Tires - what else needs to be done at the time of replacement?

Yesterday I had two tires on my 1990 Honda Accord replaced, both passenger side tires. (Actually, they rotated the rear drivers side tire to the front passenger side and replaced both rear tires, if that makes more sense.)

The rear tire was badly in need of replacement due to scraping of the sidewall while parking next to curbs (I’m working on it) and the front tire tread was in they ‘start thinking of replacing’ stage.

Driving away I IMMEDIATELY noticed my alignment was WAY off. It wasn’t before. The salesman tried to sell me a $50 alignment, but my car was fine prior to the tire replacement.

What should I do? Is an alignment always necessary with new tires? Is it a front-wheel drive thing? Should I go back to the tire shop and ask them to fix my alignment?

My car has 159k miles and I don’t recall having this problem when I’ve replaced tires in the past.

Any help is appreciated! Thanks!

Is an alignment always necessary with new tires?
No. In fact, in 30+ years of driving with a lot of those early years driving older beaters, I have never had a “professional” alignment. I’ve done a few myself after worn suspension components were replaced or when I completely stripped down and restored cars. Today, with my new cars, I don’t rotate tires and never get an alignment. My tires go 60k+ miles.

Here’s the rub IMHO- if you go a long time without rotating, then when you do rotate, problems crop up. The tires have taken a “set” to the alignment and worn to match. Now you switch that tire to a totally different wear and stress pattern and it causes problems.

What should I do?
Either replace all the tires or pay for an alignment. It is not the shop’s responsibility to guarantee alignment and in fact, they offered a very reasonable price for that service.

I’m of the opposite belief. In fact I just got new tires this past weekend…I ALWAYS get an alignment when I get new tires…And my alignment was WAY out of spec.

If you drive a nice smooth road every day…then chances are you may not need an alignment. Drive in the North East during the spring with all the pot-holes…or the bridge work on I-93…and it’s EASY to be out of alignment.

I’ve lived all my life in the north where snow & ice season is 5-6 months and salt is used extensively. Orange barrels and potholes signal the coming of spring…

Just because you’ve never had an alignment doesn’t mean you never NEEDED an alignment.

Hey, I’m getting the normally expected amount of wear out of the tires. The vehicle tracks and drives like new. So what benefit is there in tweaking the alignment? Other than having some young, pimply faced kid mess that up or something worse…

If the tires are EVENLY worn when you replace them, you don’t need an alignment. A good tire person can tell you. I would inspect the front end for posssible wear as well at this time.

Usually you don’t need anything; just have the new tiores balanced properly.

Good tire shops will only charge a nominal fee if anything to check your alignment. They will charge more if it really needs to be performed. When I am dropping $600-$800 on tires its very foolish not to check the alignment of the vehicle and save the meager $40 my tire shop charges simply for the check.

A bad alignment can destroy a brand new tire within a few thousand miles to the point of no return as it will forever be tainted with noise.

Hold on a second. You have two new tyres on the back now and one of the front tyres was replaced with one from the back. I would start there. It is likely that the two tyres on the front are just not well matched. One could even be flawed (like a slipped belt) even if a casual look says it has good tread. The problem could well be the tyres on the front, or even one in the back, (some tyres come with defects).

You should keep the new tyres on the back. For safety reason you want the best tread on the back. You could have the two front wheels exchanged so the right becomes the left and the left the right. If my guess is right, you will still have a problem, but it will feel different. You may not have noticed the problem with the tyre on the back, or it may just be the miss-match of the two tyres.

Alignment does not change when they change tyres, unless the did something very bad. However getting an alignment done or at least getting it checked is not a bad idea.

The new tires should be put on the same end of the car, and I’m assuming here these tires are all the same size. It’s entirely possible the steering wheel being off can be caused by mismatched tires.

An alignment should be performed on a regular basis, say every 40-50k miles, and even more often depending on road conditions and the possibility of curb strikes, etc.
A good alignment tech should also inspect suspension components for excessive wear because a badly worn ball joint can be a killer; literally.

Given the fact the vehicle is 19 years old, has 159k miles, and has been subjected to repeated curb strikes I would not be surprised one bit if either a front control arm or rear trailing arm is not bent.

You know I’m so appalled by some of the advice in this thread (mainly by TwinTurbo) that I’m starting to wish that we had some sort of way to verify who is handing out advice around here. I don’t know if there’s anything more frustrating than spending years working on cars as a profession, spending hundreds of hours learning about every facet of automobile design and diagnosis, and then having to read absolute garbage advice handed out and compete with it. Ahh the beauty of the Internet! Sorry there’s opinion, there’s bad advice, and then there’s garbage advice. Not aligning a car when you replace tires is is questionable at best-but never aligning a car at all is just flat out stupidity.

Alignment is more than just setting the damn toe on the car. You have to also consider camber! Now more than ever is this stuff important-do you see the aspect ratio and width of tires on modern cars!? They don’t tolerate bad alignment like older cars did. If you let that camber and toe go the tires look and feel like garbage in half the time they should. Not to mention when you rotate the tires everything suddenly feels out of whack because your taking a tire that has a bad wear pattern and putting it somewhere else where you can feel it big time.

To the original poster-you replace things in pairs. If you replace a front driver side tire then replace the front passenger side tire (unless they’re fairly new). Then get the car aligned. It sounds like you’ve got a mess right now because you’ve got some new tires, some badly worn tires with a pattern, and probably a mess of an alignment. An alignment may not solve everything, but it’s good first step. Why not just get 4 tires and be done with it? They’re pretty inexpensive on this car. I dunno, I’m tired of the logic of trying to save a buck and then spending even more money down the road to solve a problem that shouldn’t have been there to begin with. Yeah, I’m grumpy now.

You do NOT need an alignment every time you replace tires. You need an alignment when there is a problem with the alignment. Modern cars are pretty good about holding a good alignment longer than they used to. You can judge whether you need an alignment by how the car drives and by looking at the wear patterns on you tires, if you don’t rotate them too frequently that is. You can also go by how long the tires have been lasting. If the tires last as long as you expected them too, the car drives and handles well and there are no unusual wear patterns on the tires, then you don’t need an alignment. In fact I would not even let a tire shop check the alignment for free even.

Now you have a problem, but the first thing I’d recommend is that you check the tread depth of each of the front tires. If there is more that 1/32nd inch difference, that would cause the car to pull to one side. That does not mean the alignment is off, the wheels are aligned, not the tires. If the wheels are correct but the tire diameters are different, it will only seem like the car is out of alignment. Since rear tires wear at a slower rate than the front tires, I suspect that your front tires are not the same diameter.

I take wheel alignment seriously. I am very skeptical about tire salesmen selling alignment in the tire store. Not that you can’t get a good alignment at a tire store, I have had good alignments from some, but in some cases, they actually made the alignments worse. Dealers aren’t necessarily any better, I’ve had good and bad from them too. You have to ask around and get recommendations from trusted sources. Computer alignment machines are also NOT inherently more accurate. Its really the person, not the machine that makes the difference. This is why I don’t trust the “free alignment check”.

I will just state that it has been my experience with the vehicles I have owned that -1 degree of camber on a back wheel of a front wheel drive car is enough to cause that tire to be junk when rotating it to the front.

I have to respectfully disagree that an alignment is something that should never be done unless “it’s needed”. How is that defined?
Many times a problem exists and the car owner is oblivious as to any abnormal tire wear, suspension faults, or a gradual degradation in handling.
The latter often comes on like shocks or struts failing; it’s incremental and many car owners are not even aware their shocks/struts have gone south.

Spend time with an alignment rack and I guarantee that you will see many vehicles (late model, low miles, never curbed, whatever) in which the alignment is off. The fact the car shows no apparent symptoms does not mean everything is ducky on the alignment specs.

Since this subject came up here’s a good example of oblivous car owners and it involves my wife, son, and daughter in law. I just got back last night from a vacation in CO and while there we went out to dinner one night in their brand new from last year 2007 Dodge Caliber. This vehicle has about 15k miles on it now.

A block from the house while approaching the first stop sign I made a comment about “you have a problem with your car”. What happens? They all become irritated with me for even suggesting such a thing. I have a 50% hearing loss in both ears and often rely on “feel” to diagnose a car.
The car had a subtle vibration and very faint buzz which none of these 3 (all with perfect hearing too) could not detect.

I insisted on jumping out at the stop sign, went to the front tires and felt the tread. Sure enough, both front tires had a slight feather-edging on the inside of the tires.
When we got back to their house later I had someone help me with a tape measure and lo and behold the front wheels were toed out about 1/8".

End result? They all were upset with me for pointing out the obvious and now they have a set of expensive low profile 18" tires that are abnormally worn (on an AWD vehicle to boot).
In spite of the perception there’s a lot to be said for regular tire rotations and alignment checks, especially when rough roads and curb strikes occur.
(And yes, the daughter in law is a bit miffed because I told her “warranty” is not going to cover one penny of a tire rotation and alignment.)
Don’t like the message; shoot the messenger is the usual modus operandi.


Clearly, both you and Dave G. are correct about alignment, in general. And, your instincts were clearly correct regarding the car of your son and DIL. Unfortunately, your experience with them in regard to the problem with their car is just further proof of one of my favorite axioms:

No good deed goes unpunished!

i had the same problem once so i switched the front tyres to the back and the backs to the front and hey presto!the alignment was back to normal!!

First off I didn’t say that I had knowledge of every facet of design- I said I have to learn about it. Second this isn’t worth arguing because you remind me of a guy I met who smoked 2 packs of cigarettes for 30 years. His opinion was “Cigarettes don’t cause no cancer-I been smoking all my life and I’m fine…Cough…Hack…” Great. It’s your opinion. Who needs those damn auto engineers anyway when we’ve got opinions, myths, and anecdotal results.

Actually, the incident with my relatives is not the first time something like this has happened. It’s the norm.
I can’t help it; every time I get in someone else’s car I have a tendency to start listening for things and noting any driving problems.

In this case, my daughter in law says “WHAT!”, my son gave me an exasperated look, and my wife says “Don’t go picking on their car!”.
In retrospect I guess I should have remained silent and allowed the front tires to completely disappear tread-wise.

Kind of funny when I mentioned a regular tire rotation. “Who says” they all say, including my wife whom would think after about 35 years with me would know better. When we stopped at the restaurant I opened the glove box, removed the owners manual, and pointed out the recommended 6k mile rotation interval also. It all came as a complete surprise to them of course. :slight_smile:

When buying a new car, I believe one of the thing the dealer should do before taking delivery is a alignment check. I know I will make sure this happens on the next new car purchase.

The dealer is not going to perform an alignment check on a new car unless they get paid for it though. Most vehicles go through a PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection) before being placed on the lot for sale and an alignment is normally not part of a PDI on any new car except with certain makes.

When I worked for SAAB performing an alignment check WAS part of the PDI but SAAB also paid well for this PDI by allowing something like 5 hours for a complete go-over of the car from stem to stern. Whether they still do this I do not know.
Most car makers only allow 1 to 2 hours for a PDI and it does not include a trip to the front end rack. VW, Nissan, Honda, Fiat, and Subaru do not allow PDI time for an alignment check at all.

The dealer may perform this service additionally before the purchase but one would have to watch the paperwork and make sure the alignment cost is not being buried in the paperwork somewhere.