As a car owner, chances are you have heard of several maintenance tasks you should be doing while not exactly knowing what they are for. One such task is getting a wheel alignment.
While not widely understood, the truth is that wheel alignment is a crucial part of vehicle maintenance and should be done regularly to ensure that your vehicle is safe and easy to drive, especially at high speeds. Usually, wheel alignments are done when the tires get rotated. However, if you’re unsure how long it’s been since your last alignment, it may be a good idea to get one as soon as possible, especially if you drive a lot or are a daily commuter.
Knowing how to tell if your wheels need to be aligned can help you identify the problem when the time comes.
What Is Wheel Alignment?
Your car’s suspension attaches the wheels to the vehicle’s frame, and it needs to be able to move freely so it can absorb the vibrations caused by driving, making your drive more comfortable. Unfortunately, this means that the suspension can sometimes move around as you drive. When this happens, your wheels start to shift in different directions as the car drives along the road and this can cause multiple issues with steering, handling, and braking.
When you get your wheels aligned, a technician will adjust the suspension and ensure that the wheels are positioned so that the tires are making ideal contact with the road. When your wheels are in alignment, the car will drive smoothly and be much easier to drive, which helps keep you safe.
How Does a Car Get Out of Alignment?
Often, your wheels will get out of alignment simply from routine use. However, they can also get out of alignment if you hit a road hazard, such as hitting a large pothole at a high rate of speed. In these instances, you will usually notice the issue right away as there will be an instant and significant change in the way the vehicle feels and how it steers that will tell you something is wrong. If your wheels become unaligned due to everyday use, these changes will be more subtle, so it may take longer for you to notice an issue is taking place until the problem has become more severe.
Symptoms of Bad Car Wheel Alignment
Most of the time, having an improper wheel alignment will produce small changes over a prolonged period of time. However, these small changes can make a big difference in how you drive and result in serious damage if left for too long. Recognizing some of the most common symptoms of bad wheel alignment can help you get it fixed early so your car can stay in good condition for longer.
Pulling to One Side
If your steering wheel is straight, your car should not be pulling to one side as you drive. If your vehicle is not in alignment, you might notice that you constantly have to move the wheel to keep the car going in a straight line. You should be able to leave the wheel in one position and have the car remain going straight.
Steering Wheel Isn’t Centered
Your steering wheel should be going directly up and down when driving straight. Many times, when a car is out of alignment, the steering wheel will need to be tilted slightly to one side or another to make the car go straight. This can affect your ability to turn correctly and accurately, making it a significant safety hazard. The steering wheel’s position should always correspond with the car’s direction. One easy way to know whether your wheel is straight or not is to look at the emblem in the center. If this is not perfectly level when the car is going straight, it might be time to get an alignment.
Vibrations in the Steering Wheel
If you notice vibrations in the steering wheel, this could indicate that the wheels are out of alignment. When the wheels aren’t perfectly straight, they can rub on the steering mechanism, which will send vibrations to the wheel. It will be especially noticeable when you make a turn but can also happen when going straight. Other serious issues can also cause vibrations, so it is always a good idea to get them looked at by a professional.
Uneven Tire Wear
Your tires have treads designed to wear down as you use them. However, if your car is out of alignment, your tires will begin to wear unevenly and develop patches that are thinner in some areas than they should be. This can be a major safety hazard and can increase the likelihood of getting a flat or having a blowout at high speeds. Getting regular wheel alignments and tire rotations can help keep your tires in good condition for longer and keep them safe.
Protect Your Steering With an Extended Warranty
If you want to keep your vehicle’s wheels aligned and ensure your safety, purchasing an extended car warranty can help. Many extended warranties offer wheel alignments in their coverage so you can keep your car in good condition. The right warranty can extend the longevity of your car and help you feel confident on the road. Explore our extended warranty provider reviews and buying guide to find out which extended warranty will work best for you and your vehicle.