You’re driving down the road and your steering wheel has to be turned slightly to the right or left to be centered. The number one cause of a crooked steering wheel is an alignment problem with the tires. Whenever you get your oil changed, they probably ask you if you want to get your tires rotated or if you need an alignment. These are common procedures done at an auto-body shop on a daily basis. There’s a reason why mechanics ask these questions, your alignment is vital to the performance of your tires.
Why Alignment is a Safety Issue
Proper wheel alignment is not only imperative for automobile safety, but it also saves you cash by lengthening the tire’s life. If you drove for 12,000 miles with malalignment issues of only 3/16 of an inch, it is the same as dragging the tire for 68 miles sideways. Talk about a waste of a tire’s life. Each vehicle has alignment recommendations that are located in the owner’s manual. However, the general rule is that alignment should be checked at least once per year.
Your car works harder when your tires aren’t aligned properly. Not only does it cause premature tire failure, but there can be problems with steering and maintain the car in-between the lines on the highway. It can also affect the gas mileage. When a car is not running in true-alignment, the car is constantly fighting to keep in a straight line. This is called road-resistance. Road resistance means that it will cost you more money to get from point A to point B.
It Can Affect the Driving Experience
While it’s not a money issue, a severe misalignment can cause the car to be difficult to drive. It can also cause the passengers to feel the pulling and tugging war that the driver has to keep it going. However, while the most common problem with a car not driving straight is the tire alignment, it can also be caused from the struts too. Struts impact how the car absorbs impact and if they are not working properly, it can cause the driver problems driving.
Troubleshooting Your Car
There are a few things that you can do to check your own alignment. First, you need to identify if your potential problems are caused from struts or tire alignment issues. If you have some mechanical skills, you can take your hands and push down on the front bumper. If the struts are in good shape, the car shouldn’t bounce at all when pushing on it. If the car bounces up and down, you have a strut problem. For tire alignment, you can look at the tire tread. Take a penny and stick it into several of the grooves in the tires tread. When the top part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the rubber, your tread is about 2/32”. If the Lincoln Memorial is mostly covered, that is a tread of 6/32”. There is also a special device that can give you an accurate measurement. Another way to identify a problem is driving the car. If the steering wheel pulls heavily to one side or the other, it is likely caused from the tires.
Getting a Professional Opinion
Looking at your alignment issues is kind of limited from the home. A mechanic can put the car up on the rack and easily identify issues that are hard for the common person to do from home. A computerized machine will realign the car for you and do it with accuracy. Your mechanic will want to do what is best for you and will do whatever it takes to ensure that you have a vehicle that is safe to drive. It is also advisable to have the tires rotated at that time too. In a front wheel drive vehicle, the front tires do the pulling. In a real wheel vehicle, it is the rear that pulls. With that being said, the tires that do the most work will wear out quicker than those that are just along for the ride.
Since it is a matter of safety and tire preservation, it is always best to get a professional to check out the car. All the signs you look at could indicate an alignment issue, but it can be something totally unrelated. Those worn down tires are a good indication that there’s a problem. If you see bald spots or uneven tread, call a professional immediately.