This is because driving a vehicle for long time results in wheel misalignment. Potholes and bumps can leave your car with misaligned wheels. If you fail to align your tires, you may start to experience steering wheel vibration.
Aligning your vehicle’s wheels is an essential aspect of vehicle maintenance.
While it is indeed frustrating having to sit and wait during the alignment maintenance, it is important. Some drivers complain that they drop their cars off for a tire alignment and go to lunch, and the alignment still isn’t done when they come back. This article will answer the question, “how long does an alignment take?”
To answer, a tire alignment takes between 30 minutes and 60 minutes. This duration starts from the time you pull up in the shop till the time you finally leave. However, the eventual duration is dependent on a few factors. These factors include the type of vehicle, type of alignment, experience of the technician handling the alignment, and the condition of your car and its components.
Below is a detailed explanation of these factors and how they affect the duration of alignment.
Type of Alignment
The following are the types of wheel alignment;
This is the most popular and also the most comprehensive type of tire alignment. More often than not, you are likely to get a four-wheel alignment when you pull up into a tire shop. This type of tire alignment involves realigning the four wheels in a vehicle even if your vehicle has more than four tires (for instance, dually trucks).
This tire alignment entails checking and adjusting the alignment on the front and rear parts of the vehicle. Ideally, a four-wheel alignment should take between 30 minutes to 60 minutes. It could also take more than one hour but only in rare cases.
Despite being comprehensive, there are other types of wheel alignment that are cheaper and faster.
One of the cheaper and faster alignment options is the two-wheel alignment option. In this type of alignment, only the two front wheels are checked and realigned. It is important to understand that a two-wheel alignment could also be for rear wheels if the car owner wishes. However, in most cases, you will find a front-end alignment.
One would expect that this type of alignment should not take as long as a four-wheel alignment would. However, the reality is that two-wheel alignments usually take about 30 minutes or more. The reason for this is that the same process goes for both four-wheel and two-wheel alignments. You will need to set the process up and tear it back down once the alignment is done.
Therefore, it is clear that two-wheel alignment is not as fast as it sounds. The question then arises, “Why do people do two wheel alignment?” seeing that it doesn’t save time. There are different reasons shops offer two-wheel alignments.
These reasons include the fact that it may be faster as the auto shop gets to complete more two-wheel alignment process in a day while still charging as much as 75% of the four-wheel alignment cost. Another reason is for solid rear axle vehicles, a front alignment will suffice.
Toe and Go Alignments
You need to bear in mind that one of the ways of getting your wheels aligned is the toe and go system. The system involves a quick adjustment of your toe in front of the vehicle. This process takes about 20 minutes, and many expert technicians do not advise this type of alignment because they believe it is a short-term solution.
However, many shops still offer this system for other reasons. First off, the toe is one of the things that could cause serious damage to the tires and result in the need for a long-term solution (full alignment). Therefore, many shop technicians try to fix this problem before it turns into a bigger one.
Another reason why shops offer the toe and go system is that their machine can only show toe adjustments, so there is nothing else the technician would do other than work on the problem shown on the machine.
Lastly, some shop technicians decide only to adjust the toe of your vehicle. Therefore, if you ever have an alignment that was completed really fast, you may want to check to ensure that you didn’t just get a toe adjustment. To check, ask for the before and after measurement, or ask the technician to explain how the process went.
Factors that Determines How Long a Wheel Alignment Take
Remember that we touched briefly on the factors that determine the duration of a wheel alignment process above. This section will delve deeper into these factors and how they affect the time taken to complete the alignment process.
Types of Vehicle
One of the most important factors that determine the time taken to get your wheels aligned. For example, a one-ton diesel pickup truck with 35 inches tires will take more time to align than a small coupe or sedan with the normal 15 to 17 inches tires.
Apart from the tire sizes, the size of the vehicle’s hood and the ease with which you can access the various components will effect the time it takes to be complete.
Condition of Components
The model of the car also determines the time taken to get wheels aligned. Newer car wheels are easier to align than old models. For example, let’s consider two car models; the 2001 Ford F-250 and the 2018 Honda Civic.
The 2018 Honda Civic is easier to align than the 2001 Ford F-250 because the Honda Civic is very easy to set up, and technicians can easily locate tie rods for adjusting the toe with little or no stress. The Ford F-250 has its adjustment components located behind the frame and suspension system enormous in size.
Also, the components of the Ford F-25o, such as screws, nuts and bolts, are likely to be seized and rusted. This makes it difficult to work with them. To avoid stripping any of the old components, technicians may have to use lubricants or a torch to heat the components and help them break loose. All of these efforts take time and inadvertently adds to the duration of the wheel alignment process.
Comparatively, the 2018 Civic is more likely to have newer components that are easy to work with.
Experience of the Technician
The technical know-how and experience of the technician handling the process also plays a vital role in the alignment duration. Experienced ASE-Certified technicians take less time to complete the alignment than a less experienced technician. This holds for almost all types of service carried out on a vehicle.
How To Align Wheels
There are seven simple steps in the wheel alignment process. They include:
- Test drive the vehicle to check for the wheel misalignment and the type of correction it needs.
- Decide on the type of wheels alignment that you need. It could be the front-end alignment that coincides with the front axle and is ideal for people with two-wheel drive vehicles or the thrust alignment that best works with vehicles with a solid rear axle.
- Use a lifting mechanism (an alignment machine can also suffice) to raise the vehicle in the air.
- The technician then goes under the vehicle and checks the suspension system components, checking the tires and the steering wheel, among other things. The technician would need to replace any damaged or worn-out components and change the tire pressure to the recommended pressure for all four tires.
- Connect the vehicle to the alignment machine. You may need to change the suspension angles to accommodate the car manufacturer’s specifications. The suspension areas you get to work with include the positive caster, thrust, toe and camber.
- After adjusting the angles, check to confirm that the steering bushing and wheel is now centralized. A perfect alignment job will give you a centralized steering wheel.
- Test drive the vehicle again to confirm the alignment.