What You Need to Know About Heavy Duty Truck Alignment


Heavy-duty truck alignment is critical for truck suspension systems, especially for big rigs and heavy-duty trucks.

For that reason, understanding the process is critical – both for operation and safety.

But what exactly does it do? What does it look like? How can maintaining this practice affect these technologies long term?

Keep reading to learn more about heavy-duty truck alignment and how it works.

What Is Alignment?

Over time, the suspension system can start to experience wear and tear. This can happen more quickly if a vehicle is being used consistently, which is often true in the case of semitrucks and heavy-duty vehicles.

Alignment is a term used to describe the adjustment of the truck’s suspension system. The suspension is connected to a vehicle’s wheels and helps allow them to travel and pivot as needed. An alignment is performed to make sure that the tires are meeting the road at the right angle.

Truck wheel alignment is not an adjustment of the wheels themselves, but of the axles and tires to ensure that the wheels are pointing straight and in the right direction.

How Does a Diesel Truck Alignment Work?

It takes trained diesel technicians to perform heavy-duty and semitruck alignments. To begin the process, they will get the tolerances and specifications for the specific set of wheels they’re working on. They do this by looking through a database of heavy-duty vehicles.

Angles are measured on each wheel using electronic sensors These angles are then compared to the specifications that are listed for the vehicle using an alignment machine. Then, technicians will work to adjust different suspension angles. Some of these angles include:

  • Caster: Caster refers to the angle of the steering axis when viewed from the side of a vehicle. A positive caster can occur when the steering axis tilts more toward the driver, and negative caster refers to when the steering axis tilts toward the front of a vehicle.
  • Toe: The toe suspension angle is how much tires are turning inward or outward when viewed from above. Toe-in alignment is when both tires are angled in, and toe-out is the opposite.
  • Thrust: The thrust angle is used to help see if a rear axle is lined up with the front axle and the center of a vehicle. The angle is an imaginary line that comes down from the centerline of the rear axle all the way through the vehicle.

Technicians will check these suspension angles, along with kingpin inclination, axle offset and turning radius. They’ll also do an overview of the suspension system as a whole to ensure there are no broken or overly worn parts.

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Why Heavy-Duty Truck Alignment Is Important

There are many reasons why heavy-duty truck alignment for big rigs and other vehicles is important. One of them is to prevent irregular tire wear. Misalignment of tires can cause inner and outer tire wear, as well as the tread wearing down too quickly.

Commercial truck tires are also expensive to replace (the average cost is around $500 per tire), so maximizing the amount of time they can be used is important, especially for the financial sake of the fleet/vehicle owners. Proper commercial truck alignment can help ensure that tires are not being replaced earlier than needed.

Tires that are properly aligned can also improve performance on the road and ensure that rigs are traveling with the highest possible fuel efficiency.

Proper diesel truck alignment also prevents drivers from working harder than they need to, since it would keep the truck moving in the right direction. If they have to work harder than they need to, they can get fatigued and drive inattentively and/or recklessly. So it’s crucial that tires are properly aligned to prevent this from happening.

Read: Preventive Maintenance Checklist for Diesel Trucks

Signs a Vehicle Needs Alignment

There are several signs that a vehicle needs alignment. The most common ones include:

  • Steering wheel drifting: If the steering wheel is pulling to the right or left while a vehicle is traveling down the road, this can be a sign of misalignment. Keeping the wheel straight shouldn’t require a lot of effort.
  • Abnormal tire wear: As mentioned before, a misaligned vehicle can cause abnormal wear and tear on tires. The tread might start to prematurely come off in unusual wear patterns.
  • Steering wheel vibrations: Vibrations in the steering wheel can be caused by tires that are out of balance or misaligned.

Other signs include noisy steering or squealing tires. If you experience any of these issues, taking your vehicle to a trained auto or diesel technician is important so you can have the problems fixed as soon as possible.

Read: 125 Important Diesel Mechanic Tools (Actually, More)


1. What Is Semi Truck Alignment and Why Is It Important?

Semitruck alignment refers to the adjustment of a truck's wheels and axles to correctly align them to the truck's centerline. This is crucial for maintaining optimal tire wear, fuel efficiency and ensuring the truck handles correctly on the road.

2. How Often Should I Get My Commercial Truck’s Wheels Aligned?

The frequency of wheel alignment depends on various factors, including the truck's usage and condition. However, a general rule of thumb is to get them checked every 50,000 to 60,000 miles or at least once a year.

3. What Are the Signs That My Truck’s Wheels Are Out of Alignment?

Signs your truck wheels may be misaligned include uneven or rapid tire wear, steering wheel vibration, a steering wheel that's off center when driving straight and a vehicle that pulls to one side.

4. Can Misaligned Wheels Affect the Performance and Safety of My Heavy-Duty Truck?

Yes, misaligned wheels can negatively affect your truck's performance by causing decreased fuel efficiency and irregular tire wear. They can also compromise safety by compromising steering control.

5. What Are the Benefits of Getting a Professional Semi Truck Alignment?

A professional semitruck wheel alignment ensures accurate results, extends tire life, improves fuel efficiency and enhances overall vehicle safety. All of this helps to prevent costly future repairs.

6. Are There Specific Alignment Specifications for Heavy-Duty Trucks?

Yes, heavy-duty trucks have specific alignment requirements which differ from regular vehicles due to their larger size and the increased load they carry. These specific requirements are typically provided by the truck manufacturer.

7. How Long Does Diesel Truck Wheel Alignment Take?

The time it takes to align the wheels of a diesel truck varies depending on the vehicle's condition. Typically, wheel alignment for trucks can take between 2 to 4 hours.

8. Can I Do My Own Commercial Truck Wheel Alignment, or Should I Hire a Professional?

While minor adjustments can be made yourself, it's best to hire a professional diesel technician for commercial truck wheel alignment. They have the necessary experience and specialized tools to ensure precise alignment.

Of course, you can develop these industry skills yourself! After then, with the right equipment and tools, you can take on a commercial alignment yourself.

9. What Are the Potential Consequences of Neglecting to Align the Wheels of My Semitruck?

Neglecting wheel alignment for trucks can lead to premature tire wear, decreased fuel efficiency, potential damage to other components and compromised vehicle safety.

10. How Much Does It Typically Cost to Get a Wheel Alignment for a Heavy-Duty Truck?

The cost of wheel alignment for a heavy-duty truck can vary widely depending on location and the specific service provider. On average, you can expect to pay between $200 to $600.

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Learn Heavy-Duty Truck Alignment Skills at UTI

Enrolling in Universal Technical Institute’s Diesel Technology program can help you gain the education and hands-on experience required to meet the industry’s demand for skilled trade professionals.1 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), total diesel technician employment is expected to exceed 294,000 by 2032!48 The Diesel Truck Steering & Suspension Systems portion of the program introduces students to the servicing of suspension systems and provides hands-on instruction on how to perform multiple vehicle alignments.

Students can graduate in less than a year ready to work with their hands on big rigs or other diesel vehicles in the industry.7 You can take the first step toward a future you’re excited about when you enroll today. Get more information online or call an Admissions Representative at 1-800-834-7308!

With classes starting every 3-6 weeks, no need to wait to start your career.
Hands-on training.Get hands on experience with the industry's leading brands.
No Pressure to commit.Get answers to your questions without any obligations.
Or Call Now 800.834.7308

1 ) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
2 ) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit www.uti.edu/disclosures.
7 ) Some programs may require longer than one year to complete.
48 ) The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that total national employment for Bus and Truck Mechanics and Diesel Engine Specialists will be 294,100 by 2032. See Table 1.2 Employment by detailed occupation, 2022 and projected 2032, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov, viewed November 16, 2023. UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.


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