Tag Archives: tyres

Are wheel alignment services a rip off?

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 info@foxyladydrivers.com

When is wheel alignment necessary?

wheel_alignment_machinery_400I received a worrying email from a well known member of the motor trade last month suggesting that many wheel alignment services were unnecessary.

Granted this person isn’t part of our FOXY Lady Approved network so this could have been schadenfreude, but any suggestion of rip off practice (that I’m not already aware of in the motor industry) deserves FOXY’s investigation.

So I asked our Helpdesk team to give me the benefit of their considered technical opinion. Which is in the pipeline for the Information section of the Club website but in the meantime here’s the background to this debate.

What is tyre alignment?

FOXY Lady Approved garage group, Protyre, explains wheel alignment as follows:

“Wheel Alignment can also be referred to as ‘tracking’. Either name relates to the alignment of the wheels to your car and is very important to the lifespan of a tyre as well as the overall handling of the vehicle. If the wheels are mis-aligned, the tyres will wear unevenly and may result in changing tyres long before they need to be.”

What does tyre alignment and tracking involve?

Clearly a good salesman will make a compelling business case for tyre-fitting garages to have an alignment system installed on the premises.

“It’ll cost you £x and you can expect to charge motorists £y. So, assuming industry figures, you’ll be into profit in Year z.”

This is often a clever system that you drive over and/or using equipment that tells the operator if your wheels are correctly aligned to prevent your tyres from wearing unevenly.

And the garage then charges you some £30 for this diagnosis, possibly leading to other chargeable services and solutions.

Of course, if your wheels really do need aligning then this is going to save you a lot more in terms of premature tyre wear.

How to tell if wheel alignment is needed or not?

It is normal to assume that there is nothing wrong with your wheel alignment if your car drives in a straight line with no steering input from you (other than a bit of a wander to the left due to road camber).

And it’s also reasonable to expect the nearside (that’s nearest to the kerb) front tyre wearing a wee bit faster than the offside tyre, due to a combination of annual mileage, road camber and the effect of the UK having so many roundabouts.

But if you get a vibration through the steering wheel at certain speeds, the problem is more likely to be wheel balance (not alignment as such). Professional tyre fitters will always balance the wheel/tyre assembly accurately when new tyres are fitted and whilst that SHOULD last the lifetime of a tyre it is possible that one of the balance weights might fall off ie gets lost. Or he wasn’t a professional tyre fitter in the first place of course.

So, the need for wheel alignment SHOULD be very rare but is most likely to arise when your car has suffered trauma (yes they get stressed too) by a case of bad parking ie hitting the kerb aggressively or suffering a severe pothole jolt. After which tyre wear can be rapid, reducing braking efficiency and affecting your safety if neglected.

You will find more information about this at the National Tyres & Autocare website.

Who can you trust to take care of your car tyres?

In short, come the day when your tyres need attention, all motorists need to decide for themselves whether to trust the advice of the individual giving it. One way to give you that peace of mind would be to choose a business from our Tyre Services Register https://www.foxyladydrivers.com/female-friendly-tyre-services.php or garage network where listed businesses have all signed the FOXY Promise to ‘never sell women anything they don’t need.’

Either way, I’d hope that the fab feedback we received about Tyreland in Southampton this weekend might be typical of the customer service given by staff in other FOXY Lady Approved garages now and in future.

“Isaac was extremely professional. He made the experience much less daunting as a female because he was so friendly. He was really thorough. I’m pleased he also suggested I get my tracking sorted. There was no pressure to get anything done & as a result I felt like I totally trusted him. He should be used as an example to others, as to how to make females feel comfortable. An asset to your team.”

Well done Isaac.

Otherwise, if none of the above scenarios apply or ring true in your case, you probably do not need wheel alignment. So just say ‘Not this time, thank you’.

Finally, remember that Club members can always ask our Helpdesk for a second opinion about their tyres. Which is one of many good reasons to join the Club before you need us of course.

We know what we’re talking about when it comes to tyres, so, where in doubt, you can trust us.


Tyre Safety garage evening in Swadlincote

white_overallsFOXY Lady Approved Elmbridge Tyre Services is holding a tyre safety evening for local motorists in Swadlincote on Tuesday 29 September 2015 from 5.30pm to 7pm.

The event includes:

·         Welcome talk & a few tyre care tips from MD Gareth Williams and industry expert Phil Brookes of Micheldever Tyre Services.

·         Under bonnet checks (oil/water levels) by a qualified & experienced mechanic followed by a question & answer session.

·         Demonstration on how to safely change a spare wheel with your car’s own equipment. Gareth does the explaining & tyre technician Hannah does the practical demonstration.

·         Wheel alignment demo using new state-of-the-art equipment, performed by one of our technicians.

Usually attendees form 3 small groups & rotate between the demos.

The whole event lasts around 1.5 hours & light refreshments are included – that’s savoury bites from Birds the Confectioners & drinks. Finally goodie bags are usually given out with some useful driving/tyre related freebies at the end.


NB: Any ladies having their tyres checked on the night and getting a clean bill of health are entitled to claim a free gift membership from FOXY Lady Drivers Club, worth £23, entitling them to preferential car insurance terms and many other time and moneysaving support services.

All they have to do is claim this freebie, courtesy of Elmbridge Tyre Services via the FOXY Lady Drivers Club Facebook Page between 1 and 31 October 2015 ie during TYRE SAFETY MONTH.

Ladies who’d like to attend can take their friends, partners or husbands too. The event is at Elmbridge Tyre Services, 16 Hearthcote Rd, Swadlincote DE11 9DR on Tuesday 29 September from 5.30pm to 7pm.

Please call Gareth first, as a matter of courtesy, on 01283 221 288, to check that there are spaces.

Tyre Safety Facts

Do you know the tyre safety facts?

Or are you one of the four motorists surveyed recently that were found to have an illegal tyre on their car?

If your tyres are illegal due to DRIVER neglect (unintentional neglect is more often the case), these are the possible consequences. They are ALL serious.

1 You could cause an accident, injuring others in the process.

2 Your insurance cover could be invalid.

3 You can face a fine of up to £2,500 per illegal tyre.

4 You risk three penalty points for each illegal tyre.

There are no excuses here. The driver is responsible. Even if she did think her husband, partner or Dad had checked her tyres for her.

And the first consequence would be VERY hard to live with when you discovered your tyres weren’t as safe as they could be.

So here’s what to do…

Check Your Tyre Tread Levels

tyre-depth-chartIn law your tyres should have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference of the tyre.

FOXY advice: Just because 1.6mm is the law doesn’t mean it’s good enough, especially in the wet. For example, when your tyre tread is 3mm, your tyre is 78% worn. When your tyre tread is 2mm your tyre is approximately 94% worn. Look at the chart above, please think about this and where in doubt, ask the professionals…

To check if your tyres are legal, just take the 20p test.

If after inserting in treads around tyre, you can see any of the 20p coin rim your tyre needs checking now.

1/ Park the car with the front wheels turned so you can easily see the tread.

2/ Take a 20p coin and insert it into the main tyre grooves at several places around the circumference of the tyre and across its width. If the outer band of the 20p coin is visible whenever you check the tread, your tread depth may be illegal and you should have them checked by a qualified tyre specialist.

Check your air pressure levels

Are your car tyres pressured correctly (for the car and passenger load)? Check with your car’s owners’ manual or the sticker in the fuel flap or the inside edge of the drivers door.

Here’s how to DIY.

FOXY advice: Too much pressure is as bad as too little as it affects the handling of your car and therefore your ability to control it when you need to most. Do this monthly, as a weekend chore. If you don’t, you could be using more fuel than necessary as well as increasing wear and tear. A local FOXY Lady Approved garage and/or tyre centre (see links below) will show you how to do this of course.

Check the condition of your tyres

Drivers are advised to look out for signs of irregular wear or damage such as cuts, lumps or bulges.

If you don’t, you risk driving with a defective tyre which could let you down at speed and deflate quickly. And instead of paying for a puncture repair, you’ll need an expensive new tyre or set of tyres – they should be the same on each axle.

FOXY advice: Get into the habit of always walking around your car before you get in it, just checking the look of your tyres. Try not to ‘kerb’ them when parking as this causes wear and a significant knock could damage alloys and the tyre fitting too. If a tyre looks suspect in any way, either check it yourself then, or get it checked at a good FOXY Lady Approved garage or tyre centre without delay (see below for links).

FOXY Tyre Safety Month Campaign

Approved-icon-tyreservicesIn an attempt to raise awareness levels among women drivers, FOXY Lady Drivers Club is adding its support to the TyreSafe campaign by encouraging ALL women drivers to get their car tyres checked by FOXY Lady Approved Tyre Professionals during October.

Dubbed Tyre Safety Month because October is usually the wettest one of the year, FOXY will be working with its network of FOXY Lady Approved garages and tyre centres to reward women who are driving cars with LEGAL tyres.

After having them checked, and been given the OK, they will receive a free online gift membership of the Club, worth £24 were they to buy this via the website.

You can check to see which tyre centres are listed on our female friendly Tyre Services Register.

You can see which garages are part of the FOXY Lady Approved ‘service and repair’ network.

You can check to see which garages and car dealerships are organising Tyre Safety events for women.

How to enjoy motoring and save money

ack: Figaro Owners Club
ack: Figaro Owners Club

We were asked to write a blog for the worthy Money Advice Service about motoring savings their readers can make.

I am more than happy to oblige as saving money with women drivers in mind is a subject dear to our hearts.

My experience is that some rich people treat cars like designer fashion. When something stops looking new or the height of fashion, they want it replaced pronto.

You don’t want to buy a car from people like this for fear they’ve neglected the car, knowing this won’t be their problem come MOT time. This is why c40% of cars and a shocking 50% of vans fail their first MOT (safety check) after just three years.

And why you really don’t want to buy one of these vehicles even if they’re cheap at the time…

However, if you buy the right car in the first place ie a value for money car that’s clearly been maintained, serviced and cared for it’ll be more reliable for longer than one with a scant service history suggesting a car that’s about to get VERY expensive to run. We call these cars lemons as they always leave a bitter taste in the mouth – and motoring memory!

But if you continue to look after your car once it moves into its mellow MOT years, it’ll last you much longer and make motoring more affordable and enjoyable into the bargain.

Tips how to cherish a family car

A cherished car is safe and reliable for longer. Here are a few money-saving tips to help women economise on motoring bills.

1 If you are the main driver, get an insurance quote from a company that specialises in female drivers and excludes boy racers. There are big savings to be made for many women.

2 If you drive less than 5,000 miles a year, it still makes sense to have your car serviced once a year (because professionals can spot what’s likely to become expensive before it does) but you’ll save money, depending on the age of your car, by making do with an oil and filter change one year (cheapest formula), an interim service the next (medium cost) and a full service (the expensive one) every three years. And if you do this at the same time as the MOT ask for a half price one (saving c£27)…

3 Put a small amount of money away a month towards annual car servicing and unexpected car repair bills. You can’t run an older car without unexpected bills but if you have a ring-fenced motoring reserve to dip into this will ease the inevitable financial pain.

4 By all means shop around at MOT time but be canny. Garages aren’t regulated and mechanics don’t have to be licensed so some unscrupulous back street garages advertise MOTs for less than the cost of doing this to then rip you off. For example, a half price MOT brings in c£27 for the hour this takes. That’s not a lot to pay someone and contribute to overheads. Instead, check the garage is listed at Motor Codes or the IMI Professional Register – then you know the business has invested in being better than the rest and is unlikely to rip you off.

5 Check your tyres regularly. Illegal ones carry a fine of £2500 and 3 penalty points EACH. Choose a businesses listed at the female friendly Tyre Services Register because they’ve signed a promise to ‘never overcharge, patronise or sell you tyres you don’t need.’ They’ll also advise you about the best buys at the time. Never buy part worn tyres – yes they’re cheap but a false economy as you don’t know where they’ve been.

6 Shop around for local fuel. Supermarkets aren’t always the cheapest/nearest and if you sign up to the PetrolPrices website they’ll tell you where your best local deals are.

7 Register with FOXY Lady Insurance for an insurance quote at renewal time. You can do this now. We’re cutting the cost of car insurance for nine out of ten motorists and this could be you…

I hope this helps you save money on your bills. Here’s to happy motoring for less in future.


FOXY Lady Drivers Club