Proper wheel alignment helps you maintain control of your vehicle, especially while turning or driving on curved roads. However, having poor driving habits as well as other environmental factors can cause your wheel to fall out of alignment. Knowing the warning sign of bad wheel alignment and why you need to fix it right away will not only keep you safe but can save you money in the long run as well.
Common Causes of Bad Wheel Alignment
Several factors can cause wheel misalignment including driving habits, road hazards, or worn-out vehicle components. That said, here are the four most common causes of bad wheel alignment:
- Low Tire Pressure: Underinflated tires can cause your vehicle to pull or drift to one side or another. If your tires don’t have the correct PSI, it changes the height of your car’s suspension, leading to a bad tire alignment.
- Heavy Impact: Driving over curbs and potholes, or hitting any road hazard that causes heavy impact can alter your car’s wheel alignment.
- Worn Parts: Every part undergoes wear and tear, especially for older cars. Worn suspension bearings and wheel bearings can cause the tires to tilt and change the angle they sit on, which can mess up the car’s alignment.
- Overdue re-alignment: One of the most common reasons for misaligned wheels is simply because it’s already due for a re-alignment. You should have your tire re-aligned at least once a year if you’re being cautious.
7 Common Signs of Bad Wheel Alignment
Proper wheel alignment is essential for maintaining control of your car while you drive. Any signs of misalignment need to be addressed right away. To help you out, here are some of the warning signs you need to look out for:
1. Car pulls to one side
Your vehicle should be able to drive straight when you take your hands off the steering wheel. But if your car pulls or drifts to one particular side when driving on a straight road, there may be a problem with your alignment. How often it swerves to one side determines the severity of misalignment. It will be harder for you to control your car and stay in a straight line if you don’t address the issue right away. Have a mechanic realign your car as soon as you experience this problem.
2. Uneven steering wheel
Another easy way to check for a bad wheel alignment is to observe the position of your steering wheel as you drive on a straight and even road. Your steering wheel should remain straight or in the center while driving. You can check the steering wheel’s logo for reference. If it leans slightly off-center in any direction, it means you have an uneven steering wheel that needs to be realigned. Addressing this problem can help you regain more control of your steering wheel as you drive.
3. Sloppy or loose steering wheel
Loose steering, also known as “free play,” is when you notice that as you turn, your steering goes a little too far than you intend to. A loose steering wheel can be very dangerous and is a sign that your vehicle needs realignment as soon as possible.
4. Steering wheel is vibrating
Your steering wheel should not vibrate as you drive. If it does, you must be driving a car with bad alignment or unbalanced tires. However, car vibrations can also be caused by problems other than tire alignment. To be sure, have a mechanic inspect your car to avoid further damage.
5. Tire squealing
If you notice a squealing sound from your tires as you turn or accelerate, your wheels may be misaligned and are causing your tires to wear out unevenly. While a squealing sound may also come from worn brake pads, the point is that squealing is not normal and it indicates that your car has some issues. Submit your car for inspection to determine the problem to avoid possible accidents.
6. Uneven tire wear
Checking the tread wear of your tires can help you determine if you have proper wheel alignment. If you notice that one of your tires is more worn-out than others, it could indicate a bad alignment. You can use a tread depth meter to measure the tread depth of your tires accurately.
7. Steering hesitation as you turn the wheel
Most cars these days have power steering that makes turning easier. However, a bad wheel alignment can cause steering hesitations that require you to exert more force as you turn. So, if you’re having difficulty turning your wheels, it could indicate that your vehicle has a problem with the steering system or it needs an alignment fix. Consult a mechanic to assess the issue and have them fixed for a more comfortable driving experience.
Why Fixing Bad Alignment Right Away Is Important
Many drivers tend to ignore symptoms of bad alignment or do nothing to address the issue. Maybe because they think it’s not necessary or they simply don’t want to spend money on realignment. The problem is that alignment issues do not go away on their own and if they’re not fixed right away, they can further damage your tires and car.
Bad wheel alignment can also contribute to poor gas mileage because your car works harder than it normally should, consuming more gas in the process. Misalignment can also shorten your tire’s lifespan as it can wear your tire tread faster than those with proper alignment.
Tips to Keep Your Wheel Aligned
Keeping your wheel aligned is crucial for your safety while driving. It can also help you cut back on future expenses from potential damages of having a bad tire alignment. Here are a few tips on how to maintain better wheel alignment:
- Keep your tires properly inflated (check owner’s manual recommended PSI)
- Keep your tire in good condition
- Rotate your tires regularly
- Drive more carefully
Looking out for these seven warning signs can help you address the issue as soon as possible and avoid further damaging your vehicle. Driving safely and keeping your tires properly inflated goes a long way in keeping your wheels aligned. Don’t ignore the symptoms just so you can save some money. If you keep driving your car with misaligned wheels, you’ll be spending more on future damages and faster fuel consumption. Unfortunately, avoiding car care can end up costing you more.