Avoid car repair rip-offs (Part 3)

One of the most common ways car repair facilities can rip off unsuspecting customers, is to oversell items – services you don’t need, or don’t need just yet.

This is the third in a series of articles, developed exclusively for readers of CARP.ca and 50Plus.com by X-Mechanic Inc. that explains how to avoid this trap.

In all, we’ll cover 14 separate items that are prime candidates for being oversold.

#3 – 2 or 4 Wheel Alignment
The rip-off:
Selling this to you before you need it.

What it is:
A 2 wheel alignment and a 4 wheel alignment consists of checking and adjusting the angles of the wheels so that they are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. By doing this, you will get maximum tire life, a vehicle that tracks straight when driving along a level and straight road and you will save on fuel consumption.

The 2 wheel alignment consists of checking and adjusting of the front wheels only. The 4 wheel alignment consists of checking and adjusting all 4 wheels.

What the service consists of:
The front-end mechanic will place your vehicle on an alignment rack and attach four sensors, one at each wheel. This will give them a computer reading of how the vehicles wheels are angled and then they will make any necessary adjustments to each wheel, which are known as camber, caster and toe adjustments.

When you should have it done:
It is our recommendation that you have a 4 wheel alignment only when you have new tires installed on your vehicle. Factory installed tires that come with a new car usually only last between approximately 70-80,000 kms, so you will generally need an alignment around that mileage. As far as doing an alignment at a scheduled interval, it is a waste of your hard earned money.

There are a few exceptions to this rule:
1. If the manufacturer recommends it in the owner’s manual. (Not the dealer, whose “advisors” are on commission)
2. If you notice that your tires are starting to wear unevenly
3. If the steering pulls to one side without you stepping on the brakes when driving on a straight and level road
4. If you have any front steering or front suspension components replaced that would through your alignment off (only a 2 wheel alignment is required in this case)

With these exceptions, don’t let them sell you a 2 or 4 wheel alignment until you have new tires installed on your vehicle.


About X-Mechanic Inc.: X-Mechanic Inc. is a national service that will re-negotiate your car repair estimate, before you have the repairs done, and save you money. If they save you money, you pay them 40% of the savings – to a maximum of $200. If they can’t save you money, you pay nothing.

Click here for more information.