What Is a Front-End Alignment? Average Wait Time & Cost

October 18th, 2021 by

A front-end alignment is a routine maintenance that can improve handling, enhance tire life, and even increase your fuel efficiency. Unfortunately, many car owners confuse front-end alignment with wheel balancing, but the two are different. This article discusses everything you need to know about a front-end alignment, including the cost of the procedure and how long it takes.

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What Is a Front End Alignment?

A front-end alignment, or two-wheel alignment, refers to a type of alignment used to adjust only the front wheels so that they run parallel to the center of the vehicle. This is achieved by adjusting the suspension components to the proper angles. The operation ensures that the front wheels rotate in unison and travel in the same direction for optimal performance of the suspension system.

Technicians can choose to perform just a front-end alignment instead of a four-wheel alignment, which adjusts the suspension components for all the wheels of a vehicle. However, even if your car doesn’t have an independent suspension system, the front-end alignment may be most suitable for older vehicles with less advanced suspension systems.

How Long Does a Front-End Alignment Take?

A typical front-end alignment job takes about one hour at a shop with the right equipment and experienced technicians. However, several other factors can determine the duration of the operation. The location of the service center, their workload, the model and make of your vehicle, the amount of alignment that needs to be performed, and several other factors can affect how long you will spend in the shop.

How Much Does a Front-End Alignment Cost?

A front-end alignment can cost anywhere from $50 to $100, depending on the severity of the problem. There is no fixed cost for a front-end alignment because several factors can affect the price. If you are considering performing a front-end alignment in Youngstown, the best way to know the cost is to visit a service center. The procedure is relatively affordable, but the process is complex and each vehicle has specific alignment specifications technicians must follow to achieve the desired result.

What Adjustments Are Performed During a Front-End Alignment?

Technicians perform three major adjustments during wheel alignment:

  • Camber: Camber is the inward or outward angle of a tire when you view it from the front of a vehicle. This adjusts the tilt of the tire relative to the road.
  • Caster: This is the angle of a vehicle’s steering axis along the vehicle’s side. It helps improve steering, stability, and cornering ability.
  • Toe: This is the inward or outward turning of a vehicle’s tires when viewed from its center.

What Causes Bad Wheel Alignment?

Here are the major causes of bad wheel alignment:

  • Sudden impact: Hitting the suspension system with something suddenly, such as being involved in a road accident, bumping a curb, or driving into a pothole at high speed, can cause misalignment.
  • Wear and tear: You can also get bad alignment because of the effects of wear and tear of the suspension components. Slack suspension springs, loose stabilizer links, torn bushings, and leaky struts can all lead to misalignment. Ensuring that you perform regular maintenance of the suspension system can prevent such problems.
  • Height adjustments: Your car’s suspension system is designed specifically to work based on its height. If you lift or drop the vehicle’s height for performance or aesthetic reasons without performing the required suspension modifications, you might need to get a wheel alignment.

Dangers of Driving With a Misaligned Vehicle

Driving a misaligned vehicle can lead to serious problems, including:

Poor Fuel Economy

One big disadvantage of driving with misaligned wheels is that it can increase your fuel bills. Misaligned wheels cause the tires to drag along the pavement, instead of rolling smoothly over it. This means there is more resistance between the tires and the road, which requires more effort from the vehicle, and so you use more fuel to cover the same distance.

Difficult Braking

You may also find it more difficult to stop your vehicle if the wheels are misaligned. The reason for this is that the wheels are not rotating at the same speed and traveling in the same direction, so when you apply the brakes, it doesn’t have the same effect on the four tires. This can increase your braking distance, which can be dangerous in some situations.

Damaged Tires

Misaligned wheels can cause uneven and premature tire wear. Because the tires are not parallel, they tend to wear at different rates. The excessive pressure of misalignment can also cause the tires to blow out when you are driving, which is a potentially dangerous situation. Rotating your tires can help prevent uneven wear.

Difficult Handling

Misaligned wheels can have a mind of their own, which can make steering the vehicle difficult and dangerous. When you have bad alignment, your wheels travel in different directions, and this can make handling and control stressful. In severe cases, the vehicle might lean to one side and you may have to drag the steering wheel to point your car straight ahead on the road. When this happens, you might be dealing with serious suspension issues beyond misalignment.

Severe Shaking and Vibrations

Does your car shake or vibrate violently, especially at a bend or a turn? Misaligned wheels can cause these symptoms, and they are often because of uneven tire wear and faulty suspension components. Tires that wear at different rates can have the same level of contact with the road, and this can lead to vibrations.

Squealing Noise From the Wheels

If you hear a squealing noise from your tires, especially when you enter potholes, you might have bad wheel alignment. A misaligned wheel is usually a sign of faulty suspension components, which often squeak and squeal as the vehicle moves.

If you notice any squealing or strange sounds coming from your tires, or any of the above signs, take your car to a service center to have the problem diagnosed and fixed as soon as possible before it leads to more severe suspension issues.

Posted in Auto Service Tips