free alignment check

I bought a set of tires. Installation included a free alignment check. The cost of an alignment was substantial. I told the manager to call me if he thought I needed one, and tell me what his check had measured. He seemed baffled.
When I picked up the car, he said the alignment checked out, but I should bring the car back in a few weeks in case it had gone out. I asked why he thought it would go out shortly after a check. I didn't get a convincing answer.
Is a free check a gimmick to sell an alignment for a car that's within specs but not perfect? Maybe he thought I wouldn't spring for an unnecessary alignment on top of the cost of the tires, but I might be convinced later. How do you get a reliable check?
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J Burns wrote:

The chrysler dealership where I get the e-test for my 300m has some sort of photo/optical alignment measurement system that is composed of a large tube (maybe 6" diameter, 8 feet long) mounted high across one of the bay door openings, and something that looks like a truck hubcap that is clipped to each wheel of the car. And that's all that's done - I think one wheel at a time. The system is somehow able to know if the wheels are out of alignment without the car moving or any wheels turning.
They do this for free - I guess they want to make some money actually doing an alignment, but only if it's needed. The check itself (or the equipment itself) must be cheap enough to warrant giving the check for free.
But yea, tire shops are trying to make some extra money by selling alignment checks.

For a tire retailer - Yes.
If your old tires show uneven wear patterns (not caused by under or over-inflation) or if the car doesn't drive straight on a flat and straight road without you needing to steer the car slightly in one direction or another then yea, it probably needs alignment. Otherwise you're fine.
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My experience is that newer cars don't seem to have their wheel alignment go out the way older cars did. I used to have a 1973 Plymouth Satellite, and the alignment on that car would never be quite right. I would always have to be steering one way to keep the car going straight, and I'd never buy new tires for it because it would chew them up on the front.
Now, I've been driving a 92 Chevy Cavalier for the past 10 years at least, and I've never had any problem with the wheel alignment. I really don't know why it hasn't been a problem, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that cars nowadays are much lighter than they were in the 50's, 60's and 70's and so there isn't as much wear on the steering components. And, nowadays all the joints are permanently lubricated whereas on older cars you had to grease those joints with grease nipples, and they were always an ongoing problem.
I'd be suspicious of any place that offered a free check of anything because I'd be concerned that it's just there way of finding problems to repair. And, I agree that if the alignment is fine with the new tires, it's not going to go out in a few weeks time.
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On Fri, 18 Jul 2014 21:59:57 -0400, HomeGuy

Toe in can be checked statically. So can camber. Caster cannot be checked without turning the wheels through an arc. Only toe and camber can cause tire wear, but caster can really cause a pull

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J Burns wrote:

The only time I've had an alignment check in the last 30 years was after I replaced the tie rod ends on my F150. I eyeballed it, and took it to a tire shop. It didn't cost much and he said I was good to go.
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On 7/18/2014 11:55 PM, rbowman wrote:

I replaced tie rod end, one time on a 1980 Dodge van. Destroyed the front tires in about 2,000 miles. I'd since then learned how to check the toe in. Oops.
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J Burns wrote:

It falls within specs or it doesn't. A few weeks or a few months isn't likely to change that unless you have a habit of bouncing off of curbs.
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On 7/19/2014 6:04 AM, 83LowRider wrote:

Like Nestork, I'm suspicious of "free" checks.
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On 7/19/2014 7:20 AM, Stormin Mormon wrote:

Me too. I got free lifetime tire rotation with my last set for my Subaru. Alignment and rotation are important with AWD drive and if one tire goes a replacement must be the same diameter. Shaving a new tire to do this is recommended. Now they say next time I should get an alignment and wonder what the charge might be if it needs it or not.
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On Saturday, July 19, 2014 6:04:13 AM UTC-4, 83LowRider wrote:

+1 That's my understanding too. Plus they can't give you a straight answer. I'd stay away from that place.
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rbowman wrote:

About a year ago I put new tires <tars , in the south> on the front of my truck . I noticed a month or so back that they were wearing on the inside , no feathering or cupping . Two weeks ago we replaced all the control arm bushings and ball joints . Monday it goes in to the Chevy dealer for an alignment <woulda been last Wednesday but they had a mechanic quit> . It's quite possible that it won't need adjustment , but 65 bucks is a small price compared to replacing tires frequently . Prices may vary wildly , dedepending on where you are . I was quotrd a significantly higher price down in Memphis a couple of years ago , but since there was no odd tire wear I decided to wait ,,,
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Barring a possible reason like a big old pothole. However, even then the letting go of the steering wheel on a flat road trick is just a good check as theirs for screening purposes. And I am much more likely to implicitly trust the tester.. me.
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On Saturday, July 19, 2014 9:58:08 AM UTC-4, Kurt Ullman wrote:

Agree that's a good test, but.... Roads are almost never flat, they are crowned. So to do it, you can use a highway that has two lanes in the same direction. If you're in the right lane and let go, it should gently drift to the right. If you're in the left, it should gently drift to the left. I guess if there's no traffic around, you could line the car up at the top of the crown, in which case it should tend to stay there, mostly.
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Stormin Mormon wrote:

You can do it yourself and get pretty good results but running it on the machine at a tire store doesn't cost much compared to a new set of tires. They seem to have figured out car suspensions in the last 50 years and they don't need so much tweaking. We had a '62 Rambler Classic and never could keep all four tires going in the same direction. I guess that's when I started mistrusting Romneys...
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On Sat, 19 Jul 2014 04:57:08 +0200, nestork

Several reasons alignment is not the issue it used to be. Weight is part of it - but a bigger part is most cars today use a strut type suspension, which is far more durable and had less moving and wearing parts. Also, believe it or not, GENERALLY our roads are in better condition than years ago.
That said, it is FOOLISHNESS to install expensive new tires without having the front suspension (and the rear ) checked for condition and alignment.. Toe in and camber can be very easily and quickly verified. These are the 2 "wear adjustments" on the front end. KPI and caster don't change readily, or cause tire wear.And tie rod ends and balljoints, and control arm bushings DO still wear out. Permanently lubricated just means the only last as long as the grease. With no fittings, hamfisted grease-monkeys and well-meaning DIYers can no longer blow the seals off the joints, allowing the grease to run out and water to get in.
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On Sat, 19 Jul 2014 07:20:32 -0400, Stormin Mormon

Nothing is free. You've already paid for it, whether you accept it or not!!!
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wrote:

Years back a LOT of laces had "scrub guages" that you could drive a car over and it would register the tire "scrub". If excessive, they would recommend an alignment. They were very effective at predicting excessive tire wear if it was caused by toe problems. Less effective at determining camber problems. (and totally useless at finding caster problems)
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Stormin Mormon wrote:

My local Firestone dealer gives a free alignment check. They hand you the computer printout showing the specs for all four wheels and what the tolerances are. At least they were doing this free within the last couple years.
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