My yearly NY inspection revealed a bad upper ball joint and the shop gave me a quote to replace it. One of the line items on the quote was an automatic and irremovable item which read "Auto: alignment required".

After some research I decided it would be better if I replaced both of the front upper control arms (bushings and ball joint included) on my 2011 Honda Accord by following https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZGr8Xf2ip8

If it matters my car has 120,000 miles and this is the first time it's ever needed suspension work. I drove it around a bit after the repair and it does not seem to pull left nor right.

Should I go in for an alignment anyways? I've read several online forums and some people say that it's required while others claim that since I didn't touch the tie rod nor any alignment items then it's not needed.

2 Answers 2



Yes, when you do any major work to the front suspension, you need to have the alignment done. Even though the parts are "basically" the same, they are not exact. Newer parts will be tighter than old (less deflection and no wear), so will put the alignment into a different position. The only thing you are going to cause by not getting the alignment done is worn out tires.

When doing front suspension work, always include the alignment as part of the cost of the work. You cannot go wrong by doing it.

  • Thank you for this. Given that my total repair costed 50% of what they quoted for a single ball joint (before alignment) I think I will just get the alignment since I will still be $60 below their ball joint quote. Do you think I should start preemptively thinking about and planning a complete suspension rebuild since my car has 120k and all original (sans upper control arms) suspension parts? Should I at least be thinking about the front lower control arms or rear suspension?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Aug 8, 2019 at 12:40
  • 1
    Poor alignment can also affect handling as well as tire wear.
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 8, 2019 at 14:17
  • What kind of work would you classify as "minor" when working with front suspension?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Aug 8, 2019 at 15:38
  • @MonkeyZeus - Minor work would be replacing a shock (not a strut) or an endlink bushing. Neither of those would affect the alignment. As far as "what to prepare for", I don't think I'd worry about it until you need it. Sometimes a huge suspension hit (like a hitting a deep pothole) can start the process on a single part which will eventually end in failure. Not sure if that's what happened to you on this go. One part can last a lifetime, while its matching part might get replaced five times in the same period. No real rhyme/reason. Aug 8, 2019 at 17:41
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    as @Phil G has stated there is a limited amount of adjustments in the factory set-up for your Honda. There are however aftermarket hardware available that makes adjustment possible on non adjustable components. If someone went to the work of designing these parts one would assume that out of spec alignment is an issue on some particular Hondas. I would ask the alignment shop about the cost and availability of using these if your alignment is out of spec with new parts.
    – mikes
    Aug 8, 2019 at 20:21

While it used to be the case that an alignment was warranted, and I had to get one done after replacing links on a car I once owned that had a mess of shims under the mounts for each of the wishbones, modern manufacturing practise is to tighten down the tolerances of the components, and the mounting positions on the body, such that they can be assembled on new vehicles without any setting up, saving time and labor costs.

Your Honda follows this approach. Castor and camber are fixed, if an alignment shows that they are out of spec, the indication is that something is worn, and can only be fixed by replacing parts with new ones. Of course, if your car has ever had any accident that has distorted the body such that the suspension mounting points have been moved, replacing suspension components won't bring the alignment back, and there are often aftermarket parts available with maybe eccentric bolts or elongated mounting holes that do allow for some adjustment, but factory parts are fixed geometry.

The only parameter that can be adjusted on the Accord is the toe-in, since this is affected by quite a number of tolerances, and this is then the one thing that does need checking. I've found that replacing track arms or ball joints generally doesn't require any change in the toe, but given the mileage on the car, it's worth doing the check to find out if anything else does need attention.

  • 2
    Some cars have special bolts which rotate with eccentric cams to give adjustment...
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 8, 2019 at 14:54
  • That's true, my Ram had such cams on the lower control arms to adjust caster. Given how badly that vehicle was assembled, I'm not surprised that it wasn't a fixed geometry.
    – Phil G
    Aug 8, 2019 at 15:02

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