Your vehicle goes through a lot to get you where you need to go, especially your tires. To keep your car performing at its best, you may need a wheel alignment. Despite the name, a wheel alignment really addresses your car’s suspension, which can become worn or stretched out with regular use. Proper alignment will improve gas mileage, deliver a smoother ride, and prolong the life of your tires.
In this post, we’ll go over what causes wheels to shift out of place, occasions when an alignment is necessary, and where to get this service done.
Symptoms and causes
If your wheels are out of alignment, your vehicle may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Noisy and/or vibrating steering wheel
- Squealing tires
- Rough/bumpy ride
- Steering wheel not centred when driving straight
- Vehicle drifting to one side when driving straight
- Uneven tire wear
Certain driving conditions and habits can take a real toll on your tires. Intense winter weather, for example, can shift tires out of place if the roads aren’t clear. Tire blowouts, zooming over speed bumps, accidents, or sudden impacts, such as hitting curbs or potholes, can also cause misalignment.
If you’re concerned your wheels may have shifted, have a certified mechanic look at your vehicle—it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
When should you get an alignment?
If your vehicle shows any of the above symptoms, take your car to your favourite local garage. However, there are other occasions when getting your wheels aligned is recommended:
- After installing new suspension and/or steering parts
- After installing new tires
- After adding a body modification
If none of these symptoms or events apply to you, this doesn’t mean you should avoid aligning your wheels. Like tire rotations , wheel alignments follow a schedule, even if your vehicle seems fine. For example, if you frequently drive on rough roads, check your wheel alignment at least once a year. (Your owner’s manual can confirm this for you.)
Where to get an alignment
Like most car maintenance tasks, you can get your wheels aligned at your local garage. Prices can vary, so check ahead of time to find out how much your station typically charges for this service.
If you’re an experienced DIYer, you could align your wheels yourself. However, for all-wheel-drive vehicles, all four wheels need to be aligned simultaneously and should therefore be taken to a garage.
If your vehicle uses front-wheel drive, you may be able to align it yourself. Do this outside so your tailpipe exhaust is blowing away from you, and follow these steps carefully:
- Turn off the electrical system, but keep the engine on so the steering wheel can move.
- Use a jack and jack stands to raise the front wheels.
- Look where one wheel is pointing from the front of the car. If it points inward toward the centre, the outer tire rod needs to be tightened. If the wheel points outward, the tire rod needs to be loosened.
- Loosen the nuts connecting the outer and inner tire rods. Tighten or loosen the outer rod according to step 3.
- Set your steering wheel straight and confirm the tire is now facing forward/straight. Repeat this process with the other tire.
Only attempt a DIY wheel alignment if you have a lot of experience working on your car. Otherwise, stick with a professional mechanic.
Evercraft - 2-Ton Floor Jack
Evercraft - 3-Ton Jack Stands
Wheel alignment: A necessary component of car maintenance
Properly aligned wheels will improve your vehicle’s overall performance and extend the life of your tires by reducing uneven tread wear. Moreover, they’ll help protect your suspension from long-term damage. If you suspect your wheels are out of alignment, contact your mechanic and book an inspection today.