When's the best time for me to get an alignment?

Messages
6
Location
Canada
I recently picked up an A4 Quattro with badly cupped tires (noise above 40 kph, vibration when braking at high speeds). While I'm planning on getting an alignment done, I'm not sure when the best time would be to get it, or whether or not it even makes a difference: - Now, with the cupped all-seasons on OEM alloy rims. - Next week, when I put on new winters on steel rims. - Next Spring, when the cupped tires are replaced. Would I need multiple alignments?
 
Messages
1,639
Location
L.I. NY USA
Personally, I buy the lifetime alignment package from Firestone and I get mine aligned around twice a year depending on mileage and conditions. I NEVER have a problem with uneven wear. I have been doing this since the early 90's. My last car, a 1999 Mustang was traded for the Caddy in 2009 and I had it aligned over 15 times under the lifetime plan. Their policy is once a year, or every 6000 miles or as necessary. I have 3 cars currently under that plan... THEY MUST HATE ME...
 
Messages
40,838
Location
Great Lakes
I'd do the alignment next week when you put on new tires. However, sometimes unevenly worn tires are a result of worn suspension components which an alignment won't fix. Have the shop inspect your entire suspension. Vibration when braking is most likely the result of warped rotors though.
 
Messages
1,639
Location
L.I. NY USA
The noise above 40 could be the cupped tires, but as the guy above said, the brakes are a separate issue. Maybe warped rotors.
 
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Messages
43,676
Location
'Stralia
Whenever it is, it usually occurs the day before you hit the biggest pothole that you've ever seen in your life.
 
Messages
12
Location
MA
I'm also confused as to why the cupped tread and vibration while braking would be caused by a misalignment rather than tire imbalance, warped rotors, worn suspension components, or wheel bearings. I'd have a shop look into this sooner rather than later. You might take it to an independent shop and say you'd like a prepurchase inspection. I say this because an underemployed may have less of a financial incentive to overprescribe repairs and at the same time, less of a concern about offending your competence as a car buyer or owner if they need to recommend major repairs. I'd also want to discover any other issues now, especially since Audi A4's don't have a reputation for bulletproof reliability, especially if poorly maintained. (I hope it's at least a V6 and not a turbo?) Some tire shops offer "free" alignments or alignment checks with the cost rolled into the purchase of 4 tires. There's a chance that some of your symptoms could be caused by tire imbalance and might be corrected by newly balanced tires. Of course any problem causing irregular or accelerated tire wear can very quickly ruin new soft snow tires. I'd try to fix the problem now. When (or before) you put on summer tires in the spring, the wear on the soft new snow tires will let you know of the repairs corrected the tire wear problem or if further action is needed.
 

evomike

Thread starter
Messages
6
Location
Canada
Thanks for the input guys. Perhaps vibration is the wrong word, it feels more like the rear tires are "skipping" when braking from high speeds. Not sure if that makes a difference or not. The control arms were replaced when I purchased the car, and I have just found out the tires were under-inflated (not sure if they have always been like that or not). It was the mechanic who did the arms who suggested I get an alignment when replacing new tires. Hopefully between - replaced arms, alignment and proper inflation, I won't end up with another set of cupped tires in the near future. Do cupped tires ruin a suspension, or does a bad suspension cup tires? .... or do both problems compound each other? The car is a 1.8T, but the engine's in decent shape. There's a small amount of sludge in there, but I think another engine flush should do the trick.
 
Messages
2,107
Location
Appleton, WI
I've found with my A6, Audi quattros eat tires no matter what you do. The best that you can do is make sure you have non-directional tires and cross rotate at least every 5k miles. Your tires aren't cupped, they're probably heel-to-toe worn. I had one set of directional tires and after 10k miles they we're as loud as a Jeep on 33" mudders.
 
Messages
12
Location
MA
Knowing that you replaced a lower control arm makes everything make more sense. Thank you. A worn lower control arm (or more likely worn ball joint or bushings attached to a lower control arm) could easily cause cupping on any tire ever mounted at that corner. If you replaced the lower control arm, you should get an alignment as the replacement parts may have slightly different dimensions, requiring a new alignment. A misalignment is unlikely to cause cupping but can eat through snow tires very quickly. I'd shop for an alignment and snow tires. If you find the best deal together at the same shop or don't want to take the car in to two different places, get them done together. If you find better prices separately or are buying snow tires on steel rims online, get the alignment before installing the snow tires.
 
Messages
19,479
Location
Chicago Area
You have more than one situation. Maybe slightly faulty brakes [rotors], bad tire construction, poor shocks/struts, and MAYBE alignment. There is no indication of a bad alignment. But good alignment is critical for tire life, handling, and fuel economy. When to get it? It depends on the machine used. I vote for right now, because an alignment that is referenced off of the wheels is not hindered by worn tires.
 
Messages
3,118
Location
San Antonio, TX
Noisy, skippy, vibra ride, and buying tires due to rapid uneven wear drives me crazy. IMO independent rear suspension is a good reason to rotate tires every 5000 - 6000 miles.
 
Messages
3,966
Location
Somewhere in the US
I would get the aligbnment first, then the tires. BTW, you have many symptoms that you have an alignment problem. - and its the alignment (bad suspension) that cups tires, not the other way around.
 

evomike

Thread starter
Messages
6
Location
Canada
Thanks again for all the advice! I'm having the winters, alignment and brake+suspension check all done tomorrow!
 
Messages
526
Location
Texas
I've always been told to get an alignment after getting new tires.
Originally Posted By: CapriRacer
I would get the aligbnment first, then the tires. BTW, you have many symptoms that you have an alignment problem. - and its the alignment (bad suspension) that cups tires, not the other way around.
 
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