How Do I Know When My Car Needs An Alignment

As a car owner, it can be difficult to keep track of all the assorted bits and pieces that you need to check and maintain. Visiting a mechanic can help, but simply telling them to find everything that’s wrong isn’t always the best answer as it tends to get expensive and can be quite inconvenient if you’re doing it a lot. The result is that you as an owner need to learn to be more in tune with your car in order to help you give your mechanic a place to start looking for any problems. Some things like worn-out windshield wipers and faulty tire pressure sensors are very easy for an owner to diagnose but, then there are some things that are not: like knowing when it’s time to stop in for an alignment service. 

How to Tell

Unless you are an experienced mechanic with a hydraulic lift handy a visual inspection of your car isn’t always a viable option. However, there are a few relatively easy ways to tell if your vehicle needs an alignment:

  • The steering wheel is at an odd angle - If your wheels are physically straight but your steering wheel is in a canted position, that’s an easy way to tell you might need to take your car in to be checked.  
  • Vehicle Drifting - If you notice that your wheel regularly tends to pull either to the left or right on otherwise straight roads, you’ll probably want to have your car looked at. 
  • Vibrations - This applies mainly to your steering wheel, if you notice chronic vibrations coming from your steering wheel even on well-maintained roads this is a sign that something could be amiss.
  • Uneven Tread Wear - If your tire shows evidence of uneven wear this could be an indicator that your vehicle is out of alignment. It also bears noting that this could be indicative of having low tire pressure for an extended period. 

Why Alignment Is Important

Initially, you may not experience any noticeable mechanical issues beyond contending with the annoyances that were previously mentioned but, over time you will have to contend with an ever-escalating number of problems:

  • Uneven Tire Wear - Initially this may not seem like a big deal but after enough mileage, your tires will end up wearing out well before they normally would because the weight of your vehicle is no longer evenly distributed across the tire’s surface which can start to add up in the form of more frequent replacement.
  • Difficulty Steering - This ties directly to the drifting issue mentioned earlier. At high speeds, you will notice that it will require an increasing amount of effort to keep the vehicle on a straight line. As your tires wear down these effects will begin to multiply making steering progressively worse.
  • Suspension Damage - If not repaired in a timely fashion your suspension system can suffer damage, which can lead to a very unpleasant repair bill later.

When it’s all said and done, keeping an eye out for the symptoms of improper alignment can mean the difference between a $130 alignment or a $2500+ suspension rebuild. Which would you prefer?