What is a Wheel Alignment?
A wheel alignment is one of the standard adjustments you make on your vehicle over time. It’s an adjustment of your suspension components to reduce wear and tear on your tire tread by ensuring that your wheels are properly aligned.
Your vehicle’s suspension components connect your vehicle’s chassis to the wheels. Sometimes, an alignment check is never a bad idea. Misalignments happen through an accident (hitting a curb could cause a misalignment) or through time spent driving and general wear on your tires.
Does My MINI Need An Alignment?
There are a few key things to consider regarding vehicle alignments. They are as follows:
How Long Has It Been Since You Last Aligned Your MINI?
Because wheel alignments are common, most service centers will offer them as part of a package. Still, even if they don’t, the usual practice is to get a four-wheel alignment every time you get an oil change – roughly every six thousand miles, or 9600 kilometers.
Is Your MINI Pulling Left or Right When Driving?
One of the tell-tale signs that you need a wheel alignment service is if your MINI is pulling one way or the other when driving. This could mean a variety of things, but first on your list of possibilities should be a wheel alignment issue.
The Steering Wheel Shakes While Driving?
One of the other tell-tale signs that your wheels need to be realigned is that your steering wheel is shaking while you’re driving. When driving in a straight line, your wheel shouldn’t vibrate – it only does this when your vehicle’s wheels are improperly positioned in relation to the chassis and steering mechanism. The more violent the shaking, the more serious your alignment issues are.
Your MINI Has Been in an Accident
Accidents happen – if your MINI has been in an accident that resulted in fairly minor vehicle damage – say, a fender-bender – then it’s likely that your service center mechanic will recommend a two-wheel alignment or a rear-wheel alignment only. However, you should get all of the wheels re-aligned to be on the safe side. If you weren’t at fault, and the other person’s insurance covers it, you should get as much done as possible to ensure your motor vehicle’s safe operation.
How Often Does My MINI Need an Alignment?
It’s customary, no matter what car you drive, that you get an alignment every 6000 miles or 9600 kilometers. Whether MINI needs an alignment before then depends on whether you’ve experienced any other problems listed above that could result in poor alignment.
Depending on your MINI model, you may have electronic sensors that will detect excessive tire wear – a proper alignment is a good way to remedy uneven tire wear before it becomes problematic.
What Are Common Symptoms That My MINI Needs Alignment?
There are a few common symptoms that your MINI needs four-wheel alignment services. These include:
Your Steering Wheel is Off-Center When Driving Straight
When you drive in a straight line, your steering wheel should naturally follow your vehicle’s line. If you have a crooked steering wheel slightly inclined to the left or right, you likely need an alignment despite driving in a straight line.
You Notice Premature Tire Wear Occurring
One thing you should routinely be doing as a driver is checking your tire tread. Sometimes, if your tire loses tread on one side or the other, you may need a wheel alignment, and uneven wear is one of the key warning signs that alignment is needed. This can be checked by performing a visual inspection of all four tires.
You Routinely Lose Tire Pressure
Another common practice for drivers is to check their tire pressure routinely. Most drivers will do this every few hundred kilometers or whatever the vehicle manufacturers suggest. Most modern vehicles have electronic tire pressure sensors that indicate when a tire is losing an unacceptable amount of pressure, which could lead to premature tire failure.
However, if you have an older model, you may need to do the old manual check yourself! Tire pressure loss could be caused by rapid tire wear that could be a result of misaligned wheels.
What’s the Difference Between Wheel Balancing and Wheel Alignment?
Wheel balancing and wheel alignment are completely different mechanical procedures conducted on your tires and wheels by mechanics.
A wheel balancing corrects weight imbalances in your tires as they make contact with the road – these imbalances are caused by various things but result in a loss of pressure in certain tire areas.
A wheel alignment corrects misalignment of the wheels as they sit on the chassis and the angles at which they impact the road surfaces. These improper angles of impact cause tires to wear out faster than usual.
How Much Does a MINI Wheel Alignment Cost?
Wheel alignment costs vary based on the vehicle model. The typical cost of a MINI wheel alignment is between $65.00 and $150.00 – this largely depends on what type of alignment you’re going in for. For example, a rear-wheel alignment is less expensive than a four-wheel alignment.
You also need to bear in mind labor costs – don’t be afraid to ask your mechanic if your wheel alignment cost includes the cost of labor or not. I’d get a total up-front if I were you, including labor.
You’ll want to choose authorized dealers and competent mechanics when searching for a spot to conduct your wheel alignment.
There’s no need to panic when it comes to wheel alignments – while they are important, if you need to take a couple of days to find a MINI-specific authorized dealer who’ll do the alignment or the best mechanic for the job, that’s fine.
How Long Does It Take To Do A Wheel Alignment?
Wheel alignments are fairly simple processes for skilled mechanics and take about 30 to 60 minutes on average. However, if there are other problems – such as damaged parts like brake pads (they can be worn out faster when breaking on misaligned wheels) or ball joints – this can elongate the time it takes.
If you’re driving a 4×4 or an all-wheel drive system, this can take longer as they have more complex wheelbases.
Why Is An Alignment Important For My MINI?
Wheel alignments are critical to the safety of you and your passengers. If a vehicle’s wheels are misaligned, the tire treads wear out much faster than usual. The shaky steering wheel can cause distraction and unintentionally unsafe vehicle handling at speed. Overall, they’ll make your driving experience much more fraught than it needs to be.
Misaligned wheels are also not good for the other parts of your vehicle – in general, they put excess strain on your chassis, wheelbase, bumpers, and more.
Getting a wheel alignment is a standard vehicle service offered by mechanics for a reason: your car will inevitably need an alignment at some point for the safety of you and your passengers and the longevity of your tires and other vehicle parts.
Stick to the standard operating procedure and book an alignment when you notice a problem or around the 6000-mile mark.
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