Your car is an incredibly complex machine, and there are a wide variety of things that can affect how well it runs. Vehicle alignment is one such thing. If your car isn't properly aligned, it can affect how the vehicle handles and also increase the wear and tear on your tires and suspension. With this in mind, here is a quick guide to alignment and why it's so essential.
What Is Alignment?
Alignment refers to the position of the wheels and axles in relation to each other. A vehicle is properly aligned when all four wheels are exactly square and resting perfectly flat on the road. When performing an alignment, a mechanic will use a computer to make precise adjustments to the suspension angles to ensure all tires are parallel with each other and the steering column is centered. All-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles need to have both axles aligned, whereas two-wheel drive cars will only need a front-end alignment.
When Should Alignment Be Checked?
It is generally recommended that you have your vehicle's wheel alignment checked every six months and adjusted as necessary. However, you should also have your alignment checked after a minor accident or even after hitting a large pothole as these can throw the alignment off. There are a few ways to tell you have poor alignment.
What Are the Signs of Poor Alignment?
If your vehicle isn't properly aligned, you will usually notice that it tends to pull to one side. You may also notice more play when you turn the steering wheel. Over time, you will also start to notice that your tires aren't wearing evenly, and this can directly impact how well the vehicle handles. When the suspension isn't properly aligned, it puts additional pressure on some of the tires and will cause them to wear more quickly than the tires with less pressure. When this occurs, it can force you to have to replace your tires far sooner than you would've if the suspension was properly aligned.
Improper alignment also means that your tires aren't working together as they should, and this puts added strain on your engine. This typically results in decreased gas mileage and greater overall wear and tear. Alignment issues can also cause your vehicle to make more noise and not drive as smoothly due to increased vibration.
If you haven't had your alignment checked recently or you suspect that your vehicle's alignment is off, it is always best to have your car checked by a professional mechanic. Fixing your car's alignment doesn't take that long and the benefits it can provide make it well worth the time.