or steering components
  • After putting new tires on your vehicle
  • If your tires have worn out especially quickly

Brand-new tires should last three to five years, or between 100,000 and 150,000 km. If you find yourself replacing tires more often than that, you might have a problem.

You should also keep a close eye on your tires if you have performance or low-profile wheels – the ones with bigger rims and less tire. If they start wearing down unevenly, you’ll be out of rubber before you know it. They could wear out in a single year – and they’re the most expensive to replace!


If your tires look more like the ones to the right, you’ll want to align them more frequently.

How Can I Tell I Need A Wheel Alignment?

If your vehicle is pulling to the right or to the left, that’s a sign you need a wheel alignment. The steering wheel should sit straight when you’re driving straight. We need to find the components that are worn or damaged.

The alignment can slip slowly as components wear out, but you might also see it shift suddenly – especially after an accident or if you hit a curb particularly hard.

If you find your car pulling strongly to one side, it’s possible you’ve bent or knocked something loose in your suspension – and you should get it looked at as soon as possible. After that problem is repaired, a wheel alignment makes sure everything is hunky dory again.

How long does it take to get a wheel alignment?

If you need your wheels aligned, I’ll have you drop your vehicle off at the shop for the day. I want to take a good look at your suspension, make sure everything is in good condition, and do any repairs if necessary.

I partner with a local alignment shop to help you get the best service. Once my inspection and repairs are done, I drop your vehicle off at their shop. They do the alignment using some spiffy, specialty laser-sighted equipment. You can’t always see if your tires are off-kilter with the naked eye – unless you’re the Terminator!


I take care of talking to the shop for you, which saves you the hassle of running around town to find a specialist. Instead, everything is included in my bill and all you have to do is pick up your car at my shop at the end of the day.

How much does it cost?

Most wheel alignments fall into the $100-150 range – a lot less expensive than new tires! Some suspension or steering repairs may cost you more than that, but that’s a bridge we can cross when we get to it. I’ll never start additional-cost repairs on your car without checking in with you first and deciding together upon the best solution for you.