Wheel alignments are something every car needs periodically. But unfortunately it’s one of those car problems that isn’t always obvious. There are no dash warning lights. Car manufacturers don’t list it on maintenance schedules. And to make matters worse, misalignment can happen gradually, so drivers may find themselves making driving adjustments until the problem can’t be ignored or causes bigger car problems.
Wheel alignments explained
A wheel alignment adjusts the suspension on your car to get it back within manufacturer’s specifications. The adjustments are very precise and require special equipment, which means a wheel alignment isn’t one of those car problems you can solve yourself. A trip to the mechanic is necessary. A wheel alignment often just includes adjustments, but sometimes replacement parts are required.
Why does it matter if my car is aligned properly?
The most important reason your car needs wheel alignment is safety. The car wheels need to contact the road surface properly. If that doesn’t happen, it can cause erratic handling and excessive tire wear that make it more difficult to control your vehicle. Here are the other reasons wheel alignments are one of those car problems that shouldn’t be ignored.
- Prevents more expensive car problems. Out of alignment wheels cause extra stress and uneven wear on suspension parts, causing premature failure.
- Prevents excessive, uneven, and premature tire wear. Good tires are vital to the safe operation of your vehicle.
- You’ll get a smoother ride. Misalignment can cause vibrations that will disappear after repair.
- Improves your gas mileage. If the suspension system isn’t working properly, the engine has to work harder to move the car along the road. The engine uses more energy to operate, reducing your gas mileage.
- Helps your driver assist systems work properly. Features like park assist, traction control, and lane departure detection rely on information about the steering angle sensor to work. If your steering wheel isn’t straight when you’re driving straight (a telltale sign of alignment problems), those systems won’t get the information they need to function properly.
Signs your car needs an alignment
It isn’t always obvious when your car is out of alignment, but there are signs to look for.
- You can see your wheel or wheels tilting in or out.
If it’s severe or caused by impact, you may be able to see it.
- Uneven tire wear. You’ll see more wear on the inside or outside sides of the tire tread.
- Steering wheel is off center. It has to point to the left or right for the car to go straight or doesn’t return to center after a turn.
- Pulsating or vibrating steering wheel
- Car pulls or drifts to one side
When to get a wheel alignment
If you have any of the car problems mentioned above, or experienced an impact, you should get your alignment checked. Otherwise, a check approximately every 1-2 years should be fine.
You’ll want your alignment checked more often if you frequently drive on poorly maintained or unpaved roads or if you have an older car. As vehicles age, they are prone to more car problems. Over time parts in the suspension can loosen or wear down, gradually causing your car to go out of alignment.
A wheel alignment should be done if you get new tires or suspension parts replaced. Any time you have car problems, it’s important to have an excellent mechanic on your side. Whether your car problems are big or small, if you need repairs or maintenance in the Santa Rosa area, All Around Auto Repair can help. We’ll get you back on the road as quickly as possible.