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Boraxo 01-16-2013 12:59 PM

Alignment - how often and where?
So there are about a hundred threads on alignment issues but did not see either of these questions addressed directly.

(1) Assuming you don't notice a problem, how often do you have your wheels aligned? I was told to have this done once a year, particularly when driving in urban areas such as SF, LA, DC etc. where the roads are in poor condition, full of potholes, curbs get hit when parking, etc. However most service is done based on mileage so does this mean 15k miles?

Now I realize that there are some who will opine "if it isn't broken..." but having been burned with tires that went prematurely bald due to alignment I would rather spend $100-200 as "insurance" than spend $1200 for new tires when that could be avoided. My past set went 40-50k miles. But that still begs the question "how often is enough" assuming you are not careening all over the road when driving?

(2) Where do you have your alignments done? I was told by the local BMW service adviser that they do a 4-wheel alignment which takes 2 hours, and thus the price is $199. Obviously this is a lot higher than the local tire shops which run closer to $80-100 and have you out the door in 30-60 minutes. The local indy shops run $149, again for a 2 hour job. So is it worth paying extra or is this just dealer puffing?

SilverX3 01-16-2013 03:02 PM

every 20,000km at local tire / tyre shop for $45

mickey513 01-16-2013 03:10 PM

Do it as needed.

Once a year is overkill if there is nothing wrong with the alignment.

The alignment does not take 2 hours. It's 30 minutes top for a knowledgeable mechanic. Two hour might be the "book time".

You might also want to go to a shop that has done BMW or other European cars. From my experience, the chain shops like Sears, Firestone, etc., are hit and miss. They may have one guy who knows how to work on BMWs but the rest are disasters waiting to happen. A lot of place may "brag" about have the latest & greatest alignment machine but if the tech doesn't know what he is doing then it's pointless to go there.

Washburn 01-16-2013 03:52 PM

A euro/BMW experienced shop would charge more than $45 though...
I am a bit leery about going to just a local tire shop....SOME of those might be ok but...better be safe than sorry.

llando88 01-16-2013 06:09 PM

Good thread.

Have a 2009 E92 w/19"s. Had original PS2s on it when bought in Feb '12 with 22k; car now has 29k. Put new Michelin PSS on all four corners within last 1,000 miles.

Car tracks straight, does not pull. I have no evidence of any previous alignments.

I have a coupon from my dealer for a four wheel alignment for $99. I trust their service department, they have previously looked after my E91 and E90 328i.

So far, advice I have gotten is that it's not necessary, but I am inclined to spend the $99 at this point to get a baseline, especially with four new tires.

Bemo 01-16-2013 06:15 PM

Haven't done one yet. Bought the "BEMO" rocket, new in August of 2010, at 25.5K miles now.

Thinking of parting with the tires in the spring and getting some new rubber at which point I'll go to the local dealer for the alignment, NO WAY would I chance a local shop nor do I plan on having headaches in trying to find out. The dealer has a coupon for $129 which would be money well spent, considering the overall cost of replacement tires...

tturedraider 01-16-2013 07:07 PM

I would only have it done by a well respected shop that specializes in BMWs. Personally, I wouldn't let someplace like a Firestone store touch the alignment on my car. ,

fun2drive 01-16-2013 07:43 PM

Alignments for my BMW have been non existent.
I measure my tread wear using a tread gage and if I see something wrong (I take negative camber into account) I will get it aligned. My Ford Super Duty required two alignments in 184K miles. my M3 vert never did at 284K miles, neither my M3/4 at 89K miles and my E93 at 55K miles is yet to be aligned.

I would use BMW for an alignment unless I knew a really good independent alignment shop that does high performance cars.

Replacing struts and shocks contrary to what many post does not change the geometry of the suspension. Tie rods yes.

The tread wear gage has been the most useful 6 bucks I have spent...

CALWATERBOY 01-16-2013 09:35 PM


Originally Posted by Boraxo (Post 7318272)
So there are about a hundred threads on alignment issues but did not see either of these questions addressed directly.

Well, let's see....

You should align --------> When needed

Whaaaaa? How would a guy know when that is?

Ya check. Have someone do it, or break out the iPhone & measuring tape t'do it yourself.

Whattaya check? Toe & Camber

Whattaya do? Align if out o'spec

Fly in the ointment: Always align yer toe to zero thrust angle

Toe & Camber are simple adjustments - just Google that. Thrust angle's a little more involved and, seemingly much less well known. Yet it is the foundation of every alignment.

YO! Leave it to a pro, who can do it quick and do it right, or do the dirty and educate yer bad self. The job involves precise measurement, every wheel on a ball-bearing-slippery surface, and perfectly level, when making adjustments. Must keep the car up, yet wheels @ normal ride height.

There's more, but normally that'll do it.

Ah. You had a question. CHECK yearly at a minimum and whenever you think you should.

Base your decision to align or not to align on that data

Unless you're willing to buy equipment and do some real work, cerebral and sweat equity, let a pro take care o'your ride!

DHC8 01-17-2013 09:40 PM

2006 325 coming up on 120,000 miles, and most people would consider me to be obsessive with maintenance.

The car has never been aligned.

However I am about to have it done due to the front tire wear patterns. So where? My independent BMW garage does not have a rack, in spite of looking like a corporate flight department hanger (which says something). So it will go to the dealer. I do not even trust my VW Golf to the tire/quick lube operations. (Truth be told I wouldn't even trust my lawnmower to them, and I don't like my lawnmower.)

IMO this is one of those things that is important, but can be easily monitored by the owner. If the car is driving normally, and the tires are wearing reasonably, then there is nothing more to this puzzle and the money is better spent on something else. On the other hand if it needs to be done it would be best done by someone who does not find the car to be unusual.

jburke4689 01-18-2013 07:37 AM

I get it done with new tires or if I suspect a problem, e.g. bad pothole impact followed by pulling one direction or other. I have 85k on my 2007 335i and have had it aligned twice. One of those times it wasn't needed because it was in spec but I was buying new tires so I had it done. I use the dealer because I can always find a $99 alignment special around Baltimore and the BMW dealers here honor other dealers coupons. I get the coupon online on the dealer's website.

Princeton 01-18-2013 08:05 AM

I'm lucky in that my indy will put it on the rack as a part of the tire mount and balance. If an alignment is needed, I get one (and am charged). If I am good - no charge.

Boraxo 01-21-2013 09:54 AM

Went to an indy shop that only does alignments. I'd say it was worthwhile as a couple of wheels needed adjustments but otherwise everything was mostly in spec. $80 later and I am good to go. He recommends having it checked every 15k miles or so.

Thanks to everyone for the commentary except for the "DIY" advice which is not helpful to those of us who don't do our own maintenance.

5SeriesNatsFan 01-21-2013 05:35 PM

I have my wheels aligned--or an alignment check-- when I swap out my winter wheels for my regular wheels. I use a local service center with the Hunter Road Force computerized alignment system, the same system used at many BMW dealerships.

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