Wear and tear on your car is inevitable, and it can add up to some major bills. The average American spends around $1000 a year on car maintenance, but with certain preventative care, they could save a lot!
A simple wheel alignment could save you hundreds of dollars just on tires, as long as you know when to bring it to your mechanic. Let’s talk about the most common wheel alignment signs and where to go for your auto maintenance needs!
What Is a Wheel Alignment?
A wheel alignment is a routine maintenance service to align your wheels properly, especially your front wheels. Your front wheels are designed to turn left to allow for steering, which also makes them more susceptible to misalignment.
However, your rear wheels can easily become misaligned, even if they aren’t designed to swivel. With enough force, you can bend the wheel, frame, or control arm, causing a misalignment.
While a slight misalignment isn’t directly a safety issue, it will cause greater wear and tear on your tires, lower fuel economy, and worsen over time. If the misalignment is severe, it can be dangerous to drive your vehicle.
With the average cost of tires being $167 each (more for trucks), paying a small amount for an alignment is well worth it.
What Causes Alignment Issues?
Wheel misalignment is typically caused by trauma to the vehicle after hitting something, usually a pothole or a curb. Even seemingly small impacts can cause wheel alignment issues.
Wear and tear on your vehicle is another common cause, which may exacerbate the effects of a sudden impact. Because of this, you’re almost certain to need an alignment at some point while owning a vehicle.
Lastly, an accident, especially from the side, is likely to throw your wheels right out of alignment.
While there isn’t much you can do to prevent needing an alignment at some point, the best you can do is drive carefully and try to avoid potholes when you see them. However, an alignment is a lot less expensive than an accident, so don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation to avoid a pothole.
Regardless of the cause, there are ways to tell when you need an alignment, as well as remedying the issue.
How to Tell When You Need an Alignment
While driving your car, there are a few ways to tell when something is wrong. Now, there can be trouble with your wheel bearings, tie rods, and other parts of your vehicle that can cause similar issues, but your mechanic can help you diagnose those problems.
More often than not, however, these are the tell-all signs of a wheel misalignment so you can judge for yourself!
Steering Wheel Alignment
When you travel straight on a road, look at the manufacturer logo on your steering wheel and see if it aligns vertically. If it’s perfectly straight, then your alignment is likely okay.
However, if it veers to the left or the right, that’s a clear sign that your alignment is off, even if it’s been doing that for a long time.
Also, if you ever feel that your steering wheel is “pulling” your car to the left or right without your control, or if you feel you have to hold it in place while traveling straight (even with slight pressure), then it’s likely you have an alignment issue.
Bumpy Ride at High Speeds
Pull your sun visor down and take a look at it while traveling at high speeds on the highway. Try driving 65 mph or higher and look at the visor that’s in front of you so you can monitor the road.
Is it vibrating? It shouldn’t be. If it’s shaking, you’re shaking, or the vehicle is shaking at high speeds, this is a clear sign that your wheels are misaligned.
Also, you may notice that your steering wheel begins to vibrate or shake from side to side when driving over small bumps or potholes. It shouldn’t do that.
Are your tires lasting as long as they say they should? If you buy tires rated for 70,000 miles and you get 65,000 out of them in the city or after traveling on dirt roads for years, then that’s perfectly normal.
However, if you start noticing a significant balding of your tires in a short period of time, then your alignment is probably off. That’s the one factor that’s most likely to bald your tires quickly.
Unless you’re doing a burnout, your tires shouldn’t squeal. If you notice squealing when you hit the gas from a stoplight, then it’s likely your wheels are misaligned.
What to Do If You Think You Need an Alignment
Believe it or not, wheel alignments are precise work and many mechanic shops don’t have the necessary tools to perform this routine task. They require special equipment to align properly.
However, when you find the right total car care services, you can easily get your wheels aligned for an affordable price. Alignments don’t take long, and with the help of experienced pros, you can get back on the road in no time!
Get Your Auto Maintenance Done Today
Now that you know about this routine auto maintenance, pay attention to your wheel alignment over time and bring it into the shop if you’re worried. Mechanics can easily double-check your alignment and see if it needs work.
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