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Old 03-09-2011, 10:27 AM   #45 (permalink)
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Retired mechanic and body repair here. Mostly good information from everyone. I never paid to have the wheels aligned on any of my cars in the last decade, but I do carefully monitor tire wear, which is your best indicator of alignment condition.

On a 2006 Corolla the alignment was off at front and rear from the factory, and caused excess tire wear that was detectable before 10 k miles. After the run around at the selling dealer I took it to another dealer where a long time friend was service manager.

Ended up getting a free new set of tires, a replacement rear axle beam, and the mounting points for the rear axle "tweaked" by a frame shop ( I paid nothing) at 20 k miles.

That was on a brand new car with 6 miles on the odometer when I bought it brand new.

The last two (of 3) cars I bought were wrecked when I bought them. Neither have been aligned. The first was my VX and the right rear wheel camber was way off due to frame damage. When the frame was properly repaired the wheel alignment was correct. Nothing on the suspension had been impacted in the collision, the car tracked perfect and the tire wear was less than 10 thousandths of a inch difference after 20 k miles on all 4 tires!

The second car was my current Altima Coupe, which was hit in the rear and driven into another car in the front. It was totalled but had no damage that affected the drive ability and suspension, so it has not been aligned. The tires are wearing evenly and I see no reason to pay for an unnecessary alignment.

If you have a REASON to do an alignment or can get one done cheap or free, then it may be worth it to check and adjust. I owned an Insight and it would "track" on our grooved interstates but it was not that bad.

IF you have an alignment done, the nit would probably be best to get it "set" to the minimum toe (closest to 0) and camber as well as maximum Castor if camber and Castor are even adjustable. Realize that camber and Castor may be different from one side to the other to keep the car tracking straight on crowned roads.

If you are experiencing uneven tire wear, or your car does not track straight, then you should make sure every component of the suspension and steering is in good condition before spending money on alignments.

Lots of cars do not have provisions for adjustment of Castor and camber, only toe. If that is the case and you know everything is in good shape then you can adjust the toe yourself with various methods already suggested.

One thing that is crucial is to make sure the rack and pinion is centered before you adjust anything. Check your steering wheel lock to lock and mark the exact center position. Then Lock the wheel in that place and make sure it is in the same position after your adjustments and the car tracks straight with the wheel centered. The tie rod adjustments should be the same length on both sides once this is done or you have something bent.

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