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Professional vs. DIY Car Alignment: What You Need to Know

Brian Bates

If your car has started pulling to one side or the steering feels off, it may need the wheels aligned. Proper wheel alignment helps optimize fuel economy, safety, tire wear, and handling. You could perform a do-it-yourself (DIY) alignment with some basic tools, but it may not result in professional performance. Here, we will explore the difference between DIY and professional alignment so that you can make an informed decision for your vehicle.

Benefits of Professional Alignment

Getting your car professionally aligned comes with several advantages. Technicians at an alignment shop use high-quality equipment designed specifically for alignments, like alignment machines with cameras and software. This equipment is precision-calibrated and programmed to match manufacturer specifications for your vehicle. 

Our technicians have extensive training in using the equipment to analyze suspension and steering components, adjust alignment angles, and measure offsets and alignments to exact specifications. They also have experience identifying worn parts that may need replacement prior to alignment. This results in optimal alignment angles for a properly centered steering wheel, straight driving, and maximizing tire tread life.

What the DIY Alignment Process Entails

Doing your own car alignment requires special tools to measure and adjust alignment angles. Common DIY methods utilize basic tools like string, chalk, a tape measure, a wrench set, and jack stands. You center the steering wheel with a string tied across it or chalk marks made straight on both front tires. Then, manually measure the angles and distances between tires, wheels, or fenders and adjust tie rods or bolts accordingly. While this may improve the vehicle somewhat, it is difficult for the average car owner to achieve professional-level alignment without high-precision equipment.

Limitations of DIY Alignments

There are certain limitations to aligning your car yourself that may lead to compromised vehicle handling and poor tire wear:

  • Imprecise measurements and adjustments can cause slight misalignment. Professional alignment equipment is far more exact.
  • Identifying parts that are excessively worn and need replacing is challenging. Technicians are trained to spot these issues.
  • Manufacturers require precise alignment procedures and angles. DIY methods may not align with these specifications.
  • Offsets for angles that impact steering and handling dynamics are hard to measure or adjust without precise alignment equipment.
  • Centering the steering wheel position does not guarantee proper alignment angles in the wheels and suspension.

While DIY alignment is certainly possible and may be an economical choice for older cars, most modern vehicles require professional-grade equipment in the hands of a trained technician to achieve ideal alignments.

When to Choose Professional Alignment Services

Here are some good times to take your vehicle to an alignment specialty shop rather than attempting DIY alignment:

  • After hitting a significant pothole or curb, it could knock angles out of alignment
  • Experiencing uneven tire wear, which indicates misalignment
  • For preventative maintenance, such as prior to long road trips where handling and tire wear are crucial
  • Anytime the steering seems off, or the vehicle exhibits pulling to one side
  • Following suspension or steering repairs where alignment was disrupted
  • After changing tire sizes, different tires impact alignment angles

Getting regular professional alignment helps you gain the most benefit from quality tires and optimized vehicle handling. Investing in professional service helps prevent premature tire replacement and expensive suspension repair down the road.

Call Today for Car Alignment

If you think your vehicle is out of alignment and due for professional service, call the experts at South Park Tire & Auto Center in Littleton, CO, for quality alignment service. Reach us anytime at (303) 945-3780 to schedule an alignment, inspection, and quotation on getting your car properly realigned and back on the road. Investing in a professional alignment helps ensure ideal drivability, handling, and tire tread wear. We look forward to helping you out.


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