Wheel Alignment & Tie Rods

I recently had all four of my tires replaced and the shop was going to do an alignment for free. But, it turns out my tie rods are rusted and frozen and need to be cleaned off before the alignment can be done. The shop I called told me it would cost $300 to take care of the tie rods. So, 2 questions: 1) How important is it that my wheels get aligned? 2) How much should it cost to take care of the tie rods? Thanks!

If I were you, I would be skeptical of the diagnosis given by that shop. Go to an independent mechanic to verify the condition of those tie rods on your mystery vehicle.

With some tire shops, the “free” alignment that is included is merely a ruse to get you to have unneeded repairs done by them. Thus, those “free” alignments frequently fall into the same category as the “free lunch”, and as experience has shown, there is really no such thing as a free lunch.

It’s important on your H1 Hummer to ensure that the wheels are aligned.

What’s this, you don’t have an H1? Well what exactly DO you have??

Seriously, IMHO if the wear pattern and the driving feel on the previous tires were straight, smooth and true, it may not be necessary. The wear pattern and feel of the car combined are a pretty good indicator of how good the alignment is.

Others will disagree. But withut having any idea of the make, model, year, condition and mileage I’m just making a guess.

PostScript: I just read VDC’s post and, as always, he’s made excellent points. These Free services are often come-ons.

Thank you both for your responses! My “mystery vehicle” is a 2003 Audi A4 with about 65,000 miles on it. Given that it’s 4 wheel drive, does that change things? Also, the shop that gave me the diagnosis on the tie rods could not fix them, they recommended that I take the car somewhere else to have the tie rods sorted out and then return to have my free alignment completed.

You need the alignment and since they are not providing a self-serving fee for service, you need to get the tie rod issue resolved. If I didn’t have a favorite mechanic, I would use their recommendation and get an opinion from the other shop.

Given all wheel drive and how tires must wear down at the same rate, an alignment is absolutely important in making that happen. There are stricter tolerances in terms of tire circumference that must be met, and an alignment is an important part of that equation.

I agree that evenly worn tires may very well make an alignment check unnecessary but you must know how to judge this considering that your tires were likely periodically rotated during their service life. For example, tire tread wear can be noted and recorded at wheel rotation time and then evaluated again at the next wheel rotation time. This is more work than most will do but could be used to judge if you need front, rear or wheel alignment work at both front and rear.

I recently traded a Chevrolet with over 125,000 miles; never checked the alignment over that mileage. The tires wore evenly and lasted well. It can be that way with your car too.

In my view the make and model of a car is not important when discussing wheel alignment. It’s just a sticking point here on Car Talk when make and model is important and people with questions don’t include it.

Is this one of these National Tire chains???

If so…then take the car elsewhere and have them check the vehicle out. These places are SLEAZE. The mechanics work on commission…and are constantly trying to sell you stuff you DON’T need.

Make and Model aren’t really that important in this case, but it could be depending on the question. However, with this question, age and miles are important. Considering the age and miles on this car, I find it hard to believe that the tie rods are frozen, unless the shop damaged the tie rods trying to adjust them.

If the OP was replacing the original tires, I’d recommend against allowing the shop to do that “free” alignment. Now, I suspect there may be damage done and he should have the front end inspected by a competent mechanic and get the alignment checked, even if it costs some money.

If damage is found now, while it is fresh, he will have a case against the tire store.

Was the shop that gave the $300 estimate one recommended by the tire store? That would be even more suspect.

Thank you all for your advice, I very much appreciate it! I will call around and see if anyone else can inspect / fix the tie rods for a better price.