Once. If the wheels on your vehicle are correctly
aligned when the vehicle is manufactured at the factory, they
should not change alignment until something in the suspension
wears out or is damaged. Alignment doesn't change. The only
thing that changes it is wear or damage. Hitting a pot hole or
a thousand pot holes won't knock your suspension out of alignment
unless you hit something hard enough to actually bend metal.
That really doesn't happen very often, so having the wheels aligned
periodically is a waste of money.
On the other hand, there are valid reasons for having the
alignment checked periodically:
- If your tires are wearing abnormally, alignment should
be checked to find out why. Chances are something is amiss and
needs to be readjusted or replaced. It only takes a 1/8 inch
of toe misalignment to drag the front tires sideways the equivalent
of 28 feet for every mile traveled!
- If you're buying a new set of tires and want to maximize
tread life, it's a good idea to have the alignment checked as
insurance. Even if the factory alignment is within the acceptable
range specified by the vehicle manufacturer, there's often room
for improvement. Resetting alignment to the "preferred specs"
(which means the midrange or optimum specs) will usually extend
tire life -- sometimes significantly. Considering the high cost
of many performance tires today, assuring maximum tire life with
an alignment is money well spent.
- If you're experiencing any kind of steering or handling
problem, an alignment check may be necessary for diagnostic purposes.
An important aspect of aligning the wheels is performing a preliminary
alignment inspection of the suspension and steering linkage.
This is necessary to determine if there are any worn, damaged
or mislocated parts. It's impossible to realign worn or damaged
parts so any such parts must be replaced before the wheels can
- Wheel alignment is also required when certain suspension
and steering components are replaced. On most cars with MacPherson
struts, the front wheels should be realigned if the struts are
replaced (NOTE: This is not necessary on certain import vehicles
that have replaceable strut cartridges). Alignment is also required
if the tie rods, tie rod ends, idler arm, steering links, control
arms or control arm bushings, steering knuckle or steering rack
have been replaced.
- Another benefit of having the wheels aligned is to assure
optimum handling and traction for driving safety. Camber, in
particular, is a very important angle with respect to keeping
the tire's treads in full contact with the road. Tires that lean
in or out ride on the shoulder and reduce traction, cornering
ability and tread life. Camber can even affect braking. Uneven
camber or caster side to side can make a vehicle lead to the left
or the right.
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