Alignment: even if you don’t know much about how it works, you know maintaining it is part of keeping your car in good working order. That’s great, but how can you tell if your car is out of alignment? After all, there’s no handy dashboard warning light like there is for tire pressure or coolant temperature. Follow along as we demystify the purpose of your car’s alignment, why it’s so important to maintain, and how to tell if you’re in need of an alignment service. Getting your facts straight is the first step to keeping your car straight!
Why proper alignment is so essential
Proper alignment is about much more than straight wheels. Vehicle alignment can extend the life of your tires, lead to even tire wear, make for a smooth ride, ensure safe vehicle handling, and even save you money on gas.
Overall, alignment deals with a vehicle’s suspension, which is the system tasked with maintaining optimal friction between the wheels and the road. It's the system that generally allows for a comfortable, stable drive. In other words, it’s pretty important.
What happens when your car is "out of alignment"
If left unattended, an out of whack wheel alignment could cause your tires to wear faster, among other things. Because the wheels aren’t positioned at their optimal angles, they’re facing excess friction against the surface of the road and the car has to work harder to stay in motion. Not only could the tire treads wear down more rapidly, but they'll wear down unevenly too.
That’s not all. A car that’s out of alignment could actually be a safety hazard. One of the first things you may notice about a misaligned car is how it drifts to one side. While this can be scary enough in normal conditions, imagine it on slippery, steep, or uneven roads. You can help keep yourself (and your passengers) safe by making sure your car is properly aligned.
How to tell if your wheels aren't properly aligned
Time for the big question: is your car out of alignment? Now that you know how important proper alignment actually is, watch for these warning signs:
- Your vehicle drifts to the right or left, even though the steering wheel is pointing straight. Similarly, you might notice that when you’re driving straight, your steering wheel is not actually pointing straight.
- Your tires are wearing unevenly or in abnormal spots. This may be hard to spot, but you can certainly take a look. Otherwise, ask a technician to check out your tire wear.
- Your steering feels “sloppy” or “loose.” It might even feel like your car is wandering a bit, with a mind of its own. If the misalignment is less drastic, it may just feel like your car is not as responsive as it usually is.
- Your steering wheel vibrates. You can’t miss this red flag. If your wheels are pulling against each other due to misalignment, it can cause the steering wheel to vibrate against your hands.
If you notice one of the signs above, have your vehicle checked out as soon as you can. Even if your car isn't throwing up any red flags, it’s generally recommended that you have your alignment checked every other time you get an oil change. Proper alignment prevents excessive wear and tear on your tires and it could even help you save on gas. Schedule an appointment at your nearest Tires Plus and have your trusty vehicle serviced by one of our experienced technicians!