Posted under Car Tires

You may have heard the term “car alignment,” but what is it exactly? A car alignment — also known as a tire or wheel alignment — is the adjustment of the wheels’ angles to ensure they’re aligned to each other and also aligned to the road. 

Sometimes, your vehicle’s alignment can be altered when driving on bumpy roads, hitting a curb, or when your suspension components become worn or damaged. The result can be an unpleasant — and even dangerous — driving experience, so let’s review the importance of car alignments, the process, the cost, and the warning signs of a misaligned vehicle.

The Importance of Car Alignments

A car alignment can provide several benefits to help keep your vehicle on the straight and narrow, including:

  • Even tire wear: When your wheels aren’t properly aligned, it can lead to uneven tire wear because the tires aren’t making consistent contact with the road’s surface. This means you may have to replace your tires more frequently, which can cost a pretty penny! With a car alignment, your vehicle will make better contact with the road’s surface, which can help extend the life of the tire and improve traction on slick roads.
  • Better handling: Misaligned wheels can cause steering problems — e.g., pulling to the right or left. This is not only frustrating but dangerous! A car alignment helps provide optimal control and stability while driving, ensuring a safe and predictable ride, especially if reacting to a threatening situation or driving in harsh road conditions.
  • Improved fuel efficiency: We all love to save money at the pump, right? A car alignment can help with that. Misaligned wheels can create extra resistance and drag, causing the engine to work harder and consume more fuel to maintain speed. By properly aligning your vehicle, you can improve fuel economy, allowing you to save gas money over time.
  • Suspension and steering components: Driving with misaligned wheels can wear out — and potentially damage — your vehicle’s suspension and steering systems over time. 
  • Smoother ride: Nothing beats a smooth ride on a perfectly paved road. A car alignment helps reduce tire rolling resistance and absorbs road shock, ensuring a more enjoyable ride for you and your passengers. 

What Is Involved in an Alignment?

When you take your vehicle in for service, the technician will use an alignment machine and perform a visual inspection to analyze the steering angles at three primary checkpoints:

  • Caster: This refers to the angle of the steering axis when viewed from the side of the vehicle. The steering axis is an imaginary line that passes through the front wheels' upper and lower ball joints or pivot points.
  • Camber: This is the angle between the vertical tire and the horizontal road. The camber helps determine how much tire tread contacts the road and can affect tires’ wear and tear.
  • Toe: It refers to the angle at which the front or rear wheels are turned in or out when viewed from the top of the vehicle.

The technician then compares the recorded angles to the manufacturer’s recommendations and if needed, uses the alignment machine to make necessary adjustments until they’re within the manufacturer’s specifications.

Finally, the technician will drive the vehicle to ensure the new adjustments are accurate.

How Much Does It Cost?

Generally, a car alignment can cost between $50 to $168. However, several factors can affect the cost, including:

  • Type of alignment — A four-wheel (front and rear) alignment generally costs more than a two-wheel (front only) alignment.
  • The type of vehicle — Luxury vehicles or 4WD trucks may require specialized equipment or have engineering designs that make the alignment more time-consuming.
  • Service provider — Local labor costs can vary by city, state, and service provider.

You might also be wondering: How long does an alignment take? Typically, a car alignment can take about an hour, but the service may be longer, depending on the technician’s assessment.

Signs You Need an Alignment

So how do know if you need an alignment? When you’re behind the wheel, be on the lookout for these warning signs:

  • Shaking steering wheel: Misaligned wheels can cause vibrations that shake the steering wheel, particularly at higher speeds.
  • Steering wheel off-center: Your steering wheel should be centered when driving straight, not turned to one side. If this is happening, you may need an alignment.
  • Vehicle pulling to one side: If your vehicle tends to drift or pull to one side while driving on a straight, flat road without assistance from the steering wheel, it could be a sign of alignment issues.
  • Uneven tire wear: If you see excessive wear on the tires’ inner and outer edges, there could be an alignment problem.
  • Handling and stability issues: If your vehicle is misaligned, you may experience reduced stability, excessive body roll during turns, or a generally unsettled feeling while driving.


Jiffy Lube technician working on car tires

Need a Car Alignment? Stop by Your Local Jiffy Lube

When your wheels are out of sync, and your vehicle seems to have a mind of its own, stop by your local Jiffy Lube®. Our trained technicians will align your vehicle according to your manufacturer’s specifications, helping ensure it drives and handles like it was designed. Also, don’t hesitate to ask questions! Our friendly staff can provide a recommended maintenance schedule according to your vehicle to ensure optimal handling, tire longevity, and passenger comfort. 

Get a Vehicle Service Estimate

NOTE: Not all services are offered at all Jiffy Lube service centers. Please call ahead or check to ensure the service is available at the Jiffy Lube location near you.