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:
- When did you first notice the issue? Was it after hitting a curb? Or has it been gradual?
- How often does the issue happen? Is your vehicle only pulling on certain road conditions or during a turn?
- 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.
- 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.