We’ve recently talked about tire rotations, but today we will go over what an alignment is & how to tell your car needs an alignment. Yes, alignment & rotation are different! You need them both from time to time to help enhance the life of your car (and tires). Who wants to pay for new tires all the time? Not me!
How To Tell It’s Time Your Car Needs An Alignment
What Is A Wheel Alignment?
Let’s get one thing straight first; wheel & tire alignment are the same (unless you are talking about your steering wheel which I can discuss in another post). Ultimately, your car will need aligned every so often due to everyday driving. When you hit a pothole or a curb and scuff up your tires, it also ‘scuffs up’ your suspension. Over time, if you continue driving with a whacked out suspension you’ll create uneven wear in your tires which could completely ruin them. You will also notice your steering wheel shaking like crazy depending on how bad it is. But, we will get into that later.
As Bridgestone Tires explains, “Alignment refers to an adjustment of a vehicle’s suspension – the system that connects a vehicle to its wheels. It is not an adjustment of the tires or wheels themselves. The key to proper alignment is adjusting the angles of the tires which affects how they make contact with the road.”
Over time, if nothing is fixed, unaligned wheels could affect your cars’ performance, steering wheel turning capabilities, and tire movement. Wheel alignment is basically the process of straightening your front tires to match up with your rear tires via your suspension. Making sure there is a straight line between the two, on each side. Now, some cars are naturally ‘toed in’ meaning, for example, their back two tires bend inward compared to the front tires. This was popular in older cars like the Corvair and isn’t popular now since they found issues with them. Your tires should be almost perfectly straight from front to rear.
If you hit a pothole and feel your whole body shaking due to impact just remember your car felt that too. You can easily check your tire’s position by standing behind your car and looking down through your tires from the back to the front. If you notice one tire, or multiple, bent in a little that’s an early warning sign you need an alignment.
Six Signs Your Car Needs An Alignment
Unfortunately, there are no warning signs coming through on your dashboard telling you it’s time for an alignment. You have to check them regularly & if you notice any of these 6 signs below, then it’s time to take your car in!
1. Uneven Tread
Uneven tire tread will definitely give it away. You’ll notice one tire wearing more on the inside or outside compared to the others. Don’t forget, you can always check your tread with a penny or a quarter!
2. Wheel Vibration
We’ve gone over tons of different vibrations in your car & what they mean in our article called “How To Diagnosis A Vibrating Vehicle“. When your steering wheel is shaking like crazy while driving, especially traveling over 50mph, then that’s a great sign you need an alignment.
3. Tires ‘Toeing’ In
If you lay down on the ground behind your tires & look straight through to your front tires, you should notice the rear & fronts line up pretty well. However, if you notice one tire caved or ‘toed’ in compared to the others, your tire is out of alignment & needs to be fixed before you start creating uneven wear.
4. Steering Wheel Off Center
Similar to your steering wheel vibrating over 50mph, if you notice your steering wheel not staying straight either while driving or in neutral, that is a great indication you need an alignment.
5. Squeaky Tires
If you check your tire pressure regularly but still notice your tires squeaking while turning, it could mean you need an alignment.
6. Car Pulling To One Side
Lastly, if your car pulls to one side while driving straight on the highway that means a tire is knocked out & not lining up with the others. Time to take it in!
What You Can Do To Prevent Needing An Alignment All The Time
There are a couple driving skills you need in order to prevent knocking your tires out of alignment. First thing, check your tire pressure often. Keeping the right amount of air in your tires will help them balance out when they hit a deep hole. You also need to start paying attention to the road & avoid as many potholes as possible. And, try not to hit the curb when parking… Lastly, when you notice you need an alignment, get it done asap so it doesn’t progress & ruin your tires completely.
If you take care of your car, your car will take care of you. I’ve said this numerous times but it is true! (hey! I just rhymed 😉 )
As always, #motorwithconfidence