Do You Need an Alignment With New Tires?
Getting new tires can be time-consuming and expensive, and you likely want to put off repeating the process as long as possible. Poor tire alignment is one of the most likely reasons your tires will wear out faster than they should.
While a tire alignment isn’t strictly necessary when you get new tires, it's highly recommended. An alignment will increase the lifespan of your new tires, saving you money and time in the long run.
Why Do You Need an Alignment With New Tires?
Putting on new tires doesn’t cause your tires to lose their alignment. However, getting an alignment with your tire installation will extend the life of your new tires and ensure you get an impressive experience on your new ride.
If you’re trying to save money and you don’t think your tires are out of alignment because you’ve recently had them done, you can contact your technician for expert advice.
Tires can lose their alignment over time through normal wear and tear. Getting a tire alignment is considered a normal part of car maintenance, just like getting an oil change or getting new filters.
However, some incidents and factors can cause tires to come out of alignment faster than normal. Your tires might need an alignment more frequently if you:
- Off-road or drive on dirt roads
- Live in a pothole-heavy area
- Hit a curb
- Drive over speed bumps too fast
- Were in a minor accident
What Is Tire Alignment?
A tire alignment ensures that your tires are facing the correct direction and are at the correct angle. A tire alignment will correct one or more of the three kinds of misalignment: caster, toe, and camber. Each of these misalignments is different and comes with its own potential problems.
Though it’s always a good idea to have your alignment looked at while getting new tires, you can determine some alignment issues by looking at the wear patterns on your old tires. If you notice certain uneven patterns on your tread, it’s a surefire sign that you should get your alignment looked at while you get your tires changed out.
Toe Tire Alignment
Most tire alignment issues are with the ‘toe’ of your tires. This is crucial, as toe issues can cause some of the worst tire wear.
Toe refers to the angle of the tires in relation to the direction your car is facing. If you could look through your car from above to see your tires, poor toe alignment would look like your tires are pointing left or right instead of straight ahead.
If the toe of your car is out of alignment, you might notice steering and handling issues, as well as increased wear on your tires. Toe tire wear usually appears as additional wear on your treads' right or left half, depending on which way your tires were pointed.
Camber Tire Alignment
The camber of your tires refers to the angle of your tires in relation to the ground. If your camber is in proper alignment, your tires will lie flat on the ground without uneven pressure one way or the other. If your camber is off, you might notice your car pulling to one side when you try to drive straight.
If you were to kneel in front of your car and look at your tires, camber wear would appear as if half of your tire was more inflated than the other. In other words, if you looked at your tires head-on, they might look a little like a trapezoid.
Caster Tire Alignment
Caster refers to the angle of your steering axis to your tires. Your steering axis should be precisely perpendicular to the ground. If your steering axis creates a different angle to the ground, it’s out of alignment.
Caster wear doesn’t affect your tires like other kinds of wear because your tires should roll forward normally, even if your caster is off. You can identify this kind of alignment issue by paying attention to how your car drives. If your caster is off, you might notice your car pulls to one side or feels difficult to control.
What Happens if Your Tires Are Out of Alignment?
Unaligned tires can do a number of things to your car and how it drives. Most noticeably, poorly aligned tires can cause your car to pull to one side. You may also notice odd vibrations, poor handling, or odd sounds coming from your car.
Getting a tire alignment can help you save money in the long run. Poorly aligned tires cause uneven wear on your tires, meaning you’ll have to get new tires sooner. Misalignments can also increase your rolling resistance (the measure of your tire’s friction against the road), decreasing fuel economy.
Do You Have to Align All Your Tires at Once?
Some cars have solid rear axles, in which case only the front wheels can be aligned. However, most modern vehicles have independent rear suspension systems, in which case it’s best to have all of your tires aligned at once.
How Long Does a Tire Alignment Take?
While times can vary, most tire alignments only take about 30 minutes to an hour. If your vehicle has four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, your alignment will likely take a little longer. Additionally, older vehicles can be more unruly to work with due to rust or wear and tear and may take longer than new vehicles.
How Do I Know if I Need a Tire Alignment?
Because there are so many reasons tires can come out of alignment, there are many different answers to how often most people need tire alignments. You’ll see recommendations range from 5,000 to 10,000 miles, to once a year, to every other oil change.
Generally, you should get your tires aligned when you notice:
- Uneven wear on your treads or uneven tires
- Your steering wheel shaking or vibrating
- Your car drifts to one side when your steering wheel is centered
Even if you don’t notice any of these signs, it’s a good idea to check your alignment every few thousand miles to ensure you’re making the most of your tire’s lifespan.