Do You Really Need an Alignment After Getting New Tires Installed?

Getting new tires installed on your car is a tough, but necessary part of its maintenance. The tough part is that you have to pay the price for the tires themselves, plus the mounting and balancing, and whatever other fees that the shop likes to tack on. And the necessary part is that your car needs new tires. But is it necessary to get an alignment after they put the new tires on?

What is an alignment?

An alignment is the adjustment and correction of a car’s suspension geometry in association with its tires. When the car’s tires are aligned, it will track straight and true and will not pull to the right or left when driving. Also, a proper wheel alignment can prevent any premature or weird tire wear as well as any potential suspension issues later on.

View of vehicles getting maintenance at a mechanic shop
SUV on a lift | Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Is an alignment needed after getting new tires?

This question is always up for debate between mechanics; although most will say that an alignment is necessary after installing new tires. The reason for it that you’ll want to ensure that the new tires are making the correct contact with the road you drive on, in addition to providing a smooth ride and a long tread life.

Changing car tires
Fitting a car with winter tires | Dmitry FeoktistovTASS via Getty Images

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How can you tell if your car needs an alignment?

There are multiple symptoms that are telltale signs that your car needs an alignment. Some of the most common signs are:

  • Uneven wear across the contact patch or tire: If you notice that the inside or outside of tires are wearing faster, then your car’s alignment could be out of spec. The uneven amount of wear could occur on all four tires or perhaps just one or two.
  • Pulsing feedback or shaking in the steering wheel: If your car is out of alignment then you could feel some shaking or vibrating through the steering wheel.
  • The steering wheel is off-center: If your car’s steering wheel is off-center, or pointing in a different direction when centered, then it definitely needs an alignment.
  • Pulling to the left or right: The vehicle pulls to the left or right when your hands are off the steering wheel.

How often does your car need an alignment?

The frequency as to how often your car should get an alignment can vary depending on how often you drive the car and what type of roads you typically drive on. More often than not, if your car is driven on very rough roads most of the time, then it could benefit from getting an alignment once or twice a year.

However, if the roads that you drive on are typically smooth, then you can usually get away with checking its alignment once a year. It’s a good idea to get your car’s alignment checked annually for safety purposes and to make sure that your tires are wearing out evenly.

a man removes his hands from the steering wheel when driving.
Continental presented the autonomous driving car at a test drive. | (Photo by Hauke-Christian Dittrich/picture alliance via Getty Images)

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How long does an alignment take?

It depends on the vehicle, however, an alignment usually takes an hour or so. It’s usually recommended to make an appointment with the shop that you’re taking your car to since many shops only have one alignment rack to work with, which could mean a long wait time if you just drop in without an appointment.