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Sometimes it can be hard to tell when your vehicle needs an alignment other than when there are obvious warning signs. For example, steering wheel off center when driving straight, car veering to one side, or steering wheel vibration. Some say it is necessary to get an alignment after modifying suspension components or changing wheels/tires.

What I'm looking for is an all out checklist to use as a guide of when to get alignment, specifically after certain modifications are made. I think it will be beneficial to include when it is necessary versus when it is advisable.

**For my purpose in asking this question; I recently changed my wheels where the offset is about a 20mm difference. An alignment was done recently but before the change. I'm also looking at upgrading suspension components, such as, sway bars, end links, camber bolts.

  • If you have aftermarket parts you need to look and see as any adjustable parts will slip past the mechanic when you have it aligned. Bushings sadly can deteriorate and are used in unison with metal parts to reduce vibration. It is easier for a mechanic to replace the entire arm and not to mention weight distribution or if the road simply has shifted from years of weight. I've noticed my slight pull change sides when I'm in a different area but I live on a mountain in bfe. – GettingNifty Jul 5 '15 at 5:22
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It is necessary that you get your vehicle aligned when doing any of the following:

  • Any suspension work which might involve geometry (ie: bushings, ball joints, steering linkage, rack & pinion, etc.)
  • Strut replacement
  • Change of rims to different sizes (ie: non-standard, wider, taller, etc.)
  • If the vehicle is pulling (see NOTE #1 below) to one side or the other
  • Weird vibrations which cannot be accounted for by wheel/tire balancing

It would be advisable to get an alignment done when:

  • You put new tires on. This is more to protect your investment than to fix any issues.
  • If you hit a large pothole hard. This may sometimes cause wheel alignment issues due to a small shift in the geometry caused by the pothole. This would also include curbs and speed bumps, as well.
  • Anytime you suspect it could be out of alignment (due to reasons you've posted)

I doubt this list is all inclusive. I'm sure there may be other reasons to get your alignment done, but I think this list will allow you to answer your own question and get you in a ballpark for whether you think it needs to be done.

NOTE #1: Please realize when you are on one side or the other of the crown of the road, most vehicles will pull to the leaning side of the vehicle. This is normal, as gravity is pulling your vehicle this way, which pulls the steering in the same direction. As long as you are on a flat road surface and you are not detecting any pulling, your steering alignment is most likely fine.

  • I heard that the uneven tire wear is also a sign of bad alignment, but I'm not sure. Do you know if the year or mileage alone since the last alignment would be a factor? – blueseal Dec 22 '16 at 2:49

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