Can I wait a little longer to fix my car?
December 4, 2009 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Is waiting a few more weeks to get my car's wheels aligned stupid and/or dangerous?

After being told over and over by my old mechanic that the death screech my car made when driving over bumps was nothing, I found a new, more competent mechanic via Yelp. Turns out that when I hit a huge pothole that tore my tire open back in the spring, I broke a strut and knocked my front wheels out of alignment. The strut's replaced and the loud squeaking noise is gone, but I haven't yet taken my car in to be aligned.

The next couple weeks are very, very busy for me. I can't take time off work, it's finals crunch time for my night class, and I'm preparing my graduate school applications to go out over the next few weeks. Am I destroying my car by waiting until I have a little more free time to get it aligned? It's been over six months since I hit that pothole-- can I wait another month to fix it?
posted by oinopaponton to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total)
You're just wearing your tires a bit more is all.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:10 AM on December 4, 2009

If you do it long enough, and the alignment is far enough out of whack, you can kill your tires. I got a flat this way once. But that was after months of the car being way out of alignment.

You can probably make it for a couple of weeks, but keep an eye on your tires.
posted by immlass at 8:18 AM on December 4, 2009

Tire wear, and there is a safety issue with having your wheel alignment out of whack since you have to constantly compensate for pull.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:20 AM on December 4, 2009

You probably can, but the general advice I have always followed for steering-, brake- and wheel-related car stuff is FIX IT NOW. Getting your wheels aligned should take a competent mechanic all of 30 minutes, in case you didn't know.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:26 AM on December 4, 2009

Two wheel alignment isn't that expensive - don't fall for the full, laser 4 wheel (all singing all dancing) upsell. Also, wheel alignment is unlikely to be enormously affected by simply replacing a strut and if you have been driving for a while and don't have hideous looking tread patterns (inconsistent wear) then another month isn't too bad. Time isn't the issue, mileage is. If you try not to drive too much (like no 1000 mile trips or anything) between then and now, you have no issues of a major level. If you've been driving it since March, another month will make almost no difference anyway. Just, as mentioned, keep an eye on your tyres every couple of hundred miles.

However, it is best to get it done. If you have the money (like I say, not much) just get it done. You only need the two wheels where the work was done aligned.

Incidentally, I am assuming that it was front strut replacement? If it was, then get them done, if it was the rear then it's unlikely it's even adjustable, so getting an alignment done is pointless and most likely unnecessary.
posted by Brockles at 9:16 AM on December 4, 2009

Brockles-- it is just the front wheels. They're out of alignment not because of the strut replacement, but because of how hard I hit the pothole (going ~40MPH, it was dark, poorly lit road, and I couldn't see it, and the hole was at least a couple inches deep. Price you pay for living in Massachusetts, I guess).

I'm going to see if someone can take me tomorrow morning, if it really will just take half an hour. I'd love to just get this over with, but can't give up a whole day figuring out other transportation and waiting around. Sounds like my car won't explode if I have to wait, so that's good! Thanks, guys.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:24 AM on December 4, 2009

Aside from wear and tear on the tires, alignment issues can cause neck, shoulder and back pain depending, of course on how much you drive and how far out of alignment it is.
posted by MuChao at 12:34 PM on December 4, 2009

What? How, when the vast majority of cars have power steering?

Do you think you have to manually drag the car back to line all the time? Unless the alignment is enormously, dangerously and visibly, out the only physical difference will be the wheel not sitting centrally to the driver. There will be little to no increased steering effort.
posted by Brockles at 12:37 PM on December 4, 2009

Yeah, the car drives more or less fine, although I do notice the wheel rotating left a bit when it should be straight. Snagged an appointment for early tomorrow, though, so it should be all set by tomorrow afternoon.

Thanks again.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:54 PM on December 4, 2009

Two versus four wheel alignment is not a needless upsell. A lot of cars have alignment adjustment for all 4 wheels since most cars have 4 wheel independant suspension (or something close). If you have car with a solid rear axle (rare these days) or a truck/suv with a solid rear axle then you only need a two wheel alignment. You can probably go a couple of weeks without getting an alignment if your car drives mostly straight after you let go of the wheel and the steering wheel is mostly straight. The biggest effect of poor alignmnent is vastly accelerated tire wear. The biggest danger of putting it off though is that you continue to put it off-it becomes the new normal and in a few thousand miles you have 4 worn out tires. Good luck
posted by bartonlong at 3:24 PM on December 4, 2009

Yes, of course you can wait. Unless you're planning on driving a really long distance, it is totally fine. Take it from someone who waited a year once.
posted by Rocket26 at 9:41 AM on December 5, 2009

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