Wheel alignment is a service that needs to be performed at least once a year under normal driving conditions, two or more times if your vehicle is used for off-road recreation or if you drive a commercial vehicle. Wheel alignment is what keeps your car going down the road straight. Wheel alignment is a complex system that affects how your car steers, handles, tires wear and overall comfort.
The angle of the wheels when driving straight forward. At rest, your wheels are slightly (Toed In) misaligned, but as your car picks up speed, the flex in the bushings allows them to track perfectly straight. Caster. This is the angle of the spindle to the perpendicularity of the road surface. Most vehicles have a slightly negative caster which helps the wheels recover to straight ahead after you make a turn. Camber. This is the angle of the tire to the road surface. Take a drinking glass and lay it flat so the entire surface touches the table. Lift one end slightly, and there is less surface contact. When this happens with tires, you lose traction. Properly adjusted Camber keeps your tires in contact with the road for the best traction.
Two-wheel alignment is the most basic, but even this involves many checks and precise measurements. Holding the wheels in a precise position requires a complex system of suspension parts, springs, struts and shock absorbers. All these components must function precisely for your car to operate safely. As you drive, normal wear, hitting an occasional pothole or even just vigorous driving in a hilly region places stress on these components. The rubber parts in suspension bushings compress over time and can dry out, which also can cause wheel alignment problems. A simple wheel alignment involving the front wheels only should cost $55 to $75. The technician attaches plates to the wheels and then, using a laser jig, he or she will measure all the angles and make sure they are to factory specification.
Some things that can increase the cost include worn out suspension components or accident damage. Components that are worn beyond the adjustment range will have to be replaced. Alignment should be checked at least once a year, whenever you purchase new tires, or if you hit a curb or road obstacle. There are many shops capable of providing alignment and other tire services. Tire dealers, front end specialty shops and even some local garages will do this service. Your Toyota Dealer is probably the best choice for several reasons. They will perform a thorough inspection of every suspension component, and if parts are needed, they will have them on hand to expedite the repair. Your Toyota dealer will also provide certified technicians and a full warranty.