Does Your Car Need A Wheel Alignment?
Do you know that something as simple as a good wheel alignment can save you thousands of dollars in car repairs?
Your vehicle’s front-end and its alignment ensures that the wheels run equal and parallel to each other while you drive. This gives you good road handling control and proper tire wear.
A wheel alignment is essentially an adjustment of the wheel to ensure that the angle of the tire are both flush with the road and parallel to each other. The purpose of a wheel alignment is to maximize tire life and minimize tire wear. It also ensures that your car is riding straight and level when driving along a straight and level road.
When your wheel alignment goes out of whack, it’s foolish to overlook the problem.
Like ignoring the engine light on the dashboard, says letting the issue drag on can cost you hundreds. That means shelling out cash for a set of new tires and repairs, not to mention a hazardous blowout on the road.
How Can You Tell If You Need A Wheel Alignment?
These five simple clues will alert you that your car is out of alignment.
Clue #1: Pulling
If, while driving on a smooth and straight and level road, your car veers to the right or left without you turning the wheel, you may need to get your car in for an alignment check.
Clue #2: Suspicious Steering
In order for you to drive, or steer in a straight line, the logo on your steering wheel should be perfectly horizontal. If you have to hold your steering wheel at an angle in order to drive in a straight line, your car is probably out of alignment.
Clue # 3: Uneven Tire Tread Wear
Uneven tread wear on your tires is a good clue that something is wrong with your alignment. If you’re seeing strange tire wear, where the wear is not across the tread but on one portion of the tread, either on the inside or outside of the tire, then you have an alignment problem. Your tread wear will vary by how misaligned the wheels are, though it won’t always be hugely noticeable.
An over of under inflated tire will also create uneven tire wear. Under inflation causes irregular tire wear on the outside while over inflation cause irregular wear in the middle of the tire tread. This tire problem can be easily rectified without a wheel alignment but needs to be addressed as soon as possible. You may be able to save the tires if the wear isn’t too far along by rotating the effected tires to the opposite axle. An over of under inflated tire will also create uneven tire wear. Under inflation causes irregular tire wear on the outside while over inflation cause irregular wear in the middle of the tire tread. This tire problem can be easily rectified without a wheel alignment but needs to be addressed as soon as possible. You may be able to save the tires if the wear isn’t too far along by rotating the effected tires to the opposite axle (see Tire Rotation for proper technique).
Regardless, if your tread lines aren’t straight then you’d better make a date with a trusted mechanic
Clue # 4: Turn Return
If your steering wheel does not automatically return to the center position when you let it go, or if it feels sluggish or loose, it’s a sign you may have alignment issues.
Clue # 5: Whole Lot of Shaking
A vibrating or shimmying steering wheel on smooth road, means that you need to have it checked out by a trusted mechanic.
What You Should Do If You Think You Need A Wheel Alignment
If your car exhibits any of the symptoms described above, you need to see your mechanic about getting a wheel alignment. A wheel alignment cannot be performed on your car if there are loose or worn front end parts such as shock absorbers, struts, tie rods or ball joints. Your mechanic will first check for worn front end parts as described above and identify any required repairs prior to beginning the wheel alignment.
As more and more cars are being designed with adjustable rear alignment settings, you might need a 4 wheel alignment. Even if your car doesn’t allow for adjustments in the rear, a 4 wheel alignment should be considered over a regular alignment as it will allow your mechanic to identify any rear tracking problems and possibly compensate for them with adjustments to the front end alignment.
After the wheel alignment is completed, you should test drive your car on a straight and level road and check that it goes straight and that the steering wheel is in the proper position in relation to your dash. If you notice a problem, take the car back to your Auto Repair Shop and have the mechanic drive it and fine-tune the wheel alignment settings.
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