Does your car pull to one side or the other? Does the steering feel vague in the center? If so, your car’s wheels are likely out of alignment. Though misaligned wheels aren’t an emergency, you cannot ignore the issue. Over time, misalignment will lead to other problems that you must address.
Why Do Cars Need Alignment?
Your car’s tires should be in line with the vehicle’s center line. If a tire is angled right or left, it can cause problems. This angle is called “toe,” which can point toward the inside of the car or the outside. There are other angles, such as camber and caster, but toe is the major one. When the toe is off, you risk facing several consequences:
Tires Wear Out Faster
A tire that isn’t tracking straight is literally rubbing the road the wrong way. The tread will wear out unevenly and more quickly than intended.
Fuel Mileage Suffers
Anytime your car has to overcome extra drag, the engine must work harder to get the car to the same speed. Misaligned tires are essentially trying to go in a different direction than the car, which causes friction, drag, and poorer fuel economy.
The Ride Gets Worse
When the tires fight each other over which direction is “straight,” you’ll be able to feel it. Not only will the steering wheel vibrate and shake; you’ll also have to make constant corrections to keep the car on a straight path.
What Causes Bad Alignment?
There are large, noticeable incidents that can lead to bad alignment, such as:
- Driving through potholes
- Hitting curbs
- Getting into minor accidents
What will most likely cause your car to go out of alignment, however, is time. Misalignment happens to every car eventually, even if it’s only driven occasionally on smooth roads.
Do Rear Wheels Go Out of Alignment?
Yes. Though the majority of cars don’t have four-wheel steering, most at least have independent rear suspension, which will need periodic toe adjustments, too. If you have a vehicle with a solid rear axle, it won’t have an adjustable toe. And if your solid-axle vehicle does have a toe in or out in the rear, it’s not a matter of adjustment but of fixing severe damage.
When to Get Alignment
When you notice any of the symptoms of misalignment, you should get to a reputable shop. That said, several other occurrences also warrant alignment:
When Replacing Tires
Whenever you buy new tires, having an alignment done helps ensure that you get the maximum life from them.
If You Make Modifications
When you lower or lift your vehicle or replace suspension parts with aftermarket pieces, the alignment can go out of spec.
If Your Last Alignment Was Over a Year Ago
Ensuring that your vehicle has a straight alignment prevents other issues. Having your vehicle’s alignment set properly is part of basic maintenance. Every bit of care you put into your car results in less money spent in the long run. This helps the car maintain its value and makes it easier to sell when you’re ready to do so.