Staying on the Path

“It’s perfect now; you’re gonna love it.” Steve at Matt’s Alignment and Brake tells me with a big smile, handing the keys over the counter. I’d been anticipating this all weekend, as Roy and I didn’t make it back from the coast, dropping off the Z4 for top repairs in time to pick the 7 up.

If you’ve ever had to deal with a BMW dealer for a four-wheel alignment, you know how painful that can be – my local dealer charges $259. Ouch. Those of you with multiple BMWs, multiple ouch. To make matters worse, it’s rare to find a dealer that can even service a BMW more than 10 years old – triple ouch.

Beginning of last week, after having new control arms put on the E39 wagon, as I was leaving Jason’s shop (Bavarian Auto Works), I asked him where to take the car for an alignment. He suggested Matt’s Alignment, which happens to be just down the street from both Jason and my house. How awesome is that, that you have a great independent garage and alignment shop within 3 miles of your house in either direction? Pam’s never going to get me to move to the suburbs.

Stopping by Matt’s, I’m greeted by Steve at the counter, and he takes a few minutes to explain the extent of their latest alignment and wheel balancing equipment. Thankfully, they charge $109 for a four-wheel alignment, and he assures me that they can get the steering wheel straight too. Oh yeah, they can get me in tomorrow – that’s service, eh?

The following afternoon after picking up the wagon, Steve says they can get Boris, my 733 in tomorrow, to re-balance the front tires, as the car has developed a bit of a shimmy. Once the car is in the shop, however, they let me know that my wheel bearings need seals, repacking, and an idler arm in addition to a four-wheel alignment. “These bearings are loose, loose, loose.” Yikes.

I’m all for wheels not falling off. After taking the wagon for a shakedown cruise, I am completely comfortable with Matt’s capabilities. Thanks to some new front end components and precise alignment, it drives like a new BMW again. Not bad for 214,000 miles on the odometer. 

These guys do great work.

Fast forward to today and the much-anticipated reunion. I’m as happy as someone who’s left their dog at the vet for the weekend. Wow, what a difference. As with the wagon, the steering wheel is perfectly centered when going down the road. The car is transformed. All the front-end sloppiness is gone, and I’m amazed at how this car tracks going around some gentle sweepers. Where my modern BMWs lack connection with the road, this 36-year-old sedan communicates the road feel so well, my therapist would be impressed. But this won’t be another lament for the way things used to be. We’ll beat that horse another day.

Bottom line, as much fun is it to chat wheels, tires, and suspension components: if you haven’t had a proper alignment and perfect tire balance, you might be surprised at how much more driving excitement is lurking in your present car. I highly suggest revisiting this aspect of your automobile.

For our readers in Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA, I can’t suggest Matt’s Alignment and Brake highly enough. You can reach them at 360-735-1415. Tell em’ we sent you.

PS: My OCD readers will notice that the service indicators are lit on my dash. We’ve got a cluster in being rebuilt to take care of the lights and odometer. This will be a future installment!