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Wheel Alignment

I took my 2011 GMC Acadia in for routine maintenance at 22,500 miles. The dealer suggested I have the alignment checked (no charge) and I agreed. Sure enough, he reported that the toeing in the left wheel was off .25 of a degree, and the right was off about .19 of a degree. All the other measurements were OK. He wanted $100 to fix this. I declined for the time but would like to know if such a small deviation is important for safety and tire wear. Are there certain benchmarks to use in determining whether or not the wheels should be adjusted?

Thank you.

The typical charge for front wheel alignment is $50, and it seems that every shop offers coupons. Check your local newspapers for deals.

Normally there’s an acceptable range, not a specific value. When I’ve had my alignment checked or done, they’ve always provided a printout with my actual numbers and the acceptable ranges. Did your dealer not give you information like this?

Some people feel that you want to be in the middle of the acceptable range, not just anywhere within it, by the way.

actually the dealer did give me a report on it, showing the deviations on the two front wheels. It just seems to me to be such a tiny amount off that I have to wonder if it is a material difference that should be corrected. Also, when they correct the toe, they also have to reset the camber and caster. Their report shows an acceptable deviation of from +.1 to -.1 My one wheel is -.22 and the other +.21

If your steering wheel is straight while driving your alignment is perfect. When the vehicle is on the alignment rack if the mechanic turns the wheel to the right or left a little he can record out of spec readings. One wheel appears to be toed in and the other toed out but turn the wheel a bit and they are straight. If you add the two toe readings together (-.22+.21) you total toe is -.01. The specification is 0 plus or minus .20 degrees.

Caster and camber setting are adjusted before the toe is adjusted. Minor toe adjustments should have no effect on the caster or camber.

Your dealer owes you a free alignment, its under warrantee, even though they will try to decline it. call the GM Customer Service rep if the dealer does not agree. However, I am always suspicious of any FREE inspections, they are usually bogus.

Also, the toe has NO affect on the caster or camber. If they are in spec, then the toe can be adjusted. Look at your tires. If they are wearing evenly across the tread, then you don’t need to align anything. If you are not sure, get a tire tread depth gauge and measure each tread across the tire. They only cost about $2.

I would avoid this dealer in regards to alignment for several reasons.
One is that setting the toe does not mean the camber or caster has to be adjusted although it can work the other way around; altering camber or caster can mean resetting the toe.

The other reason is that an alignment should be X dollars and this means putting the car on the rack and checking the alignment whether adjustments or needed or not.
The act of saying this service is free and then trying to hammer you for a 100 bucks just to set the toe is ludicrous.

If your steering wheel is straight while driving your alignment is perfect.
Can you explain your thoughts behind this?

The values posted would result in an off-center steering wheel. With the vehicle on the alignment rack and the steering wheel straight (presumably) the front wheels appear to be off to the right or left the same amount.

If the tech turns the steering wheel alittle off-center he can produce these out of spec readings. The alignment machine doesn’t know if the steering wheel was set straight, this must be done be the tech.

IMHO what the dealership has done is exactly what lots of shops, particularly tire shops do (sorry Capri). They suggest a “free” alignment, often find something not perfact, and offer to “fix” it for a fee generally higher than normal. Often the thing they find “not normal” is a “bad alignment” or a “cracked bushing”. But they always find something.

If your tires are wearing evenly and you’re not experiencing problems, skip it. Your car is new enough not to have worn out components and you have enough mileage on it to show abnormal wear if, in fact, the alignment is off.

Perhaps if the economy improves shops will stop creating new ways to find something to charge you for.

Mountainbike - I’m actually with you about tire shops.

But my experience is that the toe needs to be - are you ready for this - within 0.06° (per side - 0.12° total) of the spec to insure good tire wear. 0.25° and 0.19° would be excessive EXCEPT if one was on one side of the spec and the other was on the other side of the spec.

Even wear / no pull does not mean the vehicle is aligned correctly. Vehicles with too much toe will not always cause a pull or uneven tire wear - but it will always cause the tires to wear more rapidly.

A small amount of toe error angle measured on the front wheels relative to the rear wheels is insignificant if the front toe is within spec as Nevada_545 states it and I agree with that. It sounds like an easy scam for an alignment person to park a vehicle on an alignment machine with the steering wheel turned very slightly to one side to then find one front tire toed in too much and the other front tire toed out too much. If the OP is annoyed by a very small amount of steering wheel position error when the vehicle is steered straight ahead, then toe adjustment will be needed.

The vehicle will not steer straight ahead at the wheel angles stated until the driver slightly turns the steering wheel to straighten out the direction of the vehicle. There should not be any undue tire wear unless there is an unstated rear wheel alignment problem. A little thrust misalignment is tolerable.

The toe measurements you give should produce an off-center steering wheel but no pull or unusual tire wear. In other words, if your steering wheel appears straight while you are driving, you do not need an alignment. In fact, had they “corrected” this, the result would be that your steering wheel would now be off-center. Had the numbers been both positive or both negative, or separated farther than the .06 degrees indicated, then an alignment would be in order.

Also, for the record, the person who told you that caster and camber need to be adjusted when toe is adjusted has that completely backwards. If you change caster or camber, it will usually throw the toe off, but it does not work the other way around. That’s why every mechanic who has spent any amount of time around an alignment rack knows toe is the last thing to adjust if you ever want to finish aligning the car. If this was a service adviser, he has probably (hopefully?) never performed an alignment in his life and only knows how to persuade people to buy them.

The part about this incident that really disgusts me is the bit about offering a free alignment check and then wanting a C-note to adjust it.

I’ve done alignments and had it done and every place has always been X dollars for an alignment; period. Adjustments or not, the price is the same.

This “free” offer is a common scam where I live too. You learn pretty fast that nothing is free.

I still don’t understand why this is not done under warranty.

Warranty won’t pay for alignments because the odds are that most alignment issues are going to be caused by potholes, curb strikes, and so on and those are not factory defect issues.
One little tap can do it.