Do I really need an alignment?

My car is a 2000 corolla with 51k miles that I bought a couple of months ago.

It had the following problems:
Creaking noise from front drivers side when going over bumps
Steering wheel vibration when braking
Steering wheel vibration (slightly) at certain speeds
Very out of alignment

In august, I replaced the rotors, did a tire balance and alignment. The shop used a Hunter RoadForce balancer. They said that the front tires were bad so they put them in the rear.

After that, the steering wheel still vibrated slightly at certain speeds. Also, the front end would vibrate when the steering wheel vibrated. Also, when braking hard…the steering wheel would vibrate even though the rotors and pads were replaced.

Yesterday, I replaced the front struts/spring/mount…yet the drivers front still creaked over bumps. The strut change also caused the alignment to pull slightly to the left (only very slightly).

Today, I replaced the rear struts/spring/mount, both front ball joints, both front sway bar links.

This fixed ALL of the problems. The steering wheel is now perfect (even when braking), the creaking noise is completely gone. And best of all, the alignment seems to be correct as it no longer pulls from yesterday’s front strut change.

Do I really need to replace the tires or even get an alignment? The alignment might be slightly out of spec but it does not pull to any side.

Here is are pictures of the left and right rear wheels…does the wheel seem to far “pointed inwards”?

Here sample of the tread from the rear “bad tire” that tire shop said.

Unless the wheel is WAY OUT of alignment you’ll never to tell by looking at it. You need specialized equipment. If the alignment is just slightly out of spec you can only tell with the alignment equipment. I get an alignment once a year. The potholes in NH during the spring can really cause problems.

Any time you replace front or rear axle components like this you need an alignment. Like Mike said, no way to ‘eyeball’ this. Given all the problems you’ve had I’d get a 4-wheel alignment, pronto.

What about the tires? If the tires are bad which the tire specialist said…he did tell me what was actually bad about them. Should I just change all 4 tires as well?

The bolts that hold the bottom of the front struts to the steering knuckle are the same bolts you loosen when you adjust the front camber angle. (An important alignment angle) So unless you got lucky when you installed the new struts, the camber will be out.

Also, camber angle change can drastically affect toe angle change, the most important tire wear angle of all the alignment angles.

The steering wheel being straight means nothing.

What was actually bad concerning the tires?

They didnot tell me what was bad.

Anyways, I took it to firestone and they checked all 4 tires using a tire tread checker and told me nothing was wrong. They did the alignment too.

Thanks everyone for your help, my old corolla is like new again