Your car's alignment plays a critical role in its handling capabilities and its long-term reliability. Poor alignment can lead to unpredictable handling on the road, along with rapidly wearing tires. Severe alignment issues can even put additional strain on your suspension components. Avoiding these problems requires you to check and adjust your wheel alignment routinely.
Of course, most people don't want to take their car into the shop every month or two for an alignment check, and doing so is rarely necessary. Instead, you check for severe alignment issues independently, with very little time and effort required. These three methods will allow you to judge if you should take your car in for a wheel alignment adjustment.
1. Check for Drift
The easiest way to check your alignment is to pay close attention to the symptom most people are most familiar with: drift. Poor alignment can cause your car to pull to one side or the other, although the effect won't necessarily be the same at all speeds. You can check by gently releasing the wheel (keep your hands hovering over it!) on a straight, empty stretch of road and watching for signs of drift.
If you notice your vehicle drifting slightly, don't immediately assume your alignment is to blame. Instead, double-check your tire pressure and ensure your tires have equal pressure levels. If you don't have any tires with significant pressure variations, there's a high likelihood that your front wheels are out of alignment and require adjustment.
2. Inspect Your Tread
Alignment can significantly impact your tire's tread patterns. This effect occurs because your tires aren't making even contact with the road, altering the geometry of the contact patch. Not all unusual tread wear results from alignment issues, however. In general, you want to look for excessive wear on the edges of your tires. Uneven wear on individual tread blocks is another sign of alignment issues.
Note that any unusual wear on your tires is a cause for concern. As with drifting steering, confirm that all of your tires have proper pressure levels. If so, you should get your vehicle to a shop soon to both check your alignment and inspect your suspension for any additional issues.
3. Look At Your Steering Wheel
It might sound simple, but a critical sign that you desperately need a wheel alignment is an off-center steering wheel. This symptom is easiest to check for when in a parking lot or another low-speed situation. Drive in a straight line and check the position of your steering wheel. If you need to hold the steering wheel to the left or right of center to drive straight, you have a significant alignment issue.
Note that failing any of these tests is an excellent reason to schedule an alignment as soon as you can. If you have multiple symptoms, your alignment is likely far enough out of spec to require immediate attention.Share
1 December 2021