As you know, BMW is a premium automobile. A brand new 2020 BMW X6 can cost as much as $85,000 depending on the trim level you get. These cars are an investment, and a status symbol for many people. And when you pay a premium price for a brand-new car, you may also end up paying a premium price when it needs repairs. For instance, a wheel alignment in a BMW can cost you anywhere from $150 to $300 depending on the model, and where you get it done.
If you do a quick Google search you can find many BMW owners asking in online forums just why it costs so much to get their wheels aligned. A normal wheel alignment will set you back $50 to $75 for a two wheel alignment and of course $100 to $150 for all four wheels. BMW dealers will often charge twice as much for the same job. That's something a lot of BMW owners have a problem with for obvious reasons.
Not every dealer is going to charge you that much for an alignment, of course, and as we said it often depends on what part of the world you live in. It's definitely something to keep in mind though if you do have a BMW and go in for an alignment sometime, that you may end up paying the steeper end of the price scale while other vehicles that are a little more common may be charged less.
What is a Wheel Alignment?
Tire alignment is some routine maintenance that any car owner is going to have to go through at some point in time in owning a vehicle. You'll definitely need to have it done if you’ve been in some kind of accident that affected your wheels, or if you sustained some kind of damage hitting a bad pothole. Those are the kinds of things that can affect your suspension and throw your alignment out of whack.
Even though it's often called a wheel alignment or a tire alignment, it's not just the wheels that are being adjusted when you go in to get your car aligned. It's an alignment of the entire suspension system that keeps the angle of your tires correct, so they hit the road at the right angle for maximum efficiency. If your wheels are even slightly misaligned, they could be hitting the road at an off angle which will wear down part of the wheel but not all of it. If that happens, you'll end up driving unevenly, and you can affect your fuel efficiency and the chances of getting into an accident if it goes on for too long.
Signs That You Need an Alignment
There are a number of signs that your car might need an alignment. If you experience any of these, take your car into a mechanic to have it looked at.
Off-centered Steering Wheel: When you're driving on a straight away, on a level road, your steering wheel should stay straight and even the whole time. If your steering wheel is to the left or the right more than a few degrees from center, and you can tell by checking out the emblem in the centre of your steering wheel, then you have an alignment issue that should be looked at. There's no reason for your steering wheel to be that far off when you're driving in a straight line on the flat road.
Unusual Tire Wear: All tires wear down over time, that's not too surprising. But if you noticed that one or more of your tires is wearing down in an uneven fashion, that's a good indicator that you have an issue with your alignment. Tire wear should be even across all four tires. If it's not, something has gone wrong.
Steering Wheel wont Center: After you turn in your car and release the steering wheel, it should return back to the centre position on its own as you loosen it from your grip. If you find that the wheel isn't even trying to get back to the normal center spot, and you have to turn it manually, that's a good sign that your alignment is off.
Loose Handling: This is one of those issues that is harder to define, but you'll know it when you feel it. If, when steering your vehicle, it feels kind of loose in your hands or like the tires are not responding exactly to how you're moving the wheel, that's a sign of bad wheel alignment. In severe cases you'll notice the car wandering on the road and veering to and fro even when you're not steering that or as you try to steer out of it. You'll also notice it frequently as you're turning corners that seem to be a little wilder than you're intending them to be. You should get this checked out as soon as you can, as if it's this bad already it could potentially lead to an accident.
Pulling: This is another one that's easiest to figure out when you're driving on the straight and narrow. If your car should be going straight, and you feel it veering in one direction or the other with enough force that you actually have to correct it by adjusting the wheel, then you definitely have a problem with your alignment. Any vehicle is going to veer slightly, even on a perfectly straight road because no road is actually perfectly straight, they're just close enough. But if the veering is bad enough that you need to adjust for it frequently or with force, then that's probably an issue with your alignment.
The Three Aspects of Tire Alignment
When your mechanic or technician is taking a look at your tires during an alignment, there are three important factors that they're looking at. These are things that you may not be familiar with, and the terms are kind of unusual sounding if you've never come across them before. They are camber, toe, and caster.
Camber: The inward or outward angle of your tire when you take a look at it from the front of your vehicle is known as the camber. Your tire should be perfectly level. If it leans in towards the centre of your car, it has negative camber. If it's leaning out away from your car, it has positive camber. When the camber of your tire is off it could be caused by failing ball joints, worn bearings, or other malfunctions in the suspension system. This will affect your gas mileage, and your overall speed. You can also lead to additional problems so it should be corrected as soon as you notice no problem.
Toe: In order to figure out the toe of your wheels, you need to look at them from above. That's what makes this different from the camber. It's harder to tell if you have a problem with your camber from above, but it's the best way to determine if there's an issue with the toe alignment. Toe alignment refers to the degree that your tires turn inward or outward when viewed from above. If, when looking down from above, the front end of your tires both point in towards the engine, that is called toe-in alignment. If, when looking down from above, the front end of your tires point away from the engine, that's toe-out alignment. Either one of these alignments is wrong, as your tires should be straight and even.
Caster: Balance steering stability and cornering are all affected by the caster angle. This is the angle of your stereo axis when you view it from the side of your vehicle. With a positive caster, the steering axis tilts towards the dryer. A negative caster steers toward the front end of the vehicle. What you want is to hit that centre line up and down.
These are the three basic ways that your tires can be misaligned somehow. It can affect all four tires, just one tire, or anything in between. All of them can affect your ability to drive properly, and all of them can potentially get much worse over time if they're left too long. In severe cases, badly misaligned wheels can actually cause axle damage and CVT joint damage, potentially even breaking off the vehicle.
One of the easiest ways to identify an alignment issue is by checking out the wear of the treads on your vehicle. If the where is not even from one side of the tire to the other, there's a good chance that means your alignment is off and the wheel is not hitting the ground evenly the way it should. Depending on how it's worn down, you can help diagnose the problem.
Heel/Toe Wear: When you run your hand over a tread that is suffering from heel-toe wear it will feel a bit like saw teeth and look like it from the side as well. One side of the tread blocks is worn down more quickly than the other. This could also be caused by under-inflated tires, or by needing to have tire rotation done.
Camber Wear: When this happens the inside or outside of a tread will be much more worn down than the centre of the tread. This one is caused by either positive or negative camber misalignment.
Feathering Wear: As the name of this kind of wear suggests, the treads on your tire have a feathered appearance when this has occurred. The tread will be smooth on one side and rather sharp on the other. This is caused when you have poor toe alignment.
Do I Need an Alignment?
The longer you wait to get your wheels aligned, the more problems will pile up in the way your vehicle performs. What would be a minor annoyance can become a serious issue with a serious price tag attached to it if you wait for too long. Ignoring them alignment means that you risk problems such as:
Poor Fuel Economy: When your wheels aren't working correctly, that puts extra strain on your vehicle. It has a harder time maintaining speed and staying straight while you're driving. That's going to end up wasting fuel overall.
Steering Problems: A minor misalignment can be easy to compensate for her, but the more misaligned your tires get, the harder it will be to maintain a straight line when you're driving. If your tires are aligned at different angles, it can be very difficult to even predict how your car will react to curves or bumps in the road. The longer this goes on, the worse it can get. That means that if you're in a tense situation when you need to react quickly to avoid an accident or respond to a slippery road, you could end up losing control of the vehicle and getting into a pretty bad accident yourself.
Uneven Tire Wear: As we've pointed out, misaligned tires will wear down in an uneven fashion. When your tires are aligned properly, the where is distributed evenly which makes your tires last longer. When they are misaligned, they are going to wear that much faster meaning you're going to need to replace them that much sooner.
The Bottom Line
Depending on where you go, getting your BMW a tire alignment can end up costing you a little bit more than just any old car on the road. But when you consider the extra cost associated with not getting your BMW has wheels aligned, it really is worth the time and effort to get it done when you need it done.
The alignment of your BMW may cost more but repairing more severe issues or replacing the tires entirely if something happened to them will also be more costly in the long run. You paid a premium price to get a BMW, so it only makes sense that you do everything you can to make sure it's running smoothly and efficiently at all times and avoid those bigger repair bills down the road, not to mention any potential accidents that can happen as a result of not having it adequately maintained.