Why Are Wheel Alignments Necessary?

There are two main reasons to keep up with wheel alignments: safety and money. When your wheels are out of alignment, they can make your vehicle pull to one side—sometimes abruptly. One moment of inattention could put you into oncoming traffic on a busy street or completely off the road. Not to mention, misalignment will also wear your tires much faster and speed up the replacement interval.

What is a Wheel Alignment?

All four of your wheels are supposed to be pointing straight, perpendicular to the ground, and parallel to each other. When your wheels are aligned, it keeps your vehicle tracking straight on the road and helps to maximize tire life.

Wheels can lose alignment for a variety of reasons: potholes, speedbumps, hitting curbs, and accidents. Normal driving conditions can also throw off your alignment over time. Sometimes only one wheel will be out of alignment and will pull against the other tires. Not only does this cause excessive tire wear, but it also hurts fuel economy.

During an alignment, we’ll adjust the various angles of your suspension system that are responsible for the position of the tires and movement. These are called the toe, thrust, camber, and caster. We’ll also inspect the steering and suspension components; whatever cause the wheels to be knocked out of alignment in the first place may have also damaged other parts. Depending on your model, we may also reset your car’s vehicle steering angle sensor.

The type of alignment you receive is also dependent on your model. Four-wheel alignments, which involve aligning both axles, are used for four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles with independent or adjustable rear suspensions. If you don’t have 4WD or AWD, your car will likely only need a front-end alignment or a thrust-angle alignment.

Your owner’s manual will have recommendations for how often you should have your alignment checked, or you can check with your service advisor. In general, it’s usually around every 6,000 miles, although this can vary based on the type of vehicle you own, typical driving conditions, and tire type. However, if you noticed signs that your alignment is off, it’s best to schedule an alignment sooner.

Signs Your Wheel Alignment is Off

Here are some common signs it’s time to have your wheels aligned:

  • Noisy steering
  • Rapid or uneven tire wear
  • The steering wheel looks crooked, even though you’re driving straight
  • Your car pulls to the left or right
  • Squealing tires
  • Drifting to one side while driving
  • Loose or vibrating steering wheel

When you come in for an appointment, we may ask you some additional questions to help diagnose the issue faster. These include:

  1. When did you first notice the issue? Was it after hitting a curb? Or has it been gradual?
  2. How often does the issue happen? Is your vehicle only pulling on certain road conditions or during a turn?
  3. When was the last time you had your tires rotated? Have you kept your air pressure at the right level? Both of these factors can contribute to faster tire wear.
  4. Have you ever had your tires or steering components replaced?

The Benefits of a Wheel Alignment

Beyond safer driving and longer-lasting tires, wheel alignments offer several other benefits:

  • Better fuel efficiency. According to Investopedia, misaligned tires can reduce your fuel economy by as much as 10%.
  • A smoother, more comfortable ride. If your alignment is off, it can make your ride bumpy, jarring, or vibration-filled.
  • Fewer repairs. Misalignments can cause damage to your suspension system if you ignore them for too long. It’s far more cost-effective to keep up with alignments rather than waiting until you need a repair.

What’s the Difference Between a Wheel Alignment and Balancing?

It’s common for drivers to think wheel balancing is the same as wheel alignment, but these are two different services. Wheel (or tire) balancing corrects uneven weight distribution in the wheels. When your wheels aren’t properly balanced, it can lead to some of the same issues as misalignments: excessive tire wear, vibration, and damage to the suspension.

Regardless of what your vehicle needs, you can always rely on the skilled team at EuroCar Service to steer you straight. As your local European auto repair shop, we can help you with alignments, rotations, tire services, suspension repair, and more. We specialize in all European makes, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Mini Cooper, Smart-Car, Fiat, Jaguar, Volvo, Saab, and Volkswagen. Call us today at (206) 527-8828 or request an appointment online.

Tread Depth: Why It Matters and How to Measure It

When it comes to stopping power, many drivers tend to focus on their brakes. However, our tires are where the rubber meets the road. Having good brakes isn’t enough; we need to have tires with enough traction to turn braking power into actual stopping power. If the tire tread depth isn’t deep enough, your tires can lose their grip on the road, leading to longer stopping distances.

How Does Tire Tread Work?

To understand how tire tread works, let’s focus on how it helps you stop in wet conditions. To have good contact with the road, the tire has to be able to move the water out of the way. If it can’t, the tire will ride on top of the water’s surface, instead of the surface of the road. This can lead to “hydroplaning”, a potentially dangerous situation that reduces the ability to steer and brake.

Each tire has channels for the water to flow through, known as tread, which helps move the water out of the way. Take a look at your tires, and you’ll see the channels run around and across them. The tread is designed to direct water away from the tire so that the tire can grip the road better.

The deeper the channel, the more water it can move. Brand new tires have very deep channels, allowing them to move a good amount of water with ease. As the tire wears down, the channels become shallower and can move less water. Once they’re worn down enough, it can seriously affect your ability to stop on wet roads. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 11,000 accidents occur annually from bald tires.

How Much Tread Should My Tires Have?

Since tire tread wears down, it’s important to monitor the tread depth of your tires. Washington state law requires drivers to have a tire tread depth of 2/32 of an inch or more. However, Consumer Reports and other advocate groups recommend replacing your tires when the tread is worn to 4/32 of an inch or 3.2 millimeters.

Once the tread depth is worn to 2/32 of an inch (1.6 millimeters), the tread wear bar will be visible. The recommended standard has twice the tread depth as a completely worn-out tire—and that additional tread makes a huge difference. A safe stopping distance from freeway speeds could result in a crash with bald tires.

4 Ways to Check Your Tire Tread

Fortunately, there are four quick and easy ways to check your tire tread, and they can all be done from home.

  • The Penny Test

Take a penny and insert it into the tread with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it means you have less than 2/32 inches of tread left; it’s time to replace your tires.

  • The Quarter Test

The quarter test works exactly the same as the penny test. Put the quarter into the tread, with George Washington upside down and facing you. If the tread touches his head, you have at least 4/32 inches of tread left. If the tread doesn’t cover Washington’s hairline, schedule a tire replacement appointment.

  • The Tread Wear Bar Indicator

Most tires have tread wear bar indicators, which are evenly spaced through the main grooves in the tire’s tread. When the tread is worn down enough that it’s flush with the wear bars, the tires should be replaced.

If you use winter tires, it’s important to know that they have deeper tread depths than all-season or summer tires. The winter wear indicators help you see whether you have suitable tread depth for driving in the snow or other wet, slippery conditions. The wear bars will be visible once the tread has worn down to approximately 5/32 inches. Although the tires may have a legal amount of tread left, they may not provide the traction you need for winter driving.

  • Tread Depth Gauge

Tread depth gauges are an easy way to accurately measure your tire tread depth. You can find them in almost any auto parts store. To measure the depth of your tread, insert the gauge’s probe into the tire’s tread grooves; press the gauge down and then read the results.

In general, it’s recommended to check your tread depth every 3,000 miles or once the tread reaches 4/32 of an inch deep.

Since tires can wear unevenly, it’s always a good idea to check the tread depth at various spots on the tire. While checking your tread, make sure to inspect your tires, too. Pay attention to things like whether the wear is uniform or if there are any signs of damage, like cracking, bulging, or other signs of wear. Even if you have adequate tread depth, excessive wear can cause a tire to fail.

Time to Replace Your Tires? Head Over to EuroCar Service!

Replacing your tires as soon as they’re worn is the best way to protect yourself and your passengers from accidents or blowouts. At EuroCar Service, we offer a wide selection of tires to choose from. If you’re unsure whether you need new tires, we’re happy to take a look and give you recommendations.

We also offer every service you need to keep your vehicle’s wheels and tires in excellent shape, including new tire installation, balancing, rotations, and more. Our ASE-certified technicians specialize in all European makes, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Mini-Cooper, Saab, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Volvo, Smart Car, and Fiat. Call us today at 206-527-8828 or request an appointment online.

Choosing the Right Tires for Your Car

Buying new tires can feel daunting, with all the different brands, sizes, and tire types to choose from. How do you know which ones are best for your car and driving conditions? Here’s a look at what you need to know to make the most informed decision.

Tire Fit, Function, and Value

When selecting new tires, it’s important to pay attention to three essential factors: function, fit, and value.


When it comes to new tires, consider your driving needs. For example, most passenger vehicles in California come equipped with all-season tires. These can be used year-round and do well in most of the road conditions throughout the state. However, when it comes to more extreme weather like snow or ice, all-weather tires aren’t ideal.

Winter tires have more rugged tread that allows them to handle well in ice and snow. In addition, their rubber compound helps them have better traction when the temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Driving in Seattle, you’ll definitely notice you have better stopping power and traction with winter tires than all-weather tires. In contrast, dedicated summer tires enhance warm weather driving performance.

If you enjoy off-road driving, there are a wide variety of tires on the market, including all-terrain (which is a good mix of highway driving and off-road capability) and dedicated off-road tires. When you’re ready to purchase new tires, be sure to discuss how you plan to use them with your service advisor to ensure you get the load rating, speed rating, wear rating, and type of tire you need.


When purchasing tires, the easiest choice is to get tires that are the same size as the ones that were originally installed by your vehicle’s manufacturer. If you want to change the wheel size or tire profile, however, discuss it with your service advisor first so they can make sure your new wheels and tires fit properly. If the wheels and tires are too large, they may rub while driving over bumps or navigating turns.

It’s also important to make sure that the new tires work with your vehicle’s safety systems, like the anti-lock brakes, stability control, or traction control. Your vehicle’s computer may also need to be recalibrated to ensure these systems function properly.


Many people equate price to value, but it’s important to note that the tire that meets all your needs—AND has the warranty and tread life you’d expect—likely won’t be the least expensive option. However, it will likely bring you the most value over time and the best return on investment.

How to Know When You Need New Tires

So, how do you know if you need new tires? Like choosing tires, there are three factors you should consider: tread wear, tire age, and heat exposure.

Tread Depth

Tread depth is the measurement from the top of a tire’s rubber to the deepest part of the tire’s groove. As you drive, tire tread wears down; over time, this makes your tires less effective at gripping the road. It also affects acceleration, braking, cornering, and fuel economy—not to mention safety.

Fortunately, there are two easy ways to check your tread depth. First, many tires come with tread wear indicator bars. These are small, raised bars that are located around the tire at different points to measure how evenly your tread is being worn down. Once your tread reaches about 2/32 inches (the same depth you should replace your tires at), the wear bars will start to be noticeably visible on the tire, signaling that it’s time to replace them.

If your tires don’t have wear bars or you have difficulty finding them, you can also use a penny to test your tread depth. With Lincoln’s head facing down, place the penny into the grooves of your tire tread. If any of Lincoln’s head is hidden by the tread, your tires still have some life left in them. If you can see the top of his head, it’s time for a replacement.

Tire Age

Many automakers recommend replacing your tires every six years (regardless of tire wear) while most tire manufacturers recommend replacing your tires every ten years. The general consensus is that you should have your tires inspected (if not replaced) at six years, and they should definitely be replaced after ten years, no matter the condition or tread depth. This is because rubber breaks down over time, due to friction from driving and exposure to the elements. Driving with tires that are more than ten years old can be a safety hazard.

Heat Exposure

Although any extreme weather conditions can cause damage and wear to your tires, the sun’s ultraviolet rays can break down the chemical compounds in tires, which can cause issues like dry rot and cracking.

For Quality Tire Services, Turn to EuroCar

When it’s time to buy new tires, visit EuroCar Service. We’ll help you select the right tires for your car and typical driving conditions. We see all European makes, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Mini-Cooper, Fiat, Volvo, Saab, Volkswagen, Jaguar, and Smart Car. Contact us today at (206) 527-8828 or request an appointment online.

Getting the Right Tires for Your Ride

Many drivers want custom wheels for their vehicles. However, ordering tires over the internet, or even from an auto parts store, could cause some issues. Sometimes they don’t fit right, and the tires can rub when you drive over bumps or around turns. This is why we recommend consulting with our tire professionals to ensure you get the right fit for your vehicle. They’ll ask you a series of questions about your driving needs and what you’re looking for in your new tires.

Why Finding the Right Fit Matters

It’s important to know that not every wheel can go on every vehicle. The tires and wheels shouldn’t be too large and the wheel shouldn’t be centered too far towards the inside or outside. If you’re not interested in making modifications to your car, it’s best to get a wheel and tire combination that fits. People often like much larger tires on trucks, which would require a suspension lift.

Also, you need to keep the rolling diameter (the overall height) of your new tires close to your factory tires so that your anti-lock brakes and stability control systems work properly. This is because the computers that control these two systems are calibrated to a specific tire size. When you choose tires that are significantly larger or smaller, the computers can’t tell how fast you’re going, which can make them send commands to the brakes and traction control that are based on incorrect sensor information. However, if you decide to go with a different rolling diameter, your vehicle’s computer can be reprogrammed to the new tire size.

Visit EuroCar for Expert Tire & Wheel Services

There are hundreds of wheels and tire choices to choose from in Seattle, which can make it difficult to know which ones to get. Fortunately, EuroCar Service can help! Pick the style of wheel you want, and then we can let you know how big the wheel should be – and help you select the right tire to meet your style, performance, ride, and handling needs. It’s best for us to see the vehicle in person, so we can make sure all the measurements are correct.

From tire and wheel services to factory maintenance and extensive repairs, EuroCar offers complete care for your vehicle. We specialize in all European makes, including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Land Rover, Fiat, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Volvo, Mini-Cooper, Saab, and Smart Car. Schedule your appointment today at (206) 527-8828 or request an appointment online.

The Truth About Cheap Tires

New tires are a big-ticket item for many Seattle drivers and it’s easy to understand why. Not only can tires be costly, but drivers also want to know that they’re making a good purchase on tires that will last for some time before they need to be replaced.

In addition to cost and longevity, there are also safety concerns. Tires play the important role of carrying the weight of your vehicle, you, and your passengers around town – and ensuring you have the proper traction for safe handling. There are also usage concerns; if you carry heavy loads or tow a trailer, you’ll need to choose high-load tires.

The bottom line is, when you’re buying new tires, you want to be sure they’re up to the task.

The Difference Between Tire Tiers

For this reason, we think it’s vital for drivers to understand the effect of price on a tire’s performance and durability. The major tire brands you’re familiar with, like Michelin, Goodyear, and Bridgestone, are known as Tier 1 tires in California. These tires are well-engineered and very high-quality; they’re generally comparable in quality and price point.

The next level of tires is known as “private label tires.” These are sold at large tire stores under their own brand name. One thing to understand about most private label tires sold in the Seattle area is that they’re built by the same Tier 1 brands you’re already familiar with. This means that even though they’re labeled as a private brand, they’re still the same high-quality product. If you’re considering one of these brands and would like to know which manufacturer makes them, feel free to ask your EuroCar Service tire professional!

The lowest-priced tires on the market are Tier 3 tires, which are usually imported from China or South America. Like most things, you get what you pay for! Since these are the least expensive tires you can buy, they won’t deliver the same performance or durability as Tier 1 or 2 tires. That’s ok though – it’s more important to have safe tires with good traction that fit into your budget than keeping your old, bald tires well past their prime.

Need New Tires or Recommendations for Your Vehicle?

In general, a good rule of thumb is that it’s best to spend as much as you can afford because your tires will be less expensive in the long run. If you can only afford Tier 3 tires, it’s better to go with those rather than risking your safety!

If you’re in the market for new tires for your vehicle, contact the experts at EuroCar Service! Our knowledgeable tire professionals would be happy to give you recommendations based on your model, driving habits, and budget. We see all European vehicles, including Audi, Fiat, BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes, Mini Cooper, Saab, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Volvo, and Smart Car. Contact us today at 206-527-8828 or request your appointment online.