5 Signs your car needs an alignment

Proper wheel alignment is one of the most important criteria to keeping your car driving safely and happily. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most overlooked. Photo credit: need-a-wheel.com.

Issued by KoeniC

WITH all the advances in vehicle technology and performance, it can seem daunting to keep up with all the required maintenance and repairs. Proper wheel alignment is one of the most important criteria to keeping your car driving safely and happily. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most overlooked. Many people deal with the signs and symptoms of poor wheel alignment, often unaware that it’s an easy fix. Here are five common signs your vehicle is in need of an alignment.

1 – Your steering wheel is off centre: If you’re driving straight down a flat, level road, your steering wheel should be sitting close to perfectly straight. There’s usually a small amount of discrepancy allowed depending on the camber of the road, but overall the wheel should be sitting centred and straight, and your vehicle emblem in the centre of the steering wheel should appear level to you. If the wheel is off centre by more than a few degrees in either direction, it’s time to have an alignment performed. This will return your steering wheel to centre, and may improve the overall drivability as well.

2 – Your vehicle pulls in one direction or the other: Similar to the first point, vehicle pull is most easily noticed while driving straight down a level road. There is a common misconception that the vehicle should drive perfectly straight with your hands off the steering wheel. In a perfect world, this would be true, but in reality, this isn’t the case because all roads have some degree of camber which causes a slight pull to one side. Completely removing your hands from the steering wheel is also very dangerous. Instead, the vehicle should drive straight ahead with very little effort on the steering wheel. If your car pulls to one side or the other, it’s time to have your alignment checked and corrected, which usually corrects the vehicle pull and improves overall drivability.

3 – Abnormal tyre wear in certain spots: Tyre wear can speak volumes about the condition of a car. A qualified technician can use tyre wear patterns to make educated guesses about tyre pressures, suspension condition, and alignment problems. Wear on only the inside or outside edges of tyres indicates a problem with the camber adjustment. Feathering or scalloping of the tyres often indicates a problem with the toe adjustment. Tyre wear is most often noticed by a mechanic while performing a tyre rotation or an inspection or service. If you have any of these abnormal tyre wear patterns, then you should consider having an alignment performed on your vehicle. There is added benefit in that proper alignment greatly increases the life of your tyres by ensuring they wear evenly.

4 – The vehicle handling feels loose: If the steering in your car feels a little loose or unstable, one of the possible causes is poor wheel alignment. This can be felt as wandering all over the road when driving, or the car feeling very loose and sloppy around corners. If your vehicle feels a bit unstable while driving, regardless of driving straight or turning, you should have the alignment checked, then corrected if necessary.

5 – Your steering wheel doesn’t return to center: After you complete a turn, the steering wheel should naturally start to return to center on it’s own as you keep driving. Of course you need to keep your hands on the wheel to help it achieve this quicker and keep control of the car, but if your steering wheel doesn’t even attempt to move itself back to center, then it’s a good indication that your alignment is off. If this is the case, then you should have an alignment check done, and a full alignment performed if necessary.

Elaine Rodway

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