How often do you need a wheel alignment on a 4WD?

You must get a wheel alignment every 10,000km. Heard that before? We have, from a number of different places and most unsurprisingly tyre shops. Is it true? Short answer no. Long answer; that depends. The sceptical answer? Tyre shops make money doing wheel alignments!

Wheel Alignment
Getting a wheel alignment done on our Isuzu Dmax

What is a wheel alignment?

If you’re unfamiliar with wheel alignments, we’ll start right at the beginning. Every vehicle is set up with some adjustment (some have a lot less than others) available to keep your four wheels rotating in their correct alignment.

This is split into two items, known as Castor and Camber.


The castor adjustment refers to toe in, or toe out. Essentially, if you point your toes together, you get an example of how this might look on your tyres. Toe out, then is pretty self explanatory. If your tyres are not running perfectly straight, they’ll scrub out much faster and you’ll use more fuel.

Dmax GVM upgrade
Are your tyres pointing straight on, and parallel?


The camber adjustment refers to how vertical your tyres are running. Ideally, you want them to sit nice and vertical, so the maximum tyre footprint is touching the floor. If they were sitting at 45 degrees, you’d have a tiny portion of the tyre touching which would give terrible traction, and would result in crazy wear.

If your wheel alignment is correct, your vehicle should roll and drive in a straight line, without pulling one way or the other. It should also use less fuel, and make your tyre life improve (and sometimes substantially).

Light position for a 4WD
An extreme example of bad camber, from a mechanical failure on the drivers side

Our camper had shocking camber issues until some offset spindles were installed by Cruisemaster, which made a huge difference. Yes, its not a 4WD, but its the same result.

Offset spindles in our Cruisemaster Suspension
Cruisemaster fixed the wheel alignment once and for all, using offset spindles

When, and why do you need a wheel alignment?

You need a wheel alignment when your vehicle is out of alignment. This is the crux of it, and you don’t need a wheel alignment, until you do.

This is identified by noticing excessive or incorrect tyre wear, visual inspections of the vehicle (not that easy to do), or by using machines in a tyre shop that tell you its out (and by that time, you’re usually doing a wheel alignment).

You need a wheel alignment to improve the potential lifespan of tyres, reduce fuel consumption, improve vehicle handling and to make your vehicle safer.

Our old Toyo Open Country Rugged Terrains
If your tyres are wearing on one side, there’s a good chance they need a good alignment

Wheel alignments vs tyre rotation

The more common tyre maintenance is to rotate your wheels. This ensures a more even wear across your tyres, and if you are using your spare tyre (which you really should), you can get maximum lifespan from all 5 (or 6 tyres).

Some vehicles have a habit of wearing a particular part of a tyre, and by swapping them around you can level that wear out. Another good aim is to get all of your tyres to wear out at roughly the same time, so you can save money by replacing all of them at once, instead of paying for two, and then two a bit later (and paying more for all 4 in total than you would have getting a 4 for 3 deal, or so on).

Ideally, you want to rotate your tyres every 10,000km, and get a wheel alignment as needed.

Toyo Open Country AT3 chipping
Rear tyres will generally wear out faster than the fronts, so you need to rotate them regularly

Who’s pushing the wheel alignments?

Call me sceptical, but I always question the motives of people pushing their recommendations. Any idea why a tyre shop might push for 10,000km wheel alignments, when you can often push it out much further than this?

Might it have something to do with the fact that its business for them, and that a lot of wheel alignments need minimal (if any) work to be done?

Instead of accepting these snippets of ‘information’ on face value, have a look at the facts, real life experience and science behind it and then you can either accept it, adjust it or write it off completely.

Reconn R2 wheel rotation
Tyre shops love to do wheel alignments, as its extra money

How often do you need a wheel alignment?

This is really going to depend on the vehicle, what you use it for, and how your tyres wear. On all of my vehicles, I’ve taken the approach of monitoring tyre wear regularly, and rotating as needed, with wheel alignments only being done when there’s wear that shouldn’t be there, or when I’m getting a new set of tyres.

We experienced this on our Dmax near Exmouth, when the inner treads on both sides of our front wheels were getting badly worn out due to misalignment. 

If your 4WD’s tyres are wearing evenly, its not pulling to one side and there’s no visible issue, why would you pay for a wheel alignment?

New Toyo Open Country AT3 tyres
On our latest set of tyres we didn’t even get a wheel alignment done (but mainly because I forgot to ask!)

Wheel alignments save money

I’ve seen the argument that wheel alignments save money, and there can be an element of truth in this, but how much? Lets say you get a wheel alignment every 10k, and you maximise the tyre life from your 4WD, and get 70,000km out of a set. That’s 6 alignments, before you replace the tyres, at a cost of about $80 per alignment.

That’s $480 on wheel alignments, which is the price of 1.5 decent 4WD tyres, so…is it worth waiting to see tyre wear and then taking it in for a wheel alignment if needed, knowing you will save a bucket load in not getting it aligned and that can go towards new tyres? That depends on what tyres you’re running, how often you look at your tyres and so forth.

For us though, this works, and I’ll continue going down this path as wheel alignments take time, need organising and are just another thing I’d rather not do unless its absolutely critical. Of course, if you get a new set of tyres its worth while doing.

How often do you get a wheel alignment? What’s your reasoning behind this?

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