Wheel or tire alignment ensures that your tires operate at their maximum potential and prevents premature wear. Yet, driving every day can make keeping your car’s tires aligned difficult. Poor driving behavior, environmental, and other factors can cause your vehicle to become misaligned. Fortunately, having an alignment performed often, in addition to extending the life of your tires, helps your vehicle achieve better fuel economy, prevents expensive suspension repairs down the road, and makes for a smoother drive. Find out the most common reasons on what causes bad wheel alignment and the symptoms indicating an alignment is due.
What is Car Alignment?
Alignment is related to the adjustment of the system that connects the wheels to the vehicle, otherwise known as the suspension. An alignment is simply adjusting the angles of the suspension for better tire contact with the road. The suspension system is required to keep all four tires working together at the same speed and direction. Vehicles become misaligned when any of the network of components in the system shifts out of place. Often components shift due to road conditions or worn components.
How Does a Car Get Out of Alignment?
Misalignment can be caused by the driver, the road, or the worn components in the vehicle. Here are the top three reasons your vehicle may fall out of alignment:
- Sudden disturbance or impact from hitting something such as a pothole, bumping into a curb, going too fast over a speed bump, or an accident.
- Suspension components, including poor shocks or struts, become worn or loose affecting alignment.
- Vehicle modifications such as lifting. The suspension is intended to work within a specified height determined by the manufacturer. If the height of the vehicle is modified, the suspension must be adjusted as well, otherwise, you risk misaligning your vehicle.
Though the size of some bumps may not be of any significance, if hit hard enough, it may be just enough to affect the alignment. The larger the impact, the higher the potential you have of throwing your vehicle’s alignment out of place. Because metal used in the suspension flexes easily, after a period of time, contact with curbs and potholes alters the shape and angles forcing the alignment out of place. Unfortunately, certain road conditions are unpredictable and not all accidents can be prevented, however, you can take steps to prevent misalignment by driving safely.
Alignment Begins with Tire Care
Checking your vehicle’s tire pressure often and adjusting them to the recommended PSI, set by your vehicle manufacturer, is a great way to prevent trouble with your alignment or to keep the vehicle from pulling to one side. Have a front-end alignment performed if your tire treads are uneven, you’ve recently purchased new tires, or if your vehicle experiences any of the bad alignment symptoms listed:
- Bumpy ride even on smooth surfaces.
- Uneven tire tread.
- Vehicle pulling to the right or left.
- Steering wheel shakes.
- Fighting the steering wheel to keep straight.
- Vehicle tracks grooves in the road.
Why Alignment is Important
If your vehicle is not aligned properly, you risk prematurely wearing out your tires and creating some potentially dangerous driving hazards. When vehicles are out of alignment, the tires wear unevenly comparative to each other. Tires will begin to change in appearance by looking rough or torn. Poor tire tread on your tires affects the car’s ability to stop, especially in inclement weather. If your tires appear abnormal, don’t hesitate to take your vehicle to a service center for inspection. While manufacturers do not have a set time frame for when alignments should be performed, trust your instincts. If your vehicle is able to drive in a smooth, straight line your vehicle is likely properly aligned. However, it is recommended you have your alignment checked often, such as at every oil change and especially when you’ve purchased new tires to prevent uneven tire wear.
A series of measurements and movements are used to establish the exact position of alignment for your vehicle. Each vehicle has its own recommended set of specifications that must be sustained for proper alignment. Sun Devil Auto utilizes top of the line alignment machines to guarantee your vehicle meets the set specifications. Stop by any Sun Devil Auto location to have your vehicle’s alignment tested and adjusted if needed. Schedule an appointment or stop by any of our locations throughout the Phoenix-Metro area.