Owning a car goes beyond just purchasing. After the purchase, there is lots of work to do to maintain it. Especially, you have to keep your vehicle in good shape. One of the ways to do that is by getting a wheel alignment. Aligning your car wheels regularly ensures that it runs safely and smoothly.
When it comes to wheel alignment, you have to clearly understand what it is and why it is necessary. Besides, it’s very important to know how often you should do it and how long will it take. In this article, we will provide you with in-depth information about everything related to wheel alignment.
Let’s dive deep into it!
What Is A Wheel Alignment?
Wheel alignment is the art of aligning wheels with one another and then with the road surface. It means squaring the wheels and axles of a vehicle to move in the same direction. Wheel alignment means pointing your tires in the right direction, so it moves evenly and smoothly. With the right tools, you can perform wheel alignment at home; however, it may require experience working on your car. It is technical work that should be done by someone trained to do it, a professional. It involves configuration, positioning, and adjustment of certain components of the wheel.
A vehicle’s suspension system determines its wheel alignment and the way power is distributed to the wheels. The type of wheel your vehicle uses determines the type of wheel alignment it would need. A four-wheel-drive vehicle requires a four-wheel alignment, and a front-wheel-drive requires a front-end alignment, which is specified in degrees.
You can DIY several repairs on your car, such as changing its tire. However, wheel alignment is what you should consult a professional mechanic. There is a machine built specifically for this purpose, and people are trained in the art of using it.
Why Is A Wheel Alignment Important?
Your vehicle, its type regardless, has a specified wheel alignment. Driving a car with wheel alignment problems is detrimental to the vehicle’s durability and poses a danger to the driver. A vehicle’s properties ranging from its size to its use are unique to its model. These properties were put into consideration in calculating the specifications.
One of the most crucial maintenance a vehicle must get is wheel alignment. There are several things a vehicle can withstand, not a bad or wrong alignment. It will not run smoothly. It will not run as it should. And you, the driver, will find yourself frustrated.
Do you find yourself changing tires often? Well, that’s more likely because your wheels are not aligned.
A well-aligned wheel improves a vehicle’s driving stability and overall handling performance. It also extends tire life. Wheel alignment is important because it helps avoid unnecessary wear and tear on your tires, brakes, suspension system, and steering. If your vehicle wheel is not aligned, other parts of your vehicle are at risk of damage.
How Do You Know If You Need A Wheel Alignment?
We admit that we sometimes get too busy to notice the warning signs our vehicle gives us. Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t see the signs until it is too late. If you have the right information, you can watch out for the signs. As such, when they show, you know what they mean.
So, what are the signs your vehicle is giving you about your wheels? How do you know that the difficulties you are experiencing with your vehicle result from a bad wheel alignment? The following signs will tell you it is time for wheel alignment:
1. You keep changing tires
If you have changed tires more than twice a month, it is time to book an appointment with your mechanic. Your vehicle urgently needs a wheel alignment. Bad or uneven wheel alignment puts a strain on the tires, causing them to wear out. Hence, the abnormally frequent change.
2. Tire wears are not even
When there is wear on your tires, please take a look at them. Do the front and rear tires have the same pattern? If the answer is no, that is an indication that your wheels are not aligned well.
3. Your steering wheel is crooked
One of the most obvious signs of misaligned wheels is when the vehicle’s steering wheel appears crooked. When you are driving straight, but your steering wheel is crooked, your wheels are most likely not properly aligned.
4. Sharp pulling to the left or right
This is tricky somehow. Sometimes your car pulls sharply in one direction, but it has nothing to do with wheel alignment. A vehicle sharply pulling left or right could sometimes be because the tires are under-inflated. But when this keeps happening, especially when your tires are inflated as they should be, this is a sign that your wheels are out of alignment.
5. Your steering wheel vibrates
Misaligned wheels can result in steering wheel vibration. The wheel vibrates because the tires are going in the opposite direction.
6. Squealing tires
Squealing tires can also be because the vehicle’s wheels are not aligned. If you keep experiencing this, you may need to get your wheel alignment checked, especially when you’ve checked and nothing else is wrong with the vehicle.
Also Read: What Color is Transmission Fluid
How Often Should You Need A Wheel Alignment?
Every car comes with a manual. And in it is the recommended interval for wheel alignment for your vehicle. But if your car does not have a manual, you should bring it to your mechanic for alignment checkup at least once a year. Or, at most, two years after driving the car. Cars typically run out of alignment one or two years after driving them.
However, if your car still seems to run well, there is no need to realign every year. Whichever way, you should do alignment checkups regularly. Better safe than sorry. Whether or not your car is showing signs of misalignment. Car experts recommend that wheel alignments be done:
- Once in two years, three at the most;
- On a car you newly acquired;
- When you start seeing the signs that your wheels may be misaligned;
- At every oil change;
- Every 6,000 miles approximately;
- When you just buy new tires. An alignment on new tires ensures they are positioned right, and they will wear evenly.
How Long Does A Wheel Alignment Take?
We know you don’t have all day. You are very busy and need to get back to work. But you realize that this is important. You cannot push it aside any longer. You would like to know if the wheel alignment is something you can stay for or if you need to drop your vehicle and come back for it.
Well, the length of time it will take to realign your car wheels depends on the extent of damage on the wheels. But wheel alignment takes one hour on average. That is, apart from the waiting period. It doesn’t take that long if you catch the signs early.
On the other hand, it may take longer if too much damage has been done to the suspension system or other parts. The reason is that some components need to be replaced. Replacing these components would take time, depending on the model or make of the car.
Can You Drive With A Bad Wheel Alignment?
Let us not mince words. No, you cannot drive with a bad wheel alignment. You can manage the car that way for a while. But you shouldn’t because it isn’t advisable.
First, it is unsafe for you, other drivers on the road, and the people walking on foot. But asides from safety issues, driving a vehicle with poor alignment can cause:
- The tires and suspension system to wear out;
- The steering wheel becomes unstable. It becomes crooked and takes over control of the car from you. And that is not good;
- Misaligned wheels cause tires to screech. In addition, a screeching tire could be a sign of damaged suspension or the effectiveness of the brakes;
- Frustration when driving. When the wheels are misaligned, you lose control of them. With this, you have to exert strength and put force on the wheels to keep them in place;
- Rapid fuel consumption. Misaligned wheels harm the rate at which your vehicle consumes fuel. You may find yourself refilling more often than you normally would.
Several things can cause your wheels to misalign. For this reason, regular checkup is advised. Regardless of whether you want to replace worn-out tires or you think all they need is some air blown into them, you must take your vehicle for wheel alignment checkups as often as possible. Do this even if it is not yet time for its routine maintenance or checkup, especially when you’ve been involved in an accident such as hitting potholes or entering a ditch.
Wheel alignment is an essential part of a vehicle’s maintenance routine. Skipping or neglecting it would be a big mistake. Also, it will mean extra cost as it gets damaged. Regular alignment checkups save your vehicle from poor performance and you from the high cost of repairs. Furthermore, it saves you from a lot of emotional stress.