A wheel alignment ensures that your tires point in the right direction and that related parts wear smoothly and evenly. A number of factors can make your wheels lose their alignment, though, so having this checked should be a regular part of your vehicle maintenance routine. Learn how often you should get your tires aligned, and get to know some signs that your wheels need alignment right away.
How Wheel Alignment Affects Your Vehicle
No matter what kind of vehicle you drive, it has exact alignment specifications determined by the automaker. Everything from the vehicle’s overall size to its weight to its intended use goes into calculating these specs, which are unique to your make and model.
Driving your car when the wheels are out of alignment can cause a number of problems. Your tires can wear unevenly, which can make your vehicle unable to grip the road properly or handle safely. Your car can also suffer in terms of performance, since a car that’s out of alignment can’t handle as cleanly. Continuing to drive a car with poor alignment will just make the situation worse and can even compromise your ability to control the vehicle or damage other components of your car.
What Causes Tires to Lose Alignment
General wear, driving conditions, and alterations to your car can all cause the tires to lose alignment. Some of the most common causes include:
Impacts: Avoiding every pothole while driving or each concrete barrier while parking is impossible, but each of these seemingly minor incidents can throw your vehicle out of alignment. They can also add up over time, potentially leading to a major misalignment.
Tires: New tires can mean big changes for your car, whether you’re sticking with a tried-and-true type or switching over to a new kind of tire. Even regular tire rotations throw your car out of alignment, since each tire wears differently.
Wear: Over time, your car’s parts experience general wear and tear, as joints start to loosen and rubber components begin to lose integrity. If left unchecked, this can cause your wheels to continue to lose alignment as you drive.
When to Get Your Wheels Aligned
For virtually all vehicles, it’s necessary to get your wheels aligned periodically. Most car experts recommend scheduling an alignment every other oil change, or approximately every 6,000 miles. Since alignment needs can vary widely depending on your vehicle type, typical road conditions, and tire style, however, refer to your owner’s manual or consult with your mechanic to learn what’s best for your car.
Several other situations necessitate an alignment, too. When you get new tires, an alignment ensures that they’re positioned correctly and that they’ll wear evenly. When your vehicle pulls while driving or your steering wheel seems off center, an alignment can fix any issues resulting from hitting potholes or bumping curbs.
Whether you’re planning to replace worn out tires or you suspect your existing tires need adjustment, you can schedule a wheel alignment at your local service center. Even if you’re not due for routine tire maintenance yet, getting your wheels aligned can save your vehicle from unsafe handling and poor performance.