Getting a tire alignment is one of the best ways to keep your tires in good condition and getting the most life possible out of them. But how long does an alignment take?
We know how frustrating it can sometimes be to sit at the shop and wait for your vehicle to be done. Or maybe you dropped it off while you walked across the street to get some lunch and you’re hoping that it’ll be finished when you get back. And with something as important to your vehicle as an alignment, it’s just one of those things you have to do. But how long does a tire alignment really take? In this article, we’ll address that and much more about tire alignments.
Tire alignments will usually take between 30-60 minutes from the time the vehicle is pulled into the shop until it’s ready to go. This will depend on a few things including what type of alignment, what kind of vehicle it is, the condition of the vehicle’s components, and the experience of the technician.
The information in this article is gathered from a conglomeration of information from experts in the field with decades of experience between them. ASE-certified technicians who’ve done thousands of alignments over the years have attested to everything you read here. So you can rest assured that this is the real deal when it comes to tire alignments.
How Long Does a Tire Alignment Take?
The most comprehensive type of tire alignment — and usually what you will be getting when you have your vehicle aligned — is the four-wheel alignment. As the name suggests, this type of tire alignment involves adjusting the alignment on all four wheels of the vehicle. Keep in mind this does also include dually trucks even though they have six wheels! It really just means that the alignment is checked and adjusted on both the front and rear of the vehicle.
For a four-wheel alignment, you can expect it to take around 30 minutes to an hour. This will be dependent on a number of different factors, but more on that later. Even though it can take upwards of an hour (or even longer in some cases), it’s well worth getting all four wheels aligned on your vehicle to get the most out of the alignment, your tires, the components of your suspension system, and more.
Even though the four-wheel alignment is much more comprehensive and the better option for your vehicle any time you need an alignment, there is a quicker and cheaper alternative.
As you have probably guessed by this point, the quicker and cheaper alternative alluded to above is the two-wheel alignment. A two-wheel alignment, as the name suggests, is a procedure where only the alignment of the front of the vehicle is checked and adjusted. While it technically could be only the rear, if the customer so chooses, the vast majority of the time that a two-wheel alignment is offered, it’s only for the front of the vehicle.
Although on average it will be faster than a comprehensive four-wheel alignment, a two-wheel alignment will still typically take upwards of 30 minutes or more. This is because a lot of the time for both types of alignment is due to setting the process up and then tearing it back down once the alignment is finished. Between setup and tear down of the procedure, you can expect it to take 15-20 minutes alone. So two-wheel alignments don’t really save all that much time.
So then why do people choose to only do two-wheel alignments at all?
Shops offer two-wheel alignments for a couple of reasons typically. First and foremost, it is faster on average so they can do more of them throughout the day, while still charging up to 75% of the four-wheel alignment cost at the same time. But also, some shops have alignment machines that can only do two-wheel alignments and don’t have the capabilities to measure the rear components of the vehicle.
One last thing to keep in mind when getting your vehicle aligned is the possibility of the shop just doing a quick toe adjustment on the front of the vehicle only, and getting the entire thing finished in 15-20 minutes. This type of alignment is often referred to in the industry as a ‘toe-n-go’ and is frowned upon among technicians and shops that pride themselves on doing high-quality work.
‘Toe-n-go’ alignments are done because the toe is one of the worst things that can chew up tires and it will usually be the aspect of the alignment that is most important in the long run. But it is of course not the only thing (there’s also camber, caster, etc.). The issue is that some alignment machines will actually only show toe adjustments so the technicians can’t do any more than that, but sometimes they’ll just choose to only adjust the toe.
So if you have an alignment that seems like it went really quickly, ask to see the before and after measurements and have them explain how they did everything they could. But do keep in mind that on some vehicles, the toe is the only thing that’s even adjustable. In which case, it’ll be like a ‘toe-n-go’ alignment anyway even if they’re doing as much as possible!
What Can Make a Tire Alignment Take Longer?
Remember above when we mentioned that some things can affect how long the alignment will take? Let’s dive a little deeper into a few of those things to see what makes a tire alignment take longer (or even go a bit faster!). Here are the three biggest factors of how long an alignment will take, other than the previously described type of alignment.
Different Types of Vehicles Can Take Longer to Align
The biggest effect on how long an alignment will take is undoubtedly the type of vehicle that is being worked on. A small sedan or coupe with standard 15”-17” wheels will typically take far less time to align than a one-ton diesel pickup truck with 35” tires, for example. Also, newer vehicles will usually be quicker to adjust than older ones, but we’ll get into that in the next section.
This is just because of the size of everything underneath and how easily accessible the various components are. With a 2018 Honda Civic, for example, it’s super easy to set up and the tie rods (which are used to adjust the toe) are very easy to get to without doing much additional work. Compare this to a 2001 Ford F-250 that takes longer to set up and adjustment components can be hidden behind the frame and other large suspension parts and pieces.
Condition of Components Adjusted During an Alignment
As mentioned above, newer vehicles are usually easier to align and make adjustments to because of the condition of the components that you are adjusting. Take our 2018 Honda Civic and 2001 Ford F-250 from above into consideration.
On the Honda Civic, the nuts and bolts are going to be significantly newer (18 years newer) than on the F-250. So they will likely have no rust, won’t be seized, and will be fairly easy to adjust. On the old F-250, the nuts and sleeves could be rusted and seized which makes it very difficult to adjust them.
If the condition is really bad and technicians are worried about stripping any of the components, they might even have to bring in WD-40 lubricant or even a torch to heat them up and help break them loose. This will add time and effort, which will make the alignment take much longer than the Civic.
Experience of the Technician Can Speed it Up or Slow it Down
The last thing we’ll mention that can have a big effect on how long a tire alignment takes is the experience of the technician. This is one of the most important factors when it comes to any sort of service that you have done on your vehicle, not just alignments. If the technician has more experience, it will generally take less time than someone with far less experience.
Take an ASE-certified technician with 20 years of experience compared to a lube and alignment technician who just finished alignment training last month. The ASE-certified technician will likely be able to knock an alignment out in 30 minutes or less, without needing to look anything up or struggling to set it up right.
The lube and alignment technician, however, might spend longer setting it up and then need to look up what tools to use, where the adjustable components are, and how to make the adjustments. For someone new like this, it might take them 60-90 minutes for the exact same vehicle. Since you’ll be paying the same price for the alignment either way, if you can get the ASE-certified technician you’ll get out of there much sooner!
About THE AUTHOR
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding