A tyre industry expert tells me “In over 90% of cases, imperfect wheel alignment will not cause premature wear to tyres. Yet at least one major tyre retailer pays a bonus when their fitters sell this service to more than 80% of their customers.”
I was reminded of this statement after I gave a tyre safety talk to The Women’s Hub in Worthing recently where I was asked why alignment wasn’t included in the cost of a new tyre.
‘Shouldn’t a new tyre be sold as fit for purpose’ was one of the questions I faced. By that she was suggesting a new tyre should come correctly balanced and wheels aligned.
In principle she’s right of course but I explained that a good tyre fitter would identify if there was a problem with a car – he’d be able to tell this from uneven tyre wear of course. But not all are that honourable it seems.
Wheel Alignment Options
In my experience, you’re asked if you need your wheels aligned when you buy new tyres and, if you don’t know why you might, you’re told various reasons why you should.
I have enclosed examples of the sort of thing we’re told at leading tyre sales websites. Advice ranges from the informative to the downright pushy.
But shouldn’t ALL wheels be checked for correct alignment BEFORE the tyre centre/garage/dealership sells you alignment services on the basis of your genuine need, tyre safety and future financial economies?
After all, we’re talking about an added £29 or more to a tyre bill here. And perhaps there’s suspension/steering work to be done to the car too?
Understandably suppliers of wheel alignment equipment sell theirs to garages by promising ‘a major contribution to their profit line’ as stated by the Supertracker website, when they up-sell this service to motorists.
NB: FOXY Lady Approved tyre centres, garages and dealers have all signed the FOXY Lady Promise ‘to never overcharge, patronise or sell motorists anything we don’t need.’ This is because we know that many automotive businesses incentivise sales staff to sell us services like alignment that we don’t need.
Website Advice re Wheel Alignment
This is what some of the bigger tyre businesses say about their alignment services.
From National Tyres & Autocare
Have you noticed any difficulties when steering? A vibration or pulling to one side? It may mean that your wheel alignment is in need of attention. At National Tyres and Autocare we use specialist equipment to make quick and accurate adjustments to the front wheels of your vehicle and with a front wheel alignment cost of only £29 why not add this to your next safety inspection?
They recommend this every 6000 miles.
This seems a reasonable and un-pushy explanation to me.
From Halfords Autocentres
Correct wheel alignment improves road holding and maximises the life of tyres. Aligning the front two wheels resolves alignment issues for most vehicles, but if additional work is needed a quote will be provided.
This does suggest financial and safety benefit for an outlay of £29.
From ATS Euromaster
ATS is selling three options costing £36.99 to £64.99 for a choice of alignment services.
Quite frankly this text baffles me (and most motorists) with its terminology and diagrams.
Knowing very little about the subject, I suspect that most motorists may fall for this pitch, even if they buy the cheapest option (which is still some £5 more than most others).
From Kwik Fit
Checking your wheel alignment regularly can prolong the life of your tyres by up to 12,000 miles and increase fuel efficiency due to the reduced rolling resistance with the road – saving you pounds at the pump.
Keep an eye out for unusual wear on your tyres, such as premature wear on the inside or outside shoulder, which could be a sign of incorrect alignment.
Kwik Fit offers a free wheel alignment check at all of our UK centres so stop in if you need any help.
NB: Kwik Fit offers front two wheel and four-wheel alignment options. The price of our four-wheel alignment includes the Hunter Hawkeye four-wheel alignment inspection and the front toe adjustment only. Additional charges will apply if further adjustments are required including any rear wheel adjustments. You will be advised at the time of inspection prior to any work being carried out. Should we find that no adjustment is necessary, we will happily refund you.
I have yet to see any evidence for their 12,000 mile claim or increased fuel efficiency, but the free check and an offer to refund where no four-wheel adjustment is necessary will reassure many.
Recommended Wheel Alignment Best Practice
I’d like tyre centres/garages and car dealers to agree to tell motorists that
1) “In most cases imperfect wheel alignment will not cause premature wear to tyres”
2) “We won’t sell wheel alignment services unless we’re sure/can prove they’re needed”.
Then the wheel alignment suppliers will need to convince garages that they can STILL afford their equipment. Good luck with that sales pitch I say!
Clearly wheel alignment is yet another ethical challenge for the automotive industry.
So, as I see it the challenge is for tyre service providers to
EITHER continue earning easy money selling £29 alignment services that most motorists don’t need or understand
OR do the decent thing and prove the need for wheel alignment services before selling them.
The likely outcome here, dear blog reader, is that good businesses will do the right thing (which is why you need to know who they are) and bad businesses won’t, getting richer from rubber-related rip offs.
This is all the more likely because garages, including tyre centres, aren’t regulated, allowing cowboys to trade alongside the genuinely good garages, tarnishing the latter’s reputation in the process.
By all means tell FOXY your good or bad stories relating to tyre sales and/or wheel alignment services – whether you bought these in a tyre centre, garage or franchised car dealerships. We can then share these within The Club.
FOXY aka Steph Savill
NB: To ask for tyre advice, Club members contact FOXY Helpdesk.
To find a good tyre centre you can trust, check our FOXY Lady Approved Tyre Register
By all means comment here via Twitter @FOXYTweets
Or Steph Savill via firstname.lastname@example.org