Although you should check, inflate, and change your tires periodically, tire changes aren’t the only important thing to maintain when it comes to keeping the rubber on the road. Many car owners often neglect to check their wheel alignment until it’s too late.
Wheel alignment is imperative for safe vehicle operations and can be crucial for maintaining control over your car in both rough and smooth road conditions. But just what is wheel alignment, and what makes it so important?
Why Is Wheel Alignment Important?
When you first purchase a vehicle from the manufacturer, the wheels are properly aligned to manufacturer specifications. This includes aligning to multiple angles to ensure optimal vehicle performance and control. Your primary angles are the front caster and the front and rear camber and toe. When these are in proper alignment, your vehicle responds effortlessly to steering and maintains direction as you drive.
Not only does proper wheel alignment keep your car riding on the straight and narrow, it reduces costly and sometimes dangerous wear and tear on your tires. Poor wheel alignment increases friction between your tires and the road – and increased friction leads to tire treads thinning to the point of a possibly dangerous blowout. Keeping your wheels aligned prolongs the lifespan of your tires and keeps you safe on the road.
What Causes Problems With Wheel Alignment?
Sometimes, wheel misalignment happens with natural wear and tear. Every time you drive your car, you’re subjecting it to massive amounts of torque and friction, resulting in slow and gradual degradation of components. Pressure on shocks, springs, and tires can cause them to slowly slip out of alignment over time.
More drastic causes of wheel misalignment include dramatic, jolting impacts. If you hit a curb or a pothole, take a speed bump too quickly, or have an accident, this can knock your wheels out of alignment. If you’ve put your car up on lifts, improper suspension alignment can also lead to wheel misalignment.
How Can You Tell If Your Wheels Are Misaligned?
Many signs and symptoms can tell you something isn’t quite right with your car, it takes close attention to recognize the problem is coming from misaligned wheels. One of the first signs you may notice is your car “listing,” or drifting to one side as you drive. It may also dip farther on one side than the other.
If you perform a turn and your steering wheel doesn’t naturally return to a normal position, this can be another symptom; the steering wheel may also jerk or vibrate as you’re driving. Watch your tires tread for uneven wear. If one or two are wearing more unevenly than the others, your wheels are likely misaligned. Also listen for possible auditory clues, such as squealing tires when you turn.
How Can You Correct and Prevent Wheel Alignment Issues?
Qualified auto technicians and auto service centers such as Sun Auto Service offer wheel alignment services. You should bring your car in routinely for checkups, including a check on wheel alignment, if necessary. Our technicians use specialized instruments to measure your wheel angles and check against manufacturer specifications and can realign them to the proper settings. Having your vehicle’s wheels aligned properly can help prevent safety issues and driving problems. Don’t forget to have your shocks and struts checked, as well. Poor shocks can mean more force impacting your wheels, leading to faster deterioration.
Protect Your Safety
Wheel misalignment is more than an annoyance that makes driving difficult and frustrating. It can be a serious safety hazard. When your vehicle is uncontrollable, it makes it impossible to predict what may happen in busy traffic. You may not be able to avoid a collision due to poor steering, or you may even be the cause of a collision as your car drifts out of your lane. Worn, irregularly damaged tires can lead to blowouts and often perform poorly on icy, snowy, or rainy roads.
Keeping your wheels aligned is a minimal investment in safe driving. Make a wheel alignment a regular part of your routine maintenance and talk to our Service Consultants at your local Sun Auto Service center about how you can keep your car in top working order.