A wheel alignment is more than adjusting the wheels of your car – it is the adjustment of your vehicle's suspension system as well. Learn what you need to know about a wheel alignment for your car.
What Is a Wheel Alignment?
The tires of your car must be placed just right so that the vehicle can drive smoothly and without improper tire wear. Poorly aligned tires can affect the way your car travels. Here are three crucial tire angles a good wheel aligner checks for:
- Caster angle. This angle refers to a straight up and down suspension system.
- Toe angle. Tires with a good toe angle are perfectly centered.
- Camber angle. A good camber angle is straight, with tires not leaning to the left or right.
When camber, toe, and caster angles are perfect, consider your vehicle well-aligned.
What Causes Wheels to Need an Alignment?
Anything that jolts or wears on your vehicle’s suspension system can cause the tires to become improperly aligned. Over time, many small bumps and shocks gradually wear on your vehicle's suspension to the point that the wheels go out of alignment. The following are a few common reasons your car may experience bumps:
- Running over speed bumps too fast
- Hitting curbs, road and parking lot dividers, and snow banks
- Driving into potholes
- Minor accidents
Neglecting your car’s regular maintenance is another way that a bad alignment can creep up on you. Having your wheels aligned every year is just as important as getting regular oil changes and tire rotations and replacing old belts and hoses.
How Can You Tell You Need an Alignment?
You can usually tell just by driving your car if it needs a wheel alignment. The following are some signs to watch for:
- The steering wheel vibrates at high speeds.
- When drifting, the vehicle naturally pulls to the right or the left and requires correction.
- You have to hold the steering wheel hard to keep the car steering straight.
- The steering wheel looks crooked when you're driving straight.
Tire wear may also be a good indicator that your car needs a wheel alignment. Uneven or inconsistent tire wear patterns usually mean that the alignment is off. If one front or rear tire shows a much different wear pattern than the opposing tire, you may need to have your car checked.
What Benefits Does a Wheel Alignment Offer?
Properly aligned wheels offer several benefits for you, your passengers, and your vehicle. First, completing an annual wheel alignment fulfills requirements associated with any warranty your tires carry. If you cannot provide documentation or have not aligned your tires, you may be out of luck when you need to use your warranty.
A good wheel alignment extends the life of your tires by allowing the tread to wear correctly. However, if you only rotate the tires and do not check the vehicle’s suspension system, your tires will still see incorrect wear.
You can experience better gas mileage when your tires are perfectly aligned. Badly aligned tires force your vehicle to consume more fuel just to achieve a straighter trajectory. Expect to save up to 10% on gas by having your wheels checked out by an expert.
Finally, your vehicle is capable of veering to one side of the road or crossing a line when tires are poorly aligned. If you are unable to keep control of the wheel and continue in a straight line, this can lead to a serious collision, putting you and your family at risk.
To find out the condition of your vehicle's tire alignment, visit Ceja Quality Tire and Wheel. With a simple inspection, we can spot any existing problems in your vehicle's wheel alignment and make recommendations.