Alignment Question

Hi Car Talk community,
Two months ago, my 2011 Ford Escape (27,000 miles) was sounding great. I took it in for a standard oil change and tire rotation. When I picked it up they mentioned that they found a nail in what is now the passenger-front tire and patched it for me. When I drove it home, I could hear a sound like “whom whom whom whom whom” coming from the front-end between 45 and 60 MPH. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and drove it for 2 months until yesterday when I finally had enough and took it back to have them look for a cause to the problem. They said it needed an alignment and we went ahead and did that. HOWEVER, they said that after the alignment, the car would make the same sound for 500 to 1000 miles and then it would go away. I got the car back, and at best it sounds the same, and at worst it maybe sounds worse than it did.

My question: Is there any reason the car should make the same sound for 500 to 1000 miles after the alignment? Also, was it an aligment problem or do I need new tires or something else? I suspect I have been screwed by the dealership.


If you drove on a tire or a long period of time, it could create cupping on the tires. These cups make noise and likely will not fix itself. so after an alignment, you may get lucky and the tires will wear to a point to minimize the cupping sounds.

My guess is that you won’t see it improve. Cupping likely does not improve. But there is always a chance?

It’s entirely possible that in the process of tire rotation they moved a tire with an abnormal wear pattern to the front. Or perhaps even a tire that while still above the wear bars has used up most of its tread. Try examining the tread on all four tires both visually and by lightly sweeping your hand over the surface. You might be able to find the abnormal wear pattern.

It’s also possible that when they patched the tire they didn’t properly rebalance it. Ask them to recheck the balance on the patched tire.

I don’t think they screwed you. I suspect that you’re simply dealing with an anomaly that wasn’t apparent until they rotated the tires.

Kudos for your excellent description of the problem.

The tires from the rear wore in a pattern that now makes noise on the front. I had a set of Brand M tires in a FWD car. After about 5000 miles the rears became noisey enough to hear in the car and were rotated at the oil change interval of 7500 miles. The car was quiet once again until 5000 miles. Rotation again solved the problem. I now use a different brand of tire with no such problem. If it did this on my car at the rear, there’s no reason to believe this wouldn’t happen on the front of your car. Rotate the tires back to their original spots and see if it goes away. Or wait 1000 miles to see if it goes away.

I would hope it is not damage to a transaxle because of a low tire if you have awd. Can you tell where the sound is coming from? The 500 to 1000 miles is bogus, take it to a different dealer for a warranty repair, hopefully.