In this case you may be right that an alignment was needed, but the mechanic was right at least in that would be a separate charge. Most independent repair shops don't even do alignments because that's a highly-skilled specialty area, and you want it done right. The equipment needed for today's cars has to be very precise, and most of the computers cost more than most new cars. Shops have to do a real lot of alignments to pay for that stuff and to keep it updated every year.
The first thing we have to do is clear up the terminology so I'm giving you the right answers. "Wishbone" is a generic term that can refer to a number of different parts. You need to determine if those were the lower control arms, upper control arms, (which I don't think your car uses), an upper or lower control arm assembly on the rear, or a part of the spindle the front struts attach to on the bottom. They use that design to make room for the half shafts to pass though to each front wheel.
If these parts are on the bottom of the struts, your mechanic is right. The alignment is set by the position of the upper strut mounting points that you can see with the hood opened, and by the position of the lower control arm. It's only those two pivot points that are relevant. That wishbone in between can be shaped completely differently, but as long as its length is the same as the old one, nothing related to the alignment will change. The replacement parts are machined to very exacting tolerances to match the original ones so that isn't going to be an issue.
If it's the lower control arms that were replaced, you absolutely do need an alignment. Even if you don't notice any change, tire wear can result over time. More on that in a minute.
Removing the wheels is not related to anything because that is a normal part of any service work that needs to be done to the brake, suspension or steering systems, and that alone doesn't affect the alignment. I don't know if you were thinking that was part of the problem, but you mentioned it, so I did too.
The next term you used is "tracking". That actually is an important term related to four-wheel alignments, but I've never met a car owner who knew what that was until it was explained to them. I suspect you're referring to something else, and you have to tell me what you mean. There's three things to look for related to vehicle alignment. Changing parts in the suspension or steering systems almost always changes the alignment as seen on the alignment computer screen, but you may not notice them just by driving the car.
The first thing is if the car pulls either way to one side of the road when you let go of the steering wheel. A little drift can be expected and will vary based on the road you're on, but if that pull is different after service work is done, suspect the alignment has changed.
The next one is the steering wheel position. When you're driving straight, the wheel should be straight too. If it has changed after work was done, the alignment has changed. Sometimes we can adjust new parts to get the steering wheel back where it was, but the alignment can still be off enough to cause the last concern, and that's tire wear. The first two issues can be seen right away. Tire wear takes a long time to show up. It is used mainly by the alignment specialist to "read" the wear patterns to determine what to expect to find wrong.
It's also important to understand the difference between a pull and an off-center steering wheel. If the car goes straight when your hands are off the steering wheel, you don't have a pull. A lot of people mistake a crooked steering wheel for a pull. They PUT the steering wheel straight, then of course the car goes that way and they think that is a pull. That is just an off-center steering wheel.
Please let me know
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 AT 10:23 PM