When it comes to taking care of your vehicle, most people are well aware of the common and frequent maintenance tasks, like changing the oil and air filters, checking tire pressure, and keeping it clean. Most mechanics will go check the basic list to ensure your car is safe and operable. However, one item that is often overlooked is checking your wheel alignment, and forgetting it can greatly impact the life of your car and its parts as well as the vehicle’s safety altogether. Here are a few warning signs that your car’s wheels are out of alignment.
Whether it’s gently or forcefully, any amount of pull in either direction is a telltale sign your wheels are misaligned. If you’re not sure if there is pull, find a straight, flat road where you can slowly allow your car to idle forward. If your vehicle begins to head left or right instead of continuing straight ahead, you have an alignment problem.
Think of your steering wheel like a clock face, with the top-center of the wheel as 12 o’clock. If 12 isn’t pointing directly ahead when you’re driving a straight road, there’s a problem. A crooked steering wheel means your steering is constantly, even if gently, fighting your wheels’ direction, and it’s causing your steering wheel to go misaligned, too. Similarly, a vibrating steering column could be a result of the two front wheels trying to move in opposite directions.
Inevitably, you will have to change your tires eventually. However, having misaligned tires may increase how often you have to replace them. Irregular or patchy wear on tread is a sign of either worn suspension or misaligned wheels. Treads should wear in the same manner in pairs: the fronts should wear the same as each other, and the backs the same as each other. If wear patterns are different, ask your mechanic to check your wheel alignment.
Like steering wheel vibration, trembling tires are a sign your wheels are directionally fighting one another, causing jumping and shaking. The sound of rubber screeching when turning a sharp corner at a reasonable speed is another indicator of misaligned wheels.
Misaligned wheels affect various mechanical and safety factors of your car. It reduces the life of parts like tires and brakes, and decreases overall safety. If any or all of these signs are familiar to you, it’s time to take your car to a mechanic and ask them to specifically take a look at your wheel alignment.