Keeping Your Car in Line – Dave’s Garage

Wheel alignments are one of those preventative maintenance items that is often put off for too long. Several months ago I was driving my Subaru in a freezing rain storm. I was shocked at how poorly the car was handling. The back of the car kept side stepping requiring almost constant correction to keep the car from skid-ding out of control. Several weeks later while parked in a hotel parking garage in Connecticut I noticed the inside of the rear wheels was very worn.

I made an appointment to get a four wheel alignment. When they brought the car in and put it on the lift, they showed me that the inside of the rear tires was so worn the steel belts were showing through the tread. They asked me if the car had recently had body or sus-pension work done. Nope. The car has never had any body work, body damage or rear suspen-sion work, ever in 11 years and 202,000 miles. How far out of alignment was the car? The front was within spec., however the rear wheels were towed out (pigeon toed) two full inches. The spec. is for the wheels to toe in .002″.

I am at a loss to explain how the wheels “migrated” so far out of specification, or just when it happened. The signs were all there. I noticed that the tread wear was uneven, or “cupped.” The tires were making more tire noise than normal. The car was not tracking well, and was outright unsafe on slippery roads. Rather than having the alignment checked, I continued to drive for months.

The alignment shop charges $69.00 for a four wheel alignment, and they said they usually take about 20 minutes. Being 11 years old all of the alignment bolts on my car were frozen. They worked on the car for a full two and a half hours to free the bolts up and align the rear wheels. They said because of the extra time, they had to charge me a little extra. How much? An extra $10, for an out the door cost of $79.00. (I’d recommend this shop in a second if anybody is interested).

Had I taken care of this when I first noticed it, that would have been the total cost. Unfortunately, I waited too long, and now I need to buy a new set of snow tires. I could have easily gotten one more season out of these tires if the alignment were not so far off. Lesson learned.

Please email all inquiries to: Dave
or snail mail
32 Turkey Hill Road
Richmond VT 05477

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