If your vehicle has been shifting to either side when driving, or your steering wheel has been vibrating, your car could be out of alignment. It’s important to get this issue looked at sooner rather than later because it represents a big safety issue.
Wheel alignment is an often overlooked yet critical adjustment that ensures your vehicle can track straight and true as you drive along. Poor alignment may cause premature tire wear, unsafe operation, suspension failure, excessive steering wheel play, and driver fatigue, says Kelley Blue Book.
So, how can you tell for sure if your car is out of alignment? There’s really no dashboard warning light that pops up like you have for low tire pressure or low coolant temp. Knowing the facts is the first step, so here’s a handy guide all about alignment.
Why is Proper Alignment Important?
Proper alignment is about more than having straight wheels. It can actually extend the life of your tires, give you even tire wear, ensure a smoother ride, provide safer vehicle handling, and save you money on fuel.
Generally, alignment involves a vehicle’s suspension; this is the system responsible for maintaining optimal friction between the road and your wheels. In a nutshell, it’s what allows for a more stable, comfortable drive overall.
What Does it Mean When Your Car is “Out of Alignment”?
When left unchecked, a wonky wheel alignment can make your tires wear faster, because the wheels aren’t in the optimal angle position. As such, they face excess friction against the road’s surface so your vehicle must work harder to remain in motion. In addition to wearing down more rapidly, your tire treads will wear down unevenly as well.
Plus, your out-of-alignment car could actually pose a safety hazard, as it will tend to drift to one side. This is bad enough under normal conditions, but it’s even more dangerous on steep, slippery or uneven roads.
Signs Your Wheels Aren’t Properly Aligned
Look out for these warning signs, and bring your car to a professional for repair:
- Your car is drifting to the left or right, even though your steering wheel is pointing straight. Even when driving straight, you may notice the wheel doesn’t actually point straight. This is a big safety issue, so don’t let this go.
- Your tires wear unevenly or in unusual spots. This sign is tougher to spot than others, but have a go at it first. If you can’t see anything, ask a technician to take a look.
- Your steering feels loose or sloppy. Is your car wandering a bit? Does it seem to have a mind of its own? You may not be able to put your finger on the issue. With a mild case of misalignment, you simply may not feel that your car is as responsive as it normally is.
- Your steering wheel is vibrating. This is a big red flag. Your wheels may be pulling against each other, caused by the misalignment. The result? Your steering wheel will start to vibrate against your hands.
If any of the signs above sound familiar to you, make an appointment to have your car checked out as soon as possible. Even if you don’t notice blatant red flags, it’s recommended you have your alignment looked at during every other oil and filter change. Remember, proper alignment guards against excessive wear and tear on your tires and even puts more money in your pocket at the gas station.
Also, keep in mind that having precise wheel alignment when you first purchase the car does not mean this is guaranteed forever. Anything can cause wheels to get misaligned, even on a new vehicle. Anything from a chance encounter with a pothole or curb can throw your wheels out of alignment. While these types of impacts can cause your vehicle to fall out of alignment immediately, other times, it’s a gradual declining process that’s nearly imperceptible over time as components begin to wear.
Preventive maintenance and regular checkups will ensure you have proper wheel alignment which will lead to a longer lifespan for your vehicle.
Contact Rick and Ray’s Auto Plaza
If you suspect your wheels are out of alignment, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with us in Fort Worth at 817-335-2073. We can check your wheel alignment during routine checkups and oil changes, and will advise you on what we can do to correct the problem if detected.