• Do I Really Need an Alignment for My Vehicle?

    You don’t have to go off-roading or hit hundreds of potholes and speed bumps to cause alignment issues. Everyday driving can put your wheels out of alignment. Over time, those misaligned tire and wheel assemblies will impact your gas mileage (MPG), cause tires to wear out faster, and reduce drivability. Here’s why you need regular wheel alignments and how Les Schwab can help.


    What Is a Wheel Alignment?

    A wheel alignment is the process of adjusting the angles of your vehicle’s steering and suspension components back to original specifications. This means the front and rear wheels are in alignment with the vehicle’s centerline — optimizing driveability and fuel efficiency. An alignment is done using a special machine that measures the wheel angles against your vehicle’s original specs. The technician then makes adjustments as needed.

    When your vehicle needs to be realigned, the experts at Les Schwab will do an alignment that is most appropriate for your vehicle. These may include 4-wheel alignment for front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and most passenger vehicles, and thrust alignment for many larger trucks and SUVs.

    Illustration of a Centerline


    Why Your Alignment Is Important

    Regular alignments should be done twice a year as part of your basic auto maintenance. Why? Because misaligned tire and wheel assemblies will impact your gas mileage, cause tires to wear out faster, and reduce drivability.

    When your vehicle is in alignment, all four wheels will be pointed the same direction and lined up from front to rear and contacting the road at the proper angle.

    How Your Vehicle Gets Out of Alignment

    Dirt roads, bumpy highways, potholes, as well as hitting curbs and speed bumps can throw your vehicle out of alignment. Additionally, alignment issues will happen slowly over time due to normal wear and tear.

    To quickly analyze your car’s alignment, ask yourself these questions during your next drive:

    • Does your car or truck pull to one side when driving?
    • Is your steering wheel turned slightly to one side when driving straight?
    • When you come out of a turn, does your steering wheel return to center easily? In other words, does it go back to center (or nearly center) without a lot of work from you.
    • Are you constantly making small steering corrections on the highway or freeway?
    • Do you have excessive wear on the inside or outside of one or more of your tires?

    Answering yes to any of the above could mean your car or truck needs an alignment. However, because alignment issues can be tough to spot, it’s a good idea to have yours checked twice per year even if you don’t notice any issues.

    Les Schwab Tip: It’s a common misconception that you only need an alignment when the vehicle is handling improperly. This is often not the case. Getting your alignment checked twice per year can prevent unexpected tire wear and/or fuel economy.


    Common Wheel Misalignment Signs & Symptoms

    It’s important to maintain proper wheel alignment on your vehicle. While getting your alignment done once or twice a year is advisable, there are other times when an alignment may be necessary to avoid loss of gas mileage and excessive tire wear.

    This can include any of the following:

    You Get New Tires:

    We recommend an alignment after the installation of new tires. This helps you get the most life from your new tires. Wheel alignment checks are always advised after a significant impact or uneven tire wear is detected.

    You Lower or Lift Your Vehicle:

    Lifting or lowering a vehicle will affect your toe, camber or caster angles. So will repair or replacement of suspension and steering parts — struts, shocks, ball joints, tie rods, bushings or control arms. If one of these components is damaged, it’s a pretty good bet your vehicle’s alignment is out of spec.

    Adjustments or Replacement of Suspension Parts:

    This can affect the angle of your tires and wheels.

    You’ve Had a Fender-bender or a Hard Impact With a Curb or Road Debris:

    This can include potholes and other hazards. Stop by Les Schwab and we’ll do a free visual inspection.

    It’s Been a Year Since Your Last One:

    An annual alignment can help save you money and add safety to your outings and everyday commute.

    You Notice Uneven Tire Wear or Uneven Steering Wheel:

    The most common signs of misalignment are pulling to one side while you’re driving, unusual tire wear and/or a steering wheel that’s off-center even though your vehicle is pointed straight. But these symptoms can have other causes, sometimes simpler and sometimes not.

    An off-center steering wheel can be caused by worn steering or suspension parts. Just getting an alignment may not fix the root cause.

    Irregular tire wear isn’t only limited to suspension parts, fender-benders, or alignment issues, but it’s a good place to start. Stop by Les Schwab for a free pre-trip safety check, which includes a visual inspection of alignment and related steering and suspension components that keep you safe on the road.

    Les Schwab Tip: There’s no downside to an alignment check at Les Schwab. If we check your alignment and it doesn’t need any work, you won’t pay a thing.

    Steering Pull Can Also Be Caused by Road Conditions

    If the asphalt has grooves that are slightly farther apart than your car’s axles, you may feel a pull as the tires on one side ride slightly higher. If the road is noticeably higher in the center, the vehicle may veer as the tires try to find a level surface.

    Les Schwab Tip: Vibration while underway is often a symptom of out-of-balance tires, not bad alignment.


    What Is Your Technician Looking for During an Alignment Service

    When you get your alignment done at Les Schwab, you’ll get our Best Alignment and Suspension Value Promise along with a job done right the first time. You’ll also get the full attention of one of our professional, certified technicians using best-in-class laser technology.

    When they’re done, they’ll have your vehicle back in alignment, including the camber, caster, and toe.

    Camber Affects Tire Wear

    The inward and outward tilt of the tire and wheel assembly (viewed from the front of the vehicle) is called camber. When the top of the tire is leaning inward, it is a negative camber. Positive camber has the top of the tire tilting outward. Each manufacturer sets a specific camber alignment for every vehicle it produces, which might be either positive, negative or zero (0º). When the camber is at the correct angle, the tire and wheel will roll straight.

    Generally, camber plays a key role in cornering performance. If the camber is out of the manufacturer’s range, it can cause handling issues and excessive tire wear, which costs you money. If a vehicle has rear-camber adjustments, adjusting the rear camber, in addition to the front, plays a big role in straight-line stability and cornering.

    Illustration of Camber
    Image: Hunter Engineering Company

    Caster Affects Steering and Handling

    Ever tried to ride a bicycle without using your hands? The fact you could meant that your bicycle had a positive caster. If the caster had been zero (0º) or negative, riding that way would be nearly impossible. The same can be said for your vehicle.

    Modern vehicles run a certain amount of positive caster with the steering axis tilted rearward toward the driver. While caster doesn’t affect tire wear like camber, it does have a big impact on steering and handling.

    The higher the caster, the more stability a vehicle will have at higher speeds. Lower caster equals more responsive handling.

    Illustration of Caster
    Image: Hunter Engineering Company

    Toe Is the Most Important Angle for Tire Life

    Of all the angles, the toe can fall out of alignment the easiest. A toe that is properly calibrated to manufacturer specifications (which can be either slightly positive or negative) will be at zero (0º) when on the road. This means all of the tire and wheel assemblies (front and rear) are pointing in the same direction.

    What does it mean when the toe is out of alignment? It means your tires are wearing out faster than they should and you’re burning more fuel than is necessary. When the toe is at the correct angle, there’s less friction on the tires as they roll. When they are facing away from each other (toe-out) or toward each other (toe-in), they’re essentially scrubbing on the road ever so slightly with every passing mile.

    Illustration of Toe
    Image: Hunter Engineering Company

    Measurements Before and After an Alignment

    printout of measurements before alignment printout of measurements after alignment


    Tips Before Getting Service

    Because the measurements are very fine, misalignment is not something you can see by just eyeballing whether the wheels and tire angles look right. But an experienced tire technician will usually know if you’re overdue for an alignment just by looking at your tire wear.

    Here’s what to know if the service is recommended:

    • If you have a damaged suspension part, replace it first. Worn or bad parts will put your vehicle right back out of spec.
    • The technician may recommend a thrust alignment or a four-wheel alignment. Here’s a primer to understand what they’re talking about.
    • Before service, let the tech know you’d like a printout showing what your alignment measurements were prior to the work being done and the final settings for your records.

    We’ll Check Your Alignment for Free

    Regular alignments are part of basic maintenance that help you get full mileage out of your tires. The pros at your local Les Schwab can take a look at your vehicle’s suspension and alignment components and let you know if you need any repairs. If everything is okay, it won’t cost you a thing. But if you do need an alignment, we’ll tell you what it will cost, give you a time estimate, and send you on your way with a Best Alignment and Suspension Value Promise, which includes a 30-day guarantee.


    Schedule an Appointment
  • How Do I Know If My Tires Need to Be Balanced?

    Tire balancing is a tune-up for your wheel-tire set. It makes sure that weight is evenly distributed around the entire circumference of the unit. The common symptoms of out-of-balance tires are uneven and faster tread wear, poor fuel economy, and vibration in the steering wheel, the floorboard or the seat that gets worse at faster speeds.

    When all areas of the wheel-tire unit are as equal in weight as possible, the tire will roll smoothly. This helps it wear evenly, for longest life. Balancing also contributes to ride comfort: Imbalanced tires will wobble or hop up and down, which causes vibration. If a front tire isn’t properly balanced you’ll likely feel vibration in the steering wheel. If the problem is in the rear the tremor will be noticeable in the seat or floor.

    Imbalanced tires are easily corrected, but the work is precise. It’s done by attaching small weights, just fractions of ounces, to the wheel.


    How Do Wheels Get Out of Balance?

    Everyday wear on tires will contribute to imbalance. Normal manufacturing imperfections are also a cause: Tires and wheels don’t have precisely equal weight distribution. They’ll be slightly heavier in some spots.

    Just half an ounce in weight difference is enough to cause a vibration when you’re driving.


    How Tires Are Rebalanced

    Rebalancing is done in a tire shop by putting the wheel-tire unit on a tire balancing machine that takes measurements to pinpoint lighter or heavier areas and making adjustments to account for these weight differences. The best time to get it done is when tires are being rotated, both for convenience and because you might have a tire out of balance on the rear of the vehicle and won’t feel it until it is moved to the front.

    Here’s how it’s done:

    1. A tire mounted on a wheel is attached to a tire balancing machine.

    2. The wheel is spun while vibration measurements are taken. This tells the tech if the weight is spread evenly, how much weight to add and where on the wheel to attach it.

    3. If an imbalance is found, the technician may be able to rebalance and adjust the weights (adding more). But sometimes it requires the tech to also move the tire on the wheel and then rebalance. This is because a heavy spot on the wheel and on the tire can sometimes line up together, causing a greater imbalance that needs to be corrected.

    Wheel weight on tire


    Balancing Versus Alignment

    Though both should be part of regular auto maintenance, balancing isn’t the same as getting an alignment. Wheel alignment corrects the angles of the tires so they travel in the same direction and make contact with the road properly. Alignment reduces uneven tire wear and extends the life of your tires. Oftentimes tire balancing and alignment are perceived to be the same thing, but are not.


    When to Get Tire Balancing Done:

    • You feel vibration in the steering wheel, the floorboard or your seat.
    • You get them rotated, generally every 5,000 miles.
    • At the very least every two years, once yearly if you drive rough roads.
    • You get a flat and repair a tire.
    • You buy any new tire(s).
    • A weight that used to be on the rim falls off.
    • You notice uneven tire wear.

    Tire balancing and rotation are often done at the same time, but they aren’t the same service. Tire rotation is when a vehicle’s front and rear wheels are switched to even out tread wear between them. Since both require removing each wheel, it’s convenient to do them at the same time.

    Vibration when underway could be caused by an imbalanced tire and wheel assembly or something else — a bent wheel, a damaged tire (which won’t be fixed by balancing), worn suspension parts or other aging components. If you feel a vibration, don’t wait to get it diagnosed. You’ll head off other problems — and enjoy a smoother ride — when your tires are well balanced.


    Schedule an Appointment
  • How to: Make Your Tires Last Longer

    Do you like plunking down your hard-earned money on a new set of tires? Unless you’re a true enthusiast, probably not. If you want to extend the life of your tires, improve your car’s ride, and have a safer drive, follow these four quick tips.


    1. Check Your Tire Air Pressure Monthly

    Take the easiest step to extend tire life: Maintain the correct air pressure. The wrong air pressure can cause sluggish handling, increase stopping distance, increase wear and tear and heighten the risk of a blowout. Tire pressure changes:

    • Every month. Tires can lose about a pound per square inch (PSI) of pressure monthly.
    • In winter, when colder temperatures can lower air pressure.
    • In summer, when warm weather increases tire air pressure.

    Checking tire pressure with a round tire pressure gauge
    Check tire pressure monthly

    This isn’t just about money, either. Proper tire pressure is important for safety. A National Highway Transportation Safety Administration Crash Causation Survey found tire issues in one out of 11 crashes. (Source: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811617.pdf [PDF]) Correct air pressure improves fuel efficiency. Underinflated tires mean you’re getting fewer miles to the gallon and paying more for gas than you need to. You can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. (See more gas mileage tips at http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/drive.shtml.) The right tire pressure is an easy "win." Go check!


    2. Get Your Tires Rotated Every 5,000 Miles

    In most cars, only one or two wheels “drive” the car at a time. That can cause uneven tire wear. For example, on front-wheel drive vehicles, front tires wear faster. On rear-wheel drive vehicles, it’s the back tires. Even all-wheel drive vehicles can see uneven wear, as most shift the drive from one wheel to another. A technician rotates your tires by moving them to different wheel positions on the vehicle. That gives tires on drive wheels a rest and evens out wear. Rotation makes tires last longer. Do it every 5,000 miles.

    Schedule a Tire Rotation


    3. Have Wheels Balanced

    Tire rotation is a great time to get your wheels balanced, as well. Every tire and wheel has a heavy spot in it. None is perfect, even when brand new. The difference is tiny, measured in one-quarter to one-half ounces. But that small difference can cause vibration and uneven tire wear. Your mechanic can balance each wheel using a specialized machine and small weights. As the tire wears, he may need to move or change that weight. It’s a fast, easy process that costs a lot less than a new tire! Make sure you get your tires’ balance checked and adjusted during rotation.

    Wheel and tire on whel balancing machine.
    Get wheels balanced

    Schedule a Wheel Balance


    4. Check Your Alignment Twice a Year

    Misalignment may make your tires toed-in (“pigeon-toed”) or toed-out (“duck-footed”).

    Toed-in and toed-out misalignment
    Toed-in and toed-out misalignment

    If your car actively pulls or drifts right or left, or the steering wheel vibrates or shakes, your car may have an alignment problem. But your car or truck could be driving fine and still be out of alignment. When you bump up against a parking lot barrier, hit a pothole, or hit the curb, something has to give, and it’s often your alignment. The smallest misalignment can reduce fuel efficiency, and increase tread wear. Your mechanic can adjust your car’s alignment. Take your car in for a check every six months. Or whenever you think something is wrong. A little maintenance can help save a lot of money. Follow these easy, inexpensive tire maintenance tips and you can increase tire life. You’ll also improve gas mileage, extend the life of your car, and make your drive a safer one. You can start right now: Check your tire pressure. See? That wasn’t hard, and you just saved yourself some money.

    Schedule a Free Visual Alignment Check

  • Benefits of Proper Alignment, Suspension Maintenance

    Why Alignment Matters

    In its simplest form, alignment is keeping all of the tires on your vehicle moving in the same direction and at the same angle to maximize control and driving efficiency.

    A vehicle with proper alignment handles correctly, achieves optimal fuel efficiency and maximizes tire life.

    On the other hand, a vehicle with poor alignment pulls or drifts on the road, wastes fuel, and causes premature and uneven tire wear. Poor alignment puts your safety at risk.

    Here’s another way to think about alignment. In a poorly aligned vehicle, each wheel may be pointing in a slightly different direction, which means each tire will be skidding just a little whenever you drive. If your tires are perpetually skidding, they not only wear out prematurely but also make it harder for your vehicle to move. This puts extra stress on your vehicle, consumes more fuel and costs you money.

    How does your car get out of alignment and what’s needed to get back into alignment? A car comes aligned by the factory when it’s purchased new. Its alignment can change over the course of normal driving. Poor alignment might happen faster from driving on rough roads or hitting potholes, curbs and other obstacles.

    Les Schwab tech performs alignment

    There are a number of different procedures and techniques to align a vehicle. In general, they all work toward getting your car’s wheels and tires to do two basic things:

    • Get them all traveling in the same direction.
    • Get the tires to strike the road at the proper angle.

    There are several different types of alignments available today. Your Les Schwab alignment professional will review with you all the types of alignment appropriate for your vehicle.

    Not sure if your vehicle needs an alignment? Just ask. If we inspect your vehicle and find your wheels are within the factory specified range, we won’t charge you a penny. If you do need it aligned, however, our work is backed by our Les Schwab warranty.


    Why Suspension Matters

    Now let’s talk about suspension. Your car is suspended by a unique combination of springs, shocks or struts. Shock absorbers aid in ride control by keeping the tires on the road and preventing excess bounce after hitting a bump.

    Les Schwab tech installs shocks

    Keeping your tires on the road is the only way you keep control of your car. Worn or damaged shocks don’t keep your tires on the road like they’re supposed to, which means you have less control over your vehicle. This is especially dangerous on rough and winding roads.

    Because worn or damaged shocks aren’t doing their job, additional problems can happen, including accelerated wear on other parts of your suspension system and tires, costing you even more money in the future.


    Is My Suspension Bad?

    Because shocks and struts wear slowly over time, it’s sometimes difficult to know if they’re working properly or not. Not sure if your suspension needs work? Here are a few symptoms to look for:

    • Does your vehicle feel like it rolls or sways on turns?
    • Does the front end of your car dive when braking, then bounce when stopped?
    • Does your car bounce or feel like it’s sliding on winding or rough roads?
    • Does your car bottom out on bumps?
    • Can you feel your car shimmying back and forth through the steering wheel when you drive?

    If so, you’ll want to have one of our trained suspension experts take a look at your vehicle.

    Following industry inspection procedures, we’ll check to see if any of your suspension parts need to be replaced. If so, we’ll provide you with a complete cost estimate free of charge, so you can make an informed decision. Les Schwab Tires uses only professional grade parts. And, they’re backed with Les Schwab’s Parts and Labor Warranty.

    Alignment, suspension, shocks and struts are all important parts of enjoying a safe, comfortable ride in your vehicle. Properly maintained, they will not only help to keep you safe but will also save you money in increased fuel efficiency and lower repair and replacement costs.

    If you have questions about your suspension or your alignment, ask one of our helpful trained professionals at a store near you.


    Schedule an Alignment
  • Wheel Alignment FAQ


    What Is a Wheel Alignment?

    Though it’s sometimes subtle, the alignment of your wheels can get out of whack from everyday driving. This reduces your vehicle’s drivability, lowers gas mileage and causes early tire wear. An alignment is the process of adjusting the angles of your vehicle’s wheels back within original specifications to improve their contact with the road.


    Are Wheel Alignments Necessary?

    An alignment improves vehicle safety by keeping the right amount of the tire in contact with the road and preventing your vehicle from pulling to the left or right. A properly aligned vehicle has a smoother ride and optimal gas mileage. Keeping the wheels aligned also extends tire life.


    What Affects Wheel Alignment?

    Over time, normal settling of the suspension, including fatigue of springs and bushings (rubber cushions that dampen the amount of movement and noise), will gradually change alignment. Hitting a pothole, going over big bumps, rubbing up against a curb or rolling over debris can also push wheels out of alignment. Additionally, aggressive driving, carrying heavy loads, bent or worn suspension/steering parts, or a slight fender-bender can trigger misalignment. To improve your vehicle safety, get your vehicle aligned twice a year or when you buy new tires. Other times to get your alignment checked include:

    • After a sharp impact with a curb or pothole

    • If you go offroading a lot

    • When tires are wearing unevenly

    • Anytime you lower or lift your vehicle

    • When steering or suspension parts that affect the tire angles are replaced

    • If you notice your vehicle drifts or pulls to one side

    • If the steering wheel is off-center when you’re pointing straight

    • After an accident


    How Can I Tell If My Vehicle is Misaligned?

    Even if your vehicle is out of alignment, you might not notice it over time. Indications of a misaligned vehicle include:

    Icon showing uneven tire wear

    Uneven
    Tire Wear


    Icon showing an off-center steering wheel

    Steering Wheel
    Off-Center


    Icon showing a vehicle pulling to the right

    Pulling or Drifting
    When Steering



    Can Misalignment Cause Steering Wheel Vibration?

    Not likely. Vibrations in the steering wheel, the floorboard or the seat (especially at highway or freeway speeds) is likely a sign that one or more of your tire/wheel assemblies is out-of-balance, or you are experiencing another tire issue.


    Can Misalignment Cause Noise?

    No. Generally, any noise from misalignment is caused by abnormal tire wear. If tires are the source of road noise, an alignment correction may be needed. However, this won’t solve the noise problem.


    Will Misalignment Affect My Tires?

    Yes. If they show moderate-to-severe edge wear or feathered wear, it likely means they’re out of alignment. This is often an indicator that the toe or the camber angle is off.

    Toe and camber misalignment graphic

    Camber Affects Wear and Cornering: The inward and outward tilt of the tire and wheel assembly (viewed from the front of the vehicle) is called camber. When the top of the tire is leaning inward, it is a negative camber. Positive camber has the top of the tire tilting outward. Each manufacturer sets a specific camber alignment for every vehicle it produces, which might be either positive, negative or zero (0º). When the camber is at the correct angle, the tire and wheel will roll straight.

    Generally, camber plays a key-role in cornering performance. If the camber is out of the manufacturer’s range, it can cause handling issues and excessive tire wear, which costs you money. If a vehicle has rear-camber adjustments, adjusting the rear camber plays a big role in straight-line stability and cornering.

    Toe Is the Most Important Angle for Tire Life: Of all the angles, the toe can fall out of alignment the easiest. A toe that is properly calibrated to manufacturer specifications (which can be either slightly positive or negative) will be at zero (0º) when on the road. This means all of the tire and wheel assemblies (front and rear) are pointing in the same direction. When the toe is at the correct angle, there’s less friction on the tires as they roll. When they are facing away from each other (toe-out) or toward each other (toe-in), they’re essentially scrubbing on the road ever so slightly with every passing mile. This can reduce tire life.


    Will Misalignment Affect My Tires?

    Toe and camber misalignment graphic

    Yes. If they show moderate-to-severe edge wear or feathered wear, it likely means they’re out of alignment. This is often an indicator that the toe or the camber angle is off.

    Camber Affects Wear and Cornering: The inward and outward tilt of the tire and wheel assembly (viewed from the front of the vehicle) is called camber. When the top of the tire is leaning inward, it is a negative camber. Positive camber has the top of the tire tilting outward. Each manufacturer sets a specific camber alignment for every vehicle it produces, which might be either positive, negative or zero (0º). When the camber is at the correct angle, the tire and wheel will roll straight.

    Generally, camber plays a key-role in cornering performance. If the camber is out of the manufacturer’s range, it can cause handling issues and excessive tire wear, which costs you money. If a vehicle has rear-camber adjustments, adjusting the rear camber plays a big role in straight-line stability and cornering.

    Toe Is the Most Important Angle for Tire Life: Of all the angles, the toe can fall out of alignment the easiest. A toe that is properly calibrated to manufacturer specifications (which can be either slightly positive or negative) will be at zero (0º) when on the road. This means all of the tire and wheel assemblies (front and rear) are pointing in the same direction. When the toe is at the correct angle, there’s less friction on the tires as they roll. When they are facing away from each other (toe-out) or toward each other (toe-in), they’re essentially scrubbing on the road ever so slightly with every passing mile. This can reduce tire life.


    How Are Wheel Alignments Done?

    A wheel alignment is done using an alignment machine that measures your wheel angles. These are calculated and compared against your vehicle’s original specifications.

    • The technician makes adjustments to the camber, caster, and toe of each wheel as needed.

    • A real-time computer readout shows when the target angles are met.

    • Your steering wheel is checked to ensure it is centered.

    • Finally, your vehicle is given a quick test drive.


    What Are the Types of Alignment?

    Your technician will advise what kind of alignment is best for your vehicle type. Generally, a four-wheel alignment will cost more than a standard or thrust alignment.

    Thrust Alignment: A thrust alignment is the most accurate alignment for vehicles without adjustable rear suspension. Only the front wheels are adjusted. Here’s how: There’s no guarantee both rear wheels are pointed straight ahead as they should be. One may be pointed exactly forward and the other slightly off. Or both their angles could be off. Since this can’t be adjusted, the front wheels are aligned as closely as possible to the thrust line, which is the average of where the two rear wheels point. This compensates enough to get a centered steering wheel.

    Four-Wheel Alignment: This is done on vehicles with adjustable rear suspension, to bring all four wheels of your vehicle back into your vehicle’s original specifications. All four wheels are aligned to the center of the vehicle. First, the rear axle angles are measured and adjusted, then the front. This is the best, most accurate, manufacturer-recommended alignment for vehicles with adjustable rear suspension.


    Should I Get an Alignment When I Get New Tires?

    Yes. Getting an alignment when you replace tires is one of the best ways to get the most mileage out of them. Be sure to ask for an alignment, since it’s not generally part of the tire purchase price.


    How Often Is Wheel Alignment Needed?

    Regular alignments are part of basic auto maintenance. Catching misalignment early means you can correct your wheel’s positions before you have premature tire wear. Cars usually go out of alignment gradually, so it’s important to check it at least annually, or twice a year if you travel roads that are washboard, rutted or full of potholes.


    What Other Times Should Alignment Be Checked?

    • After a sharp impact with a curb or pothole

    • If you go offroading a lot

    • When tires are wearing unevenly

    • Anytime you lower or lift your vehicle

    • When steering or suspension parts that affect the tire angles are replaced

    • If you notice your vehicle drifts or pulls to one side

    • If the steering wheel is off-center when you’re pointing straight

    • After an accident

    Les Schwab does free visual alignment inspections. If we recommend an alignment but find during the course of the work that your alignment is good and can’t be improved, there’s no charge.)


    Is Four-Wheel Alignment Only for 4-Wheel-Drive Vehicles?

    Regardless of whether they’re 4WD, front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive, most cars and many SUVs today are four-wheel alignable. These vehicles should get a four-wheel alignment because the rear is just as likely to be out of alignment and cause uneven tire wear as the front.


    Does Misalignment Affect Gas Mileage?

    Yes. When your wheels are properly aligned, there’s less rolling resistance. Tires with less rolling resistance experience less friction which may improve fuel efficiency. If the situation continues, the tires will wear unevenly and lead to worse gas mileage.


    Is Alignment the Same As Balancing?

    No. Alignment and balancing are two very different repairs. Rebalancing tires is a process of attaching small weights, just fractions of ounces, to the wheel. This ensures the weight of the wheel is even around the entire unit. Although they’re round, tires have manufacturing imperfections and wear that create lighter and heavier areas. The weights compensate for this.

    Rebalancing is done in a tire shop by putting the wheel-tire unit on a tire-balancing machine that detects imbalance in the tire/wheel assembly. This shows where the imbalance is and the amount of weight needed to counter that imbalance. It’s most often done when new tires are installed. Les Schwab performs tire balancing with every rotation. However, it is not part of an alignment.


    What’s Included With an Alignment?

    Les Schwab wheel alignments include a tire inspection, test drive before, steering and suspension inspection, tire pressure check and adjustment, alignment angles measured and adjusted, test drive after, and a printed report showing before and after measurements. Alignments done at Les Schwab Tires are covered by a 30-day guarantee, which includes labor.


    Will an Alignment Fix a Crooked Steering Wheel? Loose Steering?

    An off-center steering wheel is one sign of misalignment. A wheel alignment may restore the steering wheel to a centered position if there aren’t other undiagnosed problems.

    When alignment angles are out of the vehicle’s original specifications, steering can feel slightly loose. This condition can be corrected by a wheel alignment. But if you’re noticing a lot more steering wheel movement than normal, there may be worn steering or suspension parts. In this case, the loose parts should be identified in the pre-alignment inspection and repairs should be recommended before aligning.


    Are Wheel Alignments Covered Under Warranty?

    Check your vehicle’s owner manual for the original warranty.


    How Much Does a Wheel Alignment Cost?

    It varies according to vehicle type, shop, region and type of alignment. A quality shop will advise in advance what type is best and what it will cost before performing the work. A great shop only charges for work that is actually needed once the job is underway.


    Where Can I Get a Wheel Alignment Done?

    Les Schwab Tires offers full wheel alignment services — including adjustments and free inspections — usually without an appointment.


    How Long Does a Wheel Alignment Take?

    A wheel alignment service, once your vehicle is in our service bay, can take up to one hour. The time frame depends on the severity of the misalignment and whether or not your vehicle requires a thrust, or four-wheel alignment. The pros at your local Les Schwab Tires can give you an accurate time estimate.

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  • How Often Should I Get My Alignment Checked Per Year?

    You don’t have to go off-roading to cause alignment issues. The wheels on your car or truck will get out of alignment over time. Especially with speed bumps and potholes everywhere. Over time, those misaligned tire and wheel assemblies will impact your gas mileage (MPG), cause tires to wear out faster, and reduce drivability. That’s why it’s important to get your vehicle properly aligned at least once or twice a year as part of your basic auto maintenance. Here are some reasons why alignments are necessary, what causes misalignment, and how long it takes to get your vehicle realigned at Les Schwab.


    Yes, Alignments Are Necessary

    Check out the article Do I Really Need an Alignment for a more in-depth look at the causes and parameters of a properly aligned vehicle. In it, you’ll learn about alignment measurements, tire angles, as well as some of the issues an out-of-alignment vehicle can cause.


    What Can Affect My Vehicle’s Alignment?

    Everyday driving will cause your vehicle to go out of alignment. But some of the more common alignment-altering events include speed bumps, off-roading, potholes, rubbing along curbs, and carrying loads that are too heavy for your vehicle (or leaving too much weight in your car over a long period of time, such as household items). Other things that can impact your vehicle’s alignment include worn suspension parts, as well as when your vehicle is lifted or lowered. Check out our article on when to replace your shocks and struts.

    Things that could indicate you need an alignment:

    Hitting Curbs and Potholes

    Avoid concrete dividers in parking lots as well as potholes and other road hazards.

    Tires Showing Uneven Wear

    If you notice one or more of your tires wearing more quickly than the others, your vehicle could be out of alignment. Stop by Les Schwab and we’ll check your tires for free.

    Vehicle Drifts or Pulls

    Does your vehicle drift or pull to one side? It could be time for an alignment.

    Steering Wheel Off-Center

    If your steering wheel isn’t level when you’re driving straight, it might be a sign of a misalignment.

    When You Buy New Tires

    Anytime you buy new tires, get an alignment to prolong the life of your investment. The relatively low cost of an alignment can prevent your costly tires from wearing out too quickly.


    Getting it Straight

    A properly aligned vehicle handles correctly, achieves optimal fuel efficiency, and maximizes your tire life. When one of your tires is slightly out of alignment, it is essentially skidding. This makes that tire wear out faster. It’s also the reason your vehicle might pull or wander to one side. This can waste fuel, cost you money, and cause safety concerns. Plus, it can add unnecessary wear-and-tear to your car or truck.

    When your vehicle needs to be realigned, the experts at Les Schwab will most often perform one of these common types of alignments. These include:

    4-Wheel Alignment

    This is for vehicles that have adjustment capability at all four wheels. This is common on most front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, passenger cars, SUVs, and crossover vehicles.

    Thrust Alignment

    This is for vehicles that have an adjustment capability only available on the front axle. This includes larger trucks and SUVs with solid, rear axles.

    Remember, getting your vehicle properly aligned will not put tread back on your tires. But it will help prevent further uneven tire wear. That’s why it’s vital you have your alignment checked at least once per year (twice per year is ideal). Check out our list of Alignment FAQs for some quick answers to common questions.


    How Long Does an Alignment Take?

    A wheel alignment service, once your vehicle is in our service bay, can take up to one hour. The time frame depends on the severity of the misalignment and whether or not your vehicle requires a thrust or four-wheel alignment. The pros at your local Les Schwab Tires can give you an accurate time estimate.


    What’s Included in That Alignment?

    In addition to the alignment angles of your tire and wheel assemblies being measured and adjusted, you’ll also get a tire inspection, test drive before and after the alignment, steering and suspension inspection, and a detailed printed report.


    Schedule Your Free Visual Alignment Check

    The pros at your local Les Schwab can take a look at your vehicle’s alignment and let you know if you need any repairs. If everything looks good, it won’t cost you a thing. If you do need an alignment, we’ll get the job done right and send you home with our Best Alignment Value Promise, which includes a 30-day guarantee and a warranty on all labor costs.


    Schedule an Appointment