Alignment is the relationship of your wheels to each other and the vehicle. Over time and distance, your wheels can slowly move out of position due to wear or impact, affecting your vehicle’s operation and handling. Put another way, alignment is an adjustment of the vehicle’s suspension (not the tires or wheels themselves). The suspension is the system connecting the car to its wheels. Alignment is simply adjusting the angles of the tires, thereby affecting how they make contact with the road.
There’s an easy way to check your alignment: when driving straight on a flat road (please do this when no other road users are near), let go of our steering wheel. If your car continues to go straight, your alignment has passed the test. If the car veers off to one side, you need to realign your wheels.
Tire Wear Effect On Alignment
Vehicle modifications such as lifting the suspension can also cause misalignment. Cars are intended to work within a specified height, which the manufacturer determines. If the height is modified, the suspension must also be adjusted, or you risk misaligning your vehicle.
Tire wear can also have a slight impact on your alignment. Make sure you check your vehicle’s tire pressure often and adjust them to the recommended PSI. If your tire treads are uneven, have a front alignment done. While imperfect alignment typically promotes tire wear, worn tires rarely cause your vehicle to become out of alignment to a great extent.
However, if your alignment is out, you will end up wearing your tires out more quickly and creating potential driving hazards.
Misaligned tires will wear out unevenly relative to each other and within the tire’s own tread. The tires might look rough and slightly torn. Uneven tire wear causes a shorter life span, and since the tires won’t wear as long, you will be replacing them more often. Bad tread on your tires results in poor traction when driving – a major contributor to road safety. It also affects your car’s ability to stop – especially on a wet surface.
Four Signs Your Car Needs An Alignment
If you find yourself on a straight road and your car seems to be driving itself to the curb, it may be caused by poor wheel alignment. If you experience this, be sure to head to a local auto shop right away to restore the safety and drivability of your vehicle. Your car’s alignment can get knocked out after being in an accident, even driving over a pothole, or running into a curb. You may notice some of the following symptoms:
- Bumpy ride even when on smooth surfaces. An indicator that your vehicle has bad alignment is the smoothness of your ride. If you are experiencing a bumpy ride, it is probably time to re-align.
- Uneven tread is one of the less immediate symptoms of a bad alignment. Bad alignment is a common cause of uneven tire wear. You should have even wear across your tires’ treads if you are rotating your tires regularly. However, if you notice excessive wear, you might need an alignment.
- Vehicle pulls to one side. If you have trouble steering and keeping your vehicle straight on the road, your car likely needs an alignment. Perhaps the vehicle only pulls to the side on certain types of roads or with certain load conditions. Braking might affect the problem. When you experience this phenomenon, it is known as vehicle pulling. You might experience hard pulling, which feels like you are fighting with the steering wheel to keep the car straight, or soft pulling, which is only noticeable when your grip on the steering wheel is light and it feels as if the car is drifting on its own. Whatever the situation, it is worth having your alignment checked.
- Steering wheel shaking or struggling to keep the steering wheel straight. If your steering wheel, or worse, your whole car, seems to be shaking, it could be a result of bad alignment, causing two wheels on the same axle to be pointed in different directions.
|Tire Balancing vs. Alignment|
|Service||What is this?||When to have it done||Advantages|
|Tire Balance||Balancing corrects the weight imbalance on your tire and wheel assemblies when to have it done.||If you notice uneven tire wear and/or vibration in your steering wheel, floorboard, or seat.||Correctly balanced tires cause a smoother ride, less wear on your tires, and reduced drivetrain strain.|
|Wheel Alignment||Alignment corrects the angles of the tires so that they contact the road in exactly the right way.||Vehicle pulling to the side, tires are wearing faster, squealing tires or crooked steering wheel when trying to drive straight.||Correct alignment ensures a smoother and safer ride for you as well as longer tire life.|
When did you first notice the symptom? Do you remember hitting a curb or a pothole? Has the problem crept up on you gradually?
When you confirm that your vehicle has one or more of these symptoms, take the vehicle to a trusted technician for an inspection.
How Often Do You Need To Align Your Wheels
If you notice that your tires are looking rough or torn, have them checked. It is worthwhile to have your wheel alignment and tyre balancing checked and redone regularly. Not all problems are immediately visible, and these are not expensive procedures. For example, an incorrect toe angle can go unnoticed and atypical tire wear. The cost of keeping your wheels properly aligned is much lower than having to replace four prematurely worn tires.
Have it checked annually if you regularly travel on rough roads. Cars gradually go out of alignment, so you may not immediately realize how much it impacts drivability, fuel economy or tire wear until you have had it corrected.
Special Interest Automobiles is an auto service workshop in Cambridge, ON, and we provide a complete range of car services, from tires and suspension to detailing and A/C repair. We have been proudly, reliably serving Cambridge automobile owners since 1985. If you think you need wheel realignment, contact us now to take a look at your vehicle.