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Old 11-01-2011, 01:34 PM
 
Location: Charlotte, NC
621 posts, read 2,096,099 times
Reputation: 299

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Are these worth the money? A one-time alignment at this shop is $79 and a 5-year plan is $189. From what I've read all over the internet and this forum, an alignment is rarely needed a 2nd time (or at all for that matter). However, I know that my car will need to be aligned after getting new tires because there is uneven wear on the inside of the rear tires. I went with the 5-year plan on my other car, since my father-in-law (who works at a Costco tire center) swears that it's the best deal, but after reading more about wheel alignments I don't know if that's the best decision. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 11-01-2011, 02:04 PM
 
14,781 posts, read 39,680,749 times
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Alignments are only as good as the people doing them. Basically the computer tells them what it should be and what adjustments to make, they then do whatever they need to until everything comes back "in spec". Of course, that doesn't mean that the alignment is perfect, just that it's within spec per the manufacturer, even if that means each wheel is a little different.

So, my advice would be to find a good alignment shop that will do the job well and don't care about the "value" of getting it done "free" for 5 years by a crappy shop.

On top of that, alignments are not something you really need to have done all that often and outside of the vehicle wandering or experiencing odd wear or needing major front end work, isn't something that's necessary on any kind of regular basis. A decent rule is having it done whenever you get new tires and for most people that would mean maybe 2 alignments in 5 years, so there is no value in the "5 year plan".
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Old 11-01-2011, 04:45 PM
 
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan
29,457 posts, read 71,149,797 times
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Waste of money IMO

1. You forget that you have them and end up buying another one.

2. Your car does not have the courtesy to suddenly need alignment in the immediate area of that particular mechanic.

3. You move somewhere else and they do not have anyone who will honor that warranty.

4. Some of them use the warranty to get you in so they can do repairs and sell you parts that you do not need. Some even do a crummy alignment to begin with so that you have to come back again sooner.

I do not care for gimmicks. I prefer to find a quality shop and pay them a fair price of the work. Remember no one works for free, so if they are doing a free alignment, they need to find some way to get money out of you otherwise. there will always be some exceptions who end up getting some free alignments on the warranty, but these businesses are set up to make money. they are going to net out ahead, or they would not offer this.
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Old 11-01-2011, 06:52 PM
 
Location: Out there somewhere...a traveling man.
41,930 posts, read 54,646,397 times
Reputation: 118233
Big waste of money IMO. I've only had one alignment in 10 years. If you sell your car or total it in that 5 year time period you'd be wasting that money.
It's like those 3000 mile oil change rip offs today. With most vehicles under normal conditions you don't need some of this stuff the dealers are pushing off on you.
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Old 11-01-2011, 07:34 PM
 
Location: Mtns of Waynesville,NC & Nokomis, FL
4,562 posts, read 9,265,028 times
Reputation: 6007
NJGoat, as usual, is right on, imo.

OP: that inside wear is often regarded as an effect of 'camber', (many cars have 'canted rear wheels', which does help handling per the oe suspension engineering), but is actually 'toe', which many alignment joints set liberally or, incorrectly, imo.
GL, mD
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Old 11-01-2011, 09:41 PM
 
1,603 posts, read 5,509,202 times
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One other thing to add is that most these shops are only owned by one person for 1-2 years at a time, so their "life" is really short.
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Old 11-02-2011, 07:53 AM
 
774 posts, read 2,336,955 times
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My truck is 12 yrs old and never had an alignment and doesn't need one so I would say it's a waste.
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Old 11-02-2011, 08:13 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,661 posts, read 80,212,030 times
Reputation: 36382
My general philosophy is that the tire shop includes alignment when I buy new tires, and unless the car has been in an accident or hit a pothole hard enough to dent the rim, that remains good enough until the next re-tiring. I manually check, whenever I check pressure, for cupping, which I can tell by feel, and if that is slight, I consider the alignment to be good enough. I think I've only paid for an alignment maybe twice in my life, besides those I've needed in association with other mechanical repairs, like wheel bearings.

If I understand correctly, the amount of labor involved consists of 90% checking the alignment, and 10% adjusting it if necessary, so a tire shop with an alignment machine incurs the same expense whether they need to be aligned or not, just for checking it.
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Old 11-02-2011, 09:29 AM
 
Location: Grosse Ile Michigan
29,457 posts, read 71,149,797 times
Reputation: 36523
Quote:
Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post
. . . unless the car . . . hit a pothole hard enough to dent the rim,
You obviously do not live in Michigan. We have fields of potholes and bumpy railroad crossings, not paved roads. This happens everyday and your car pretty much always needs an alignment. No matter how good a driver you are, sooner or later you will hit a crater at 70 MPH and your alignment is pretty much guaranteed to be off.

Generally we do not bother about alignment unless it is seriously off. A little bit off is normal and a waste of money to constantly correct it, it will be off again in a week. Still I do not think that the "lifetime alignments are worthwhile. We have them on one or so of our cars. I think that Camrao has one from the dealership in California. That is not of any use to us. Even with a free lifetime alignment, I woudl not care to take my car in once a week or even once a month and leave it at the shop for a day or two for an alignment.

Sure being a bit out of alignment will damage tires, but potholes will usually destroy them long before alignment does.
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Old 11-02-2011, 10:12 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
42,661 posts, read 80,212,030 times
Reputation: 36382
Quote:
Originally Posted by Coldjensens View Post
You obviously do not live in Michigan. We have fields of potholes and bumpy railroad crossings, not paved roads. This happens everyday and your car pretty much always needs an alignment. No matter how good a driver you are, sooner or later you will hit a crater at 70 MPH and your alignment is pretty much guaranteed to be off.

Generally we do not bother about alignment unless it is seriously off. A little bit off is normal and a waste of money to constantly correct it, it will be off again in a week. Still I do not think that the "lifetime alignments are worthwhile. We have them on one or so of our cars. I think that Camrao has one from the dealership in California. That is not of any use to us. Even with a free lifetime alignment, I woudl not care to take my car in once a week or even once a month and leave it at the shop for a day or two for an alignment.

Sure being a bit out of alignment will damage tires, but potholes will usually destroy them long before alignment does.
I lived in Michigan for ten years, and never experience the kinds of problems you have described. Any car that gets knocked seriously out of alignment that often, has probably advanced beyond the point at which there is enough adjustment play in the mechanism to bring its alignment back to spec.
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