I took my car in for an oil change & tire rotation yesterday and was floored when they told me the alignment is so out of whack that the tires have serious, uneven wear. The mechanic said that because my car has all-wheel drive I am stuck replacing all four tires at a time, not just two. My car has only 41,000 miles on it and is just under three years old. My questions: 1. Is it true I have to replace all the tires simultaneously? 2. Am I nuts, or is this car way too young to have this kind of problem? 3. If I break the repair into two parts to save money, replacing the tires first and going back for alignment work a month or two later, would I add a great deal of labor cost, meaning I am better off doing all the work immediately, even though it will be difficult financially? And would the poor alignment do any significant damage to the new tires in that short wait? 4. I haven't reviewed my warranty yet, but is alignment generally covered by the warranty, and if so, what are the chances I can get the dealer to pay for the new tires because the old ones were damage as a direct result of poor alignment? ... In general I want to be sure I am not getting hosed here, but I also do not want to drive around risking a blown tire or worse. Thanks.
An alignment usually is not covered in a warranty. It's something that needs to be done from time to time and is considered general maintenance. Your alignment (the steering and suspension angles) can go out at any time and for many different reasons. Sometimes things just loosen up and move around a little. Sometimes you hit a bad pothole and it moves the angles. If you don't believe that your alignment was that bad, you can always ask to see the tires and have the technician explain to you what he/she is seeing. If the alignment is really out that badly, I would suggest that you have all the work done at once. Not only will a bad alignment cause uneven tire wear, but it can affect your steering.
〉 Answered on Nov 7th, 2008 by Suzanne Grego, Technician at City of Philadelphia Fleet Management