Discover the telltale signs of bad wheel alignment, from uneven tire wear to steering issues. Learn how to address these issues for a smoother ride!
Is one of the tires on your vehicle wearing out faster than the others? Do your tires squeal when you take a turn? Does the steering wheel on your vehicle pull to one side without your action? Chances are that your vehicle has bad wheel alignment.
It can be really frustrating to replace your tires earlier than you should. Since tires can be a bit costly, you may want to consider fixing the problem causing the wear. While it is now possible to lease tires and rims for your vehicle, you should look out for the following symptoms to know if the wheels on your vehicle are misaligned:
1. Vehicle Pulling to One Side
When you are driving on a straight road with less traffic, remove your hands from the steering wheel and see how the vehicle moves. If it swerves or drifts toward one side, then its wheels need to be realigned. Get it checked by an auto mechanic to confirm the problem, since the higher crown section of a road may also cause vehicles to pull to one side.
2. Loose Steering
Misaligned wheels can also lead to a loose steering wheel, causing a decreased response time while taking a turn. If this is not fixed in time, it can be dangerous for the driver as well as the passengers. So, whenever you start to feel that the steering wheel is loose, you should get the car checked by a professional mechanic.
3. Excessive Vibration of the Steering Wheel
If your car’s steering wheel vibrates more than the usual amount while the car is in motion, it can be due to unbalanced or misaligned wheels. Such vibrations and shakes of the steering wheel may indicate even a more serious problem with your vehicle. So, if you notice this symptom, get it checked by a professional. Even if the wheels are properly aligned, you should ask the mechanic to identify the problem and fix it.
4. Uneven Steering Wheel
The steering wheel should remain straight as you drive down a flat and straight road. If it is off-centered, then there must be a problem. You can easily identify this issue by looking at the emblem in the center of the steering wheel. When the steering wheel is centered, the emblem remains level. The wheels may be misaligned if you see the emblem tipping several degrees off-level in a direction while driving straight.
5. Uneven Tire Wear
It is a good practice to check the treads on each tire of your vehicle regularly. If you notice that the treads on certain tires of the vehicle are wearing out faster than the others, there is a good chance that your wheels may be misaligned. Tire tread wear may happen in the form of excessive inner tire wear, excessive outer tire wear, or tire scalloping. If that happens, get the wheels checked by professionals.
6. Squealing Tires
As the tires on your vehicle start to wear unevenly due to bad wheel alignment, they can start to squeal as soon as the vehicle accelerates or takes turns. While misalignment of wheels is one of the major reasons for such squealing sounds from tires, there can be other reasons as well. Worn brake pads and underinflated tires may also cause the same noises from the tires. So, you should consider getting your vehicle checked by a professional mechanic.
7. Crooked Steering Wheel After Hitting a Pothole or Curb
Hitting a pothole or curb can throw your wheel alignment out of balance. If you’ve recently encountered such road hazards and notice that your steering wheel is no longer straight, it’s a clear indication that your wheels may be misaligned. Ignoring this symptom can lead to further damage and an accelerated rate of tire wear.
8. Visible Steering Component Damage
Inspecting the visible steering components, such as tie rods and control arms, can provide clues about the state of your wheel alignment. Bent or damaged components are often the result of misalignment issues and can exacerbate the problem if not addressed promptly. Regular inspections by a qualified mechanic can help identify and rectify these issues before they escalate.
How to Address Wheel Alignment Issues:
Now that you’re familiar with the symptoms of bad wheel alignment, the next step is to understand how to address these issues. Here are some actionable steps to rectify misalignment problems and keep your vehicle in top-notch condition:
Professional Wheel Alignment
Seeking the expertise of a qualified mechanic for a professional wheel alignment is the most effective and precise solution. Using specialized equipment, technicians can adjust the angles of your wheels to manufacturer specifications, ensuring optimal performance and longevity.
Regular Maintenance Checks
Incorporating regular maintenance checks into your vehicle care routine is key to catching alignment issues early. Make it a habit to inspect your tires, steering components, and overall alignment at regular intervals, especially after encounters with potholes or curbs.
Rotate and Balance Your Tires
Rotating and balancing your tires at recommended intervals can help distribute wear more evenly. This not only extends the lifespan of your tires but also contributes to maintaining proper wheel alignment. Consult your vehicle’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations on tire rotation and balancing.
Address Steering Component Damage Promptly
If you notice visible damage to steering components such as tie rods or control arms, address these issues promptly. Damaged components not only compromise wheel alignment but can lead to more severe problems if left unattended. Consult with a professional mechanic to assess and replace damaged parts.
Align Wheels After Significant Repairs
Whenever you undergo significant repairs or modifications to your vehicle’s suspension or steering system, it’s advisable to have the wheels aligned. Changes in these systems can affect wheel alignment, and aligning your wheels after such work ensures that everything is set correctly.
DIY Tire Pressure Checks
While not directly related to wheel alignment, maintaining proper tire pressure is crucial for overall tire health and can indirectly contribute to alignment issues. Use a reliable tire pressure gauge to regularly check and adjust tire pressures according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Be Mindful of Driving Habits
Avoid aggressive driving behaviors such as sudden stops, sharp turns, and excessive speeding, as these can contribute to accelerated tire wear and misalignment. Gentle driving habits promote even tire wear and help maintain proper wheel alignment over time.
Invest in Quality Tires
Quality tires play a significant role in maintaining proper wheel alignment. Invest in tires that are appropriate for your vehicle and driving conditions. Regularly check tire tread depth and replace tires when they show signs of wear to prevent alignment issues.
Misaligned wheels can damage the ball joints and wheel bearings, leading to premature wear and failure of these major suspension components. Compared to the repair cost of these components, correcting the alignment of your wheels may seem inexpensive. Also, you may need to spend more on fuel and replace the tires earlier than usual if you keep the wheels misaligned for too long.
Regular inspections and prompt corrective action can save you from costly repairs and ensure a smoother, safer driving experience. Stay vigilant, listen to your vehicle, and address any signs of bad wheel alignment promptly to keep your car on the road and performing at its best.