What happens if you dont realign your car?
How You Could be Causing Damage to Your Wheel Alignment
Although you should check, inflate, and change your tires periodically, tire changes aren’t the only important thing to maintain when it comes to keeping the rubber on the road. Many car owners often neglect to check their wheel alignment until it’s too late.
Wheel alignment is imperative for safe vehicle operations and can be crucial for maintaining control over your car in both rough and smooth road conditions. But just what is wheel alignment, and what makes it so important?
Why Is Wheel Alignment Important?
When you first purchase a vehicle from the manufacturer, the wheels are properly aligned to manufacturer specifications. This includes aligning to multiple angles to ensure optimal vehicle performance and control. Your primary angles are the front caster and the front and rear camber and toe. When these are in proper alignment, your vehicle responds effortlessly to steering and maintains direction as you drive.
Not only does proper wheel alignment keep your car riding on the straight and narrow, it reduces costly and sometimes dangerous wear and tear on your tires. Poor wheel alignment increases friction between your tires and the road – and increased friction leads to tire treads thinning to the point of a possibly dangerous blowout. Keeping your wheels aligned prolongs the lifespan of your tires and keeps you safe on the road.
What Causes Problems With Wheel Alignment?
Sometimes, wheel misalignment happens with natural wear and tear. Every time you drive your car, you’re subjecting it to massive amounts of torque and friction, resulting in slow and gradual degradation of components. Pressure on shocks, springs, and tires can cause them to slowly slip out of alignment over time.
More drastic causes of wheel misalignment include dramatic, jolting impacts. If you hit a curb or a pothole, take a speed bump too quickly, or have an accident, this can knock your wheels out of alignment. If you’ve put your car up on lifts, improper suspension alignment can also lead to wheel misalignment.
How Can You Tell If Your Wheels Are Misaligned?
Many signs and symptoms can tell you something isn’t quite right with your car, it takes close attention to recognize the problem is coming from misaligned wheels. One of the first signs you may notice is your car “listing,” or drifting to one side as you drive. It may also dip farther on one side than the other.
If you perform a turn and your steering wheel doesn’t naturally return to a normal position, this can be another symptom; the steering wheel may also jerk or vibrate as you’re driving. Watch your tires tread for uneven wear. If one or two are wearing more unevenly than the others, your wheels are likely misaligned. Also listen for possible auditory clues, such as squealing tires when you turn.
How Can You Correct and Prevent Wheel Alignment Issues?
Qualified auto technicians and auto service centers such as Sun Auto Service offer wheel alignment services. You should bring your car in routinely for checkups, including a check on wheel alignment, if necessary. Our technicians use specialized instruments to measure your wheel angles and check against manufacturer specifications and can realign them to the proper settings. Having your vehicle’s wheels aligned properly can help prevent safety issues and driving problems. Don’t forget to have your shocks and struts checked, as well. Poor shocks can mean more force impacting your wheels, leading to faster deterioration.
Protect Your Safety
Wheel misalignment is more than an annoyance that makes driving difficult and frustrating. It can be a serious safety hazard. When your vehicle is uncontrollable, it makes it impossible to predict what may happen in busy traffic. You may not be able to avoid a collision due to poor steering, or you may even be the cause of a collision as your car drifts out of your lane. Worn, irregularly damaged tires can lead to blowouts and often perform poorly on icy, snowy, or rainy roads.
Keeping your wheels aligned is a minimal investment in safe driving. Make a wheel alignment a regular part of your routine maintenance and talk to our Service Consultants at your local Sun Auto Service center about how you can keep your car in top working order.
10 Common Misconceptions About Car Alignment
Imagine you’re sailing west on I-8 and something about your car feels…off. No weird sounds, smells, or other indicators of an imminent breakdown, but it just doesn’t handle the way it should. You might assume the problem is the alignment, but that may or may not be true. Just like with the health of your body, there are some things about the health of your car that are easy to diagnose on your own—and other things you’ll need a professional to confirm. Alignment is usually one of the latter.
There is plenty of faulty information floating around out there about…well, everything, including alignment. So, the best way to know if your car needs an alignment is to take it to a reputable car repair facility. Here are 10 of the most common misconceptions about alignment we hear regularly:
1: Alignment is part of a regular maintenance program
Wheel alignment falls under the repair category, not scheduled maintenance. If your car’s steering has an obvious pull, the tire wear is uneven, or if your car has been in an accident, a wheel alignment might be needed, so beware of car shops that push alignment as part of a preventative maintenance package.
2: Hitting a pothole will knock the alignment out of balance
Only major damage can affect your car’s alignment—an accident or other incident strong enough to bend steel—which is why an average pothole, or even hitting the curb, isn’t always serious enough to require an alignment.
3: Excessive tire wear means you need an alignment
If most of the tread on your tires is gone, you probably just need new tires. But if the wear is noticeably uneven, the problem could be the alignment, so you’ll need to have it checked out with a mechanic.
4: A shaking steering wheel means the alignment is out
If your steering wheel shakes when you drive, it’s definitely a problem needing attention—but it’s not the alignment. The more likely culprit is a bent wheel, an out-of-balance tire, or worn parts in the steering column or elsewhere.
5: Alignment is to blame if the car pulls to one side
While an out-of-whack alignment is often responsible for vehicles pulling to one side while driving, it’s not the only possibility. Low air pressure in a tire, a damaged tire, or tires of different sizes or tread designs can cause the same problem. Even a strong crosswind or sloped pavement can make your car pull, so it’s best to get it diagnosed by a repair professional.
6: All cars are supposed to pull to the right
We’re not sure who started this myth, but they might be referring to most roads being sloped slightly to whatever side has the drainage (most commonly the right side). Skilled car repair technicians account for this effect when performing wheel alignments, so if your car is still pulling, you probably have another issue that needs to be addressed.
7: A wheel alignment will cure vibrations
If your car vibrates—especially when you’re driving at high speeds—alignment is most likely not the issue. More likely: damaged tires; bent wheels; transmission problems; or damaged or worn drive axle, brake components, or suspension components. Unevenly worn tires can also cause vibrations, in which case an alignment might be required. However, without new or rotated tires, the vibrations will persist.
8: Some cars just don’t “hold” alignments
Some older cars with mileage in the six digits can have worn steering components that make it difficult to stay within alignment specs, but in general, if a car is falling out of alignment soon after having the repair done, the blame can be placed on the mechanic who’s missing one of the crucial adjustment angles.
9: Always go for the “premium” instead of “cheap” alignment
There is actually no such thing as a “cheap” or “premium” alignment, which usually refers to the two types of alignment available: thrust-angle and four-wheel. If a repair shop’s alignment equipment says the rear wheels are already aligned, a thrust-angle alignment uses the rear wheels to align the fronts. If the rears aren’t aligned, a four-wheel service is needed. But while four-wheel alignments are more expensive than the thrust-angle version, there’s nothing “premium” about it. So beware the mechanic who tries to sell you on a four-wheel alignment as soon as you bring your car in. They won’t be able to tell which alignment you’ll need until the car is hooked up to the equipment.
10: A brand-new alignment machine will provide the most accurate results
We might be used to thinking that new technology is best, but the accuracy of your car’s wheel alignment depends more on the technician running the equipment than the equipment itself. Think of it this way: an expensive new stove won’t transform an unskilled cook into a professional chef, so don’t judge a repair shop by the age of its equipment. A better way to tell if you’re getting quality service: proper alignments take about 60-90 minutes to complete, so if your car comes off the rack after 20 minutes, chances are it wasn’t done properly.
At General Auto Repair in San Diego, we’re so confident in our experienced technicians that we offer a 1-year or 12,000-mile nationwide warranty on our services, which includes alignments, brakes, smog inspections, oil changes, complete engine repair, and more. So if you think your car might need a wheel alignment, give us a call or stop by and see us in downtown San Diego today.
Is My Car Due for an Alignment? Signs to Look For
Regular wheel alignment is necessary if you want to keep the good running condition of your vehicle. Realigning your wheels at a reputable car repair shop such as Jiffy Lube ensures that your vehicle will run properly and safely. But the question that many car owners ask is when they should have a tire alignment.
The interval for wheel alignment will depend on several factors. These include your driving habits and the type of vehicle you own. Most experts recommend getting a tire alignment once every two to three years. But it’s still useful to follow the recommended interval found in your car’s manual. If you can’t find your owner’s manual or if the manual doesn’t specify how often you should have a tire alignment, then you need to bring your car to Jiffy Lube at least once a year for a checkup.
If you’re using your vehicle regularly, you can expect its wheels to become misaligned after using it for one or two years. But if your car is holding the road well, its tires are worn evenly, or if you don’t notice it drifting to one side, you don’t need to go to a service center every year.
Specific conditions may require you to have a tire alignment frequently. If you’re driving a performance-oriented vehicle or have wide tires, you need to have your tires aligned more often. You should also align your wheels every time you install new tires.
Signs You Need Tire Alignment
You also need to watch for signs that it’s time to have a wheel alignment. Some signs to watch out for are:
Your car suddenly pulls left or right. If this happens, then your tires may be under-inflated. But if you’re still feeling a sharp pull after inflating your tires, you need to have an alignment.
You feel a slight pull. If you’re feeling just a slight pull instead of a sharp one, it could still be a sign that you have misaligned wheels. To determine if your car has a slight pull, take your car to a level area, then drive straight. Take your hands off the wheel. So if your car starts to drift to the left or the right, you should take your car to Jiffy Lube for an alignment.
Your steering wheel is vibrating. If your steering wheel is vibrating, it could be because of misaligned wheels or unbalanced tires. Your tires may be drifting in opposite directions because of misalignment.
Your steering is crooked. You should be mindful of the wheel when you’re driving. You may be trying to compensate for your misaligned tires.
Your tires are worn unevenly. If the wear patterns of your tires are not the same, it’s a sign that your wheels are misaligned. It’s an indication that you should go to Jiffy Lube.
If you need a wheel alignment, take your vehicle to Jiffy Lube. We have highly-trained technicians who are experts in wheel alignment. They also use precise tools to measure wheel angle to determine if your wheels are misaligned or not.