You need an alignment if

From the drivers point how can we tell if our car/van needs to have an alignment? Besides checking tire ware, what are other things we should see, feel and such that says…GET AN ALIGNMENT. Also what is the difference on the car between getting a 2 wheel or a 4 wheel alignment?

Most cars are likely out of alignment most of the time. All it takes in one pot hole strike to change the alignment. Some cars hold alignment well, others get knocked out of alignment easily.

If you have a car that hasn’t been aligned in 2+ years or is a “new” car for you it likely needs an alignment. Symptoms of a car significantly out of alignment are; pulling to one side or the other, steering that doesn’t return to center on it own, the car “drifts” on the road, uneven tire wear (more wear on the inside, or outside).

Cars with independent rear suspension can get out of alignment in the back and therefore all 4 wheels need to be aligned. A car with a solid rear axle can “dog track” down the road when the rear axle has shifted an isn’t riding properly behind the tracks of the front wheels, often this a result of poorly done accident repair.

If your vehicle has independent suspension on the rear as well as the front, you need a 4 wheel alignment. Don’t waste your money on a 2 wheel alignment for a car with independent suspension on all 4 wheels.

Besides tire wear, other indicators of the need for alignment include:

The feeling that you constantly need to correct your steering in order to stay on course.
Excessive need to correct your steering when it is windy.
“Bump steer”–i.e.–the car veers to one side when hitting a bump or pothole.

I’m sure that others can add other factors to my list.

There is also a four wheel thrust alignment. It tries to compensate for poor tracking due (possibly) to rear axle misalignment. I’m not trained on that one but the machine is and it gives you a before and after reading which gets printed out.

You need an alignment if…

You drive thru a water puddle and see four tire tracks coming out.

You need an alignment if…

There are more bugs splattered on the side windows than on the windshield.

You need an alignment if…

You can longer see the vehicle behind you out of the rear view mirror.


If You Pull “Straight Ahead” To Park And Require Two Adjacent Parking Places For Clearance.

You Politely Ask Your Front Seat Passenger To Move Their Head A Little So You Can See The Roadway In Front Of The Vehicle.

Personally I get an alignment once a year (usually every spring after the pot holes have been filled in). And only ONCE did my vehicle NOT need it. If you’re looking for visible signs to determine if you need one…by the time you can actually notice it…it may be too late.

While I don’t necessarily agree that everyone should have an alignment performed once a year (although it’s quite possible depending on the road surfaces, etc.) I’m in agreement with MikeinNH on this issue.

Symptoms are not always present and even non-noticeable minor deviations from the specs can be enough to take out tires over time.

It used to be if you had a car that took the el-cheapo 155-80R-13 tires, it was sometimes cheaper to just buy new tires than trying to keep the front wheels aligned properly. But I guess that’s more of an amusing anecdote than useful information.