Opinions differ on necessity of wheel alignment checks
I'm sure to open a can of worms with this week's topic as opinions within the trade can be very divided when it comes to a vehicle's wheel alignment being checked.
The check is a given and an easy sell for workshops or alignment specialists to make when a vehicle has suddenly developed a tracking problem such as a drift or pull to one side of the road, the straight-ahead position of the steering wheel suddenly changes, or the tyres have developed a pattern of uneven wear.
Opinions mainly differ within the trade when an alignment check is recommended to owners for no valid reason other than it's simply a good idea and is often followed with a comment about long-term savings.
Many experienced people within the greater motor industry would say if a vehicle is tracking perfectly fine and the tyres are showing no obvious or worrying signs of uneven wear, there is no valid reason to check the alignment.
Some would go so far as to say having the alignment adjusted can actually create a problem. It's the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" way of thinking.
Why? Because when manufacturers provide recommended steering alignment data for their respective vehicles, there is usually a certain amount of give-and-take the trade can work with when adjusting the suspension/steering geometry.
This means an adjustment can be made that fits within a recommended plus/minus tolerance and be technically correct, but create a steering-related problem once the vehicle is driven on a particular surface.
These tolerances are provided mainly because of mass production and the tweaking can allow for fine-tuning once a vehicle has left the assembly plant and headed for different markets where road conditions can differ.
Adjustments can also be made during ownership due to subtle and acceptable wear on suspension componentry that can affect the suspension geometry and also create uneven tyre wear.
The tyre industry is extremely competitive. That can translate to mean, in the eyes of those hardest to convince, recommendations to carry out wheel alignment checks can sometimes be promoted for the extra revenue generated rather than sighting a specific problem.
Another reason alignment checks can be offered (sometimes at no extra charge) is to help protect the repair/tyre shop against a possible future customer dispute.
If new tyres have been fitted and the vehicle is returned a short time later showing uneven tyre wear or unwanted steering issues, before-and-after data comparisons can be made. This may help confirm accident or kerb-impact damage after the new tyres were fitted.
So what's the bottom line?
Always ask why an alignment check is recommended.
If work has been undertaken on the steering or suspension, it's hard to argue with the logic of having the alignment checked.
If new tyres are to be fitted, try to negotiate the alignment check to be included in the total cost.
If an alignment check is recommended for no real valid reason, politely pass or seek another opinion.