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My mechanic recently told me I needed to have a wheel alignment done on my Honda Accord, so I called a few local places for estimates. They all said the alignment would take about 60-90 minutes.

I made an appointment at one of the places for 2 o'clock, and when I arrived I looked at the clock and it said 1:52pm. The person at the desk took a couple minutes to put my information into their computer, so I would guess they took my car around 1:55pm. Then I sat down and waited. Around 10 minutes or so later, the person at the desk called me. I presumed they had a question about something, but no, the person said everything was finished. I did not look at the time, but I don't think it could have been any later than 2:10pm. That means the wheel alignment took no more than 15 minutes.

They gave me a printout showing a diagram of the measurements. On the printout it also showed the time, which said 2:01pm. If that's what time the alignment was started or finished, then it took only 6 or 9 minutes at most.

Here's what the invoice said:

4-Wheel Computerized Alignment

Install heads on all 4 wheels, and make allowable adjustments.

Can a proper wheel alignment be done in such a short amount of time?

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This largely depends on the type of machine that was used and the condition of the steering and suspension parts. The toe on the RF was only slightly off. If it’s a newer machine with the fancy stuff it only takes a couple of minutes to mount the heads or targets, do runout and a caster sweep. A few more minutes for adjustment and unmounting.

So it’s possible it just depends on some assumptions about the equipment used and the condition of the car.

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It also depends on the adjustments available on the vehicle in question. Not all vehicles can be adjusted in every dimension, so an alignment may just be to make sure the tires are pointed in the right direction. Some vehicles don't have toe adjustment in the rear (solid and or beam axle), and most vehicles don't have (easy) camber or caster adjustment.

Also, if the alignment is found to be good when they put the vehicle on the rack, it makes for a short session. If the print out shows everything within spec you should be good to go unless you are experiencing something that tells you there's an issue.

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