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The Real Time It Takes for a Proper Tire Alignment: From Start to Finish

Car on wheel alignment machine

Wheel alignments are necessary when a vehicle's wheels become out of alignment due to either normal wear and tear of steering and suspension components or damage from impacting things like curbs and potholes.

How long a tire alignment takes depends on factors such as how badly the vehicle's wheels are out of alignment and whether or not parts need to be replaced. But generally, it will take between 30 and 60 minutes from when you arrive for your appointment to when you leave.

Misaligned wheels should be fixed as soon as possible as they pose a significant safety hazard, make driving tiring, and will reduce your fuel economy.

Table Of Contents [show]

    Car on wheel alignment machine
    Car on wheel alignment machine

    How Long Does It Take to Do a Tire Alignment?

    How long an alignment takes depends on a few factors, including how badly the vehicle is out of alignment, the model of the computerized wheel alignment machine used, and the mechanic's experience level. Generally, you can expect the alignment to take between 30 minutes to an hour.

    To do the alignment, the mechanic will position your vehicle's wheels into a wheel alignment machine that carefully measures and adjusts the following angles:

    • Toe Angle - The horizontal angle of your wheels, which usually shifts inward over time

    • Camber Angle - The vertical angle of your wheels, which also tends to turn inward over time

    • Caster Angle - The angle of the steering axis, which connects to the steering wheel

    Different wheel alignment angles described
    Different wheel alignment angles described

    Can an Alignment be Done in 20 Minutes?

    Although it's possible to do a basic alignment in 20 minutes, it shouldn't be expected. The wheel alignment procedure involves many steps and requires attention to detail while fine-tuning the vehicle's steering components and suspension system.

    Like most professionals, mechanics don't like to be rushed and do their best work at their own pace. So it's best to leave your vehicle at the auto repair shop early in the day and come back in the afternoon to pick it up.

    How Long Does a Tire Change and Alignment Take?

    A tire change and a wheel alignment will generally take about an hour and a half. Changing the tires involves removing the old tires, installing the new tires, and wheel balancing each tire and rim.

    How Long Does a Tire Rotation and Alignment Take?

    A tire rotation and wheel alignment take about an hour to an hour and a half. A tire rotation is the process of removing and moving each tire to a different part of the vehicle to reduce uneven wear. Rotating your tires regularly, at least halfway through their lifespan, will reduce how often you need to buy new tires.

    Mechanic working with alignment machine
    Mechanic working with alignment machine

    What Causes Alignment to be Off?

    What causes a vehicle's wheel alignment to be off can be problems caused by poor driving habits, such as bad suspension angles caused by bent suspension components from hitting curbs or potholes. In addition, worn parts like steering bushing, ball joints, and wheel bearings will also throw a vehicle's alignment out of wack.

    Driving over potholes can cause your tires to go out of alignment
    Driving over potholes can cause your tires to go out of alignment

    How Do I Know I Need an Alignment?

    Although it's not as easy to gauge when you need an alignment, here are some tell-tale signs to help you out:

    1. Your tires wear unevenly: If you notice that your tires are wearing unevenly, it's a good indication that your vehicle may need a tire alignment. Several factors can cause uneven tire wear, but one of the most common is an alignment issue.

    2. Your vehicle pulls to one side: If you find that your vehicle is pulling to one side while driving, it's another sign that you may need a tire alignment. This is usually caused by one or more of your tires not being properly aligned with the others.

    3. Your steering wheel is not centered: If you notice your steering wheel is not centered when driving straight, it's a good indication that your vehicle's alignment is off. This can be caused by several other problems but is most often caused by a misalignment.

    4. You hear unusual noises coming from your tires: If you hear unusual noises, such as squealing or grinding, coming from your tires, it's a good indication that your vehicle may need a tire alignment.

    5. Steering wheel vibration: A steering wheel vibration can be caused by many things like a tire out of balance, worn steering bushings, a worn suspension system, and bad wheel alignment.

    Do You Need an Alignment After Brakes?

    Generally speaking, you shouldn't need an alignment after replacing or repairing the breaks. The only exception is if damaged brakes pulled your wheels out of alignment. Simply changing your brake pads with not affect the angle or positioning of your wheel.

    Do You Need an Alignment After Replacing All 4 Tires?

    Technically speaking, you don't have to have an alignment after replacing all four tires, but it is a good idea. If you're replacing all four tires, it's probably because they're quite worn down, which means your vehicle's alignment has probably shifted a little since your last maintenance.

    It's best to get it checked and adjusted just to be safe.

    What Gets Adjusted During an Alignment?

    Although it's commonly called a “tire” adjustment, the mechanic isn't doing anything to the tire. Instead, they will adjust the resting angle of the wheel and steering axis.

    The mechanic will position your vehicle into special clamps that measure your wheels' various angles (toe, camber, and caster) before gently shifting them into the perfect position. Your mechanic will also stabilize the steering wheel so that it is perfectly upright when your wheels are positioned forward.

    How Often Should I Get an Alignment?

    Regarding tire alignments, most mechanics recommend running a diagnostic test every 6,000 miles or every two oil changes. Although in our opinion, this is a bit unnecessary, and you can stretch this out to 30,000 miles if you aren't experiencing any problems.

    However, if you're experiencing any of the tell-tale signs mentioned previously, don't hesitate to bring your car in for a checkup.

    Computerized wheel alignment machines are very precise
    Computerized wheel alignment machines are very precise

    Four-Wheel Alignment vs. Two-Wheel Alignment?

    As you can probably tell, a four-wheel alignment measures and adjusts the angle of all four wheels, whereas a two-wheel alignment, a front-end alignment, only measures and adjusts the two front wheels. Most modern cars and compact SUVs have independent rear axles and will require a four-wheel alignment.

    If you drive an older vehicle or a large SUV or truck, your vehicle may have a solid rear axle and will not need a four-wheel alignment. Your mechanic will be able to tell the difference and can recommend the necessary service.

    How Long? Four-Wheel Alignment vs. Two-Wheel Alignment?

    It may seem logical to assume that a two-wheel alignment will take half as long as a four-wheel alignment, but, in reality, the difference is marginal. On average, a two-wheel alignment will still take over half an hour to complete, whereas a four-wheel alignment can take between half an hour and a full hour.

    What are “Toe-n-Go” Alignments?

    A “toe-n-go” alignment is often advertised as a quick and easy way to get your vehicle's alignment back in order. However, this type of alignment only adjusts the toe, or horizontal, angle of your wheels and does not consider the other angles (camber and caster).

    A toe-n-go alignment is not recommended to fix your vehicle's alignment and can cause more problems than it solves.

    If you're experiencing alignment issues, it's best to take your vehicle to a qualified mechanic for a full alignment.

    How Much Does Wheel Alignment Cost?

    The cost of a wheel alignment can vary depending on the type of vehicle you have, the severity of the misalignment, and the location of the auto repair shop. However, on average, you can expect to pay between $50 and $150 for a wheel alignment.

    If you have a four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive vehicle, you can expect to pay a little more, as these vehicles require special equipment to align all four wheels properly. Two-wheel alignments (front-end alignments) are also generally cheaper, but only by $25 or so.

    If you are paying for new tires or a tire rotation, you will also be charged for the cost of the materials and labor required to perform that maintenance. However, the wheel alignment cost does not factor in the price of new tires.

    Mechanic performing wheel alignment
    Mechanic performing wheel alignment


    A tire alignment on its own is a simple procedure that should take no longer than 60 minutes to complete. However, if your tires need to be rebalanced or replaced, or you need parts replaced, such as a steering bushing or bent tie rod, the tire alignment may take longer.

    If you suspect a serious problem, the best thing you can do is bring your vehicle into the shop in the morning and expect to leave your vehicle there all day.