Reasons Why Proper Alignment is Important for Your Tires
In order for your car to operate properly, all four wheels need to be set up so that they’re in a perfectly straight line when the steering wheel is set straight. This is known as your “alignment.” But it might surprise you to learn just how easily a wheel can be knocked out of line and how much your entire car can suffer for it in performance and longevity.
What Is Alignment?
Contrary to what the name might imply, wheel alignment actually has very little to do with your wheels and more to do with your car’s suspension system. Your wheels are mounted to your suspension system in order to give them the ability to move up and down and absorb impacts and bumps from the road, making your ride smoother. These components, however, can bend or shift for several different reasons. When this shifting happens, one or more wheels will no longer travel straight while all the rest are, and that can have a profound effect on a number of different things.
What Causes Bad Alignment?
Plenty of different things can knock your car’s wheels out of alignment. First and perhaps most commonly, sudden jarring or heavy impact can cause components to bend or shift out of place. Things like hitting potholes, bumping curbs, or even minor accidents are all common causes of one or more of your wheels coming out of alignment.
Second, normal wear and tear can all eventually cause your car to come out of alignment. As parts such as shocks, suspension springs, and other components start to grow old, they start to wear out and develop gaps or larger tolerances, which leads to slack in steering, loosened control, and a shift in wheel alignment. However, regular maintenance can help prevent this cause of poor alignment.
Finally, changing your ride height without modifying your suspension to suit can pretty easily throw your alignment off. Suspension systems are all properly designed to work at a specific ride height, and adjusting this height takes the suspension out of its optimal operating range, resulting in increased chances of bad alignment.
What Does Bad Alignment Cause?
When your wheels go out of alignment, your car will suffer in a number of ways. First, handling capability drops dramatically. When your wheels aren’t lined up perfectly straight, your car’s ability to turn in either direction is dramatically inhibited. Your car also will likely struggle to drive in a straight line, pulling consistently in one direction.
This can come back to impair the lifespan of your tires. When your wheels are out of alignment, your tires will wear unevenly, which means you’ll have to replace them more frequently, which adds considerable expense to your cost of car ownership. It’s not uncommon for bad alignment to also lead to flat spots or even tire blowouts from added friction on the wheels that don’t properly line up.
Is My Alignment Off?
So now that we’ve established what bad alignment can do, how can you tell if you might be struggling with this problem? There are a few symptoms of bad alignment that are fairly easy to spot. First, when you rotate your tires (which you should be doing at least every other oil change), look for wear patterns in the tire tread. If one wheel consistently shows signs of increased wear, then it is probably out of alignment.
You can also tell if you have an alignment problem by paying attention to how your car drives. When your car unexpectedly drifts to one side when driving, even if the wheel is pointed straight, you could have a wheel or two out of alignment. Arguably the easiest way to tell that your alignment is off is to look at your steering wheel while driving in a straight line—if the wheel is off while driving straight, then your alignment is definitely off.
Likewise, pay attention to your car’s response when you turn. If you notice that you really have to force the steering wheel to get the car to turn or to return to straight after turning, you should have your alignment fixed as soon as possible.
Need an alignment check? Trust the team at Christian Brothers Automotive!
Since 1982, it’s been our mission here at Christian Brothers Automotive to create a world of happy drivers by providing genuine, honest, and knowledgeable car repair services. From Houston, Texas to North Carolina, Missouri, Nebraska, Utah, and beyond, we invite you to visit one of our locally owned and operated auto repair shops.