Getting new tires is an exciting upgrade for your vehicle. The fresh tread provides better traction and handling. However, the longevity and performance of those new tires depend heavily on proper wheel alignment. So how long can you actually drive on new tires before getting an alignment?
Here’s a quick answer: It’s recommended to get an alignment within 25 miles of installing new tires for maximum life and performance. Driving 25-75 miles without alignment risks accelerated wear if misaligned. Exceeding 75 miles endangers tire lifespan from uneven wear. Any alignment issues should be corrected immediately upon noticing symptoms like vibration or pulling.
The Importance of Alignment with New Tires
Wheel alignment refers to the proper adjustment of your vehicle’s suspension parts – the angles of the wheels, axles, and frame. When a vehicle is out of alignment, the tires experience uneven and accelerated wear. They can also lose traction and handling ability.
Having an alignment performed is especially critical when you get new tires. Without it, your shiny new tires will wear out much faster. An alignment ensures your new tires contact the road evenly and roll straight, maximizing their lifespan and performance.
Signs You Need an Alignment
You don’t necessarily have to wait for new tires to get an alignment. There are a few telltale signs that your vehicle is out of alignment and should be addressed:
- Uneven tire wear – If the tread depth varies significantly from one tire to the next, or wears faster on the edges, your alignment likely needs adjustment.
- Vehicle pulling – A car that consistently drifts or pulls to the right or left indicates alignment issues.
- Off-center steering – Your steering wheel may not be perfectly straight when driving straight ahead if the wheels are misaligned.
- Squealing tires – Misaligned wheels can cause tires to drag and squeal, especially when turning.
- Vibration – Improper alignment often creates vibration that you can feel in the steering wheel, seat, or floorboards while driving.
Any of these symptoms mean your vehicle needs an alignment service. Don’t wait until you get new tires.
Driving Duration Recommendations
So what’s the limit for driving on new tires without an alignment? Professional opinions differ slightly, but there are general guidelines:
- 0-25 miles – It’s best to get an alignment immediately or within 25 miles of installing new tires. This ensures they get maximum life and performance.
- 25-75 miles – Driving up to 75 miles on new tires without an alignment is not ideal but unlikely to cause immediate issues if your alignment is reasonably close. Get it aligned ASAP.
- 75-150 miles – Exceeding 75 miles, you risk accelerated inner or outer tire wear if your alignment is off. Have it aligned promptly.
- Over 150 miles – Driving over 150 miles without an alignment will likely result in uneven tire wear on misaligned vehicles. Your tires’ lifespan will be reduced.
These ranges aren’t definitive cutoffs – your driving habits and the severity of any alignment issues also impact tire wear rates. But they provide reasonable guidelines for driving durations.
Factors That Determine Effects of Misalignment
Two key factors influence whether and how quickly a vehicle’s misalignment will damage tires:
1. Severity of Misalignment
- Slight misalignment causes less dramatic wear vs severe misalignment
- Vehicles within alignment specs can drive longer without issues
- SUVs and trucks are more affected since they’re prone to greater misalignment
2. Driving Style & Conditions
- Aggressive acceleration and cornering accelerates tire wear
- Heavier loads or towing requires proper alignment to avoid rapid wear
- Poor roads, potholes, and curbs exacerbate alignment and wear issues
A vehicle that’s perfectly aligned can go quite a while without an adjustment. But anything out of spec will wear tires faster depending on these factors.
Can You Skip the Alignment Altogether?
You might be wondering – do I absolutely have to get an alignment when I purchase new tires?
The answer is: not necessarily, but it’s strongly recommended. Here are the pros and cons of skipping the alignment:
- Saves time and money upfront
- Risks reduced tire life, safety issues, and higher costs long-term
- Waits until you have alignment symptoms means tires are already wearing unevenly
- Driving on misaligned tires is dangerous and can cause loss of control
- Diagnosing and adjusting alignment later is more complex
Unless your vehicle’s alignment is very recent and you haven’t noticed any symptoms, it’s wise to align the wheels. The small upfront investment preserves your new tires and prevents safety hazards.
Best Practices for New Tires and Alignments
To maximize your investment in new tires and keep your vehicle running safely, follow these best practices:
- Get high quality, reputable tires – They’ll last longer and handle misalignment better than cheap, off-brand tires.
- Align wheels immediately or within 25 miles of installing new tires for optimal life and performance.
- Align used tires right away too – skipping it risks wear based on previous misalignment.
- Check alignment yearly or after hitting major potholes or curbs that can knock it out of spec.
- Rotate tires every 5,000-8,000 miles to distribute wear evenly and get a technician’s assessment.
- Stop driving immediately and get aligned if you notice any symptoms like pulling or vibration.
Following these simple guidelines will keep your new tires in top shape as long as possible. Driving on severely misaligned tires is never worth the risk.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does an alignment cost?
Alignment costs range from $50-$150 on average depending on your vehicle and service provider. High-end wheel alignments with advanced adjustments can cost over $200.
Should all four wheels be aligned?
Yes, a proper alignment requires checking and adjusting all four wheels – front and rear. Even adjusting just the front wheels only masks underlying issues.
How often should alignments be done?
Annually is recommended, or every 10,000-15,000 miles. More frequent alignments may be needed if you drive aggressively, haul heavy loads, or experience frequent suspension damage.
Can I drive long distances with bad alignment?
It’s not recommended. Driving long trips of 500+ miles with significant misalignment will rapidly wear tires and potentially make handling more dangerous.
Do new tires need road testing to seat properly?
No, “seating” tires was only required decades ago on bias-ply tires. Today’s radial tires have no break-in period and perform the same when new based on our alignment.
How long should new tires last?
Properly aligned new tires can last 50,000-80,000 miles on average vehicles. Aggressive drivers may get 25,000-40,000 miles. Check manufacturer ratings.
Although you can drive for a short period on new tires without an alignment, you’ll maximize their lifespan, safety, and performance by having your wheels properly aligned right away. Visiting a professional alignment shop is a small investment that helps you avoid uneven tire wear, safety hazards, and unnecessary replacement costs. Following basic maintenance practices can ensure your tires – and vehicle – roll smoothly for the long haul.