When you think about car repairs, you may picture visible damage, like dents, first. However, much of the damage that your vehicle sustains over the course of its life isn’t visible from the average driver’s perspective.
One of the most common invisible vehicle issues is wheel misalignment. In this blog, we discuss how vehicle misalignment can occur and six signs that your car is out of alignment.
Causes of Misalignment
Alignment occurs whenever the orientation of your wheels to the body of your car changes, even slightly. This change may consist of a single tire pointing outward instead of straight ahead or of more complex directional changes such as a tire leaning in toward the body at the top.
Regardless of misalignment type, the causes are generally the same. Common causes of misalignment include:
- Collisions, including minor accidents
- Driving over potholes or curbs
- Tension caused by wear and tear on tires over time
Most experts recommend including alignment checks in your regular vehicle maintenance routine. Check your user manual to determine how often you should have your alignment checked.
Symptoms of Alignment Issues
In most cases, you won’t be able to tell your car is out of alignment just by looking. However, you may notice one of the following other signs.
1. Crooked Steering Wheel
In a properly aligned car, the position of the steering wheel corresponds exactly to the front tires’ direction. If your tires are out of alignment, you may notice that you have to turn your steering wheel slightly to drive in a straight line.
2. Drifting to One Side
Misalignment can affect vehicle handling. When your car is misaligned, it may drift in a particular direction. To test if your car is drifting, drive on a long straightaway and let go of the wheel for a moment. An aligned car should continue forward, but a misaligned vehicle may begin to lean to one side or the other.
3. Pulling to One Side
In extreme cases, your car may pull rather than drift. If it feels like you have to exert force to keep your steering wheel straight, or your car suddenly switches directions when you don’t hold tightly to the wheel, the vehicle is most likely out of alignment.
4. Squealing Tires
Sometimes, misalignment causes tires to touch the inside of the wheel well, causing a squealing noise. If you notice these types of sounds during turns, your tires may be tilted out of alignment.
5. Uneven Wear on Tires
Because misalignment puts strain on your wheels, it often results in uneven tire wear. If you suspect misalignment, look at your tires. You may notice more wear on the inside of the tire than on the outside, or vice versa.
Over time, worn-out tires can damage the quality of your handling overall. You may even notice vibrations or shaking in your steering wheel due to extreme uneven tire wear.
6. Unusual Front-End Noises
In addition to squealing noises, misaligned tires that touch the frame create friction that may cause other noises. To check for these sounds, drive slowly in a safe area and have someone stand outside and listen for scraping, grinding, or whining noises coming from the front of your vehicle.
If you recently encountered any of the common causes of misalignment or you notice any combination of these signs, have your alignment checked.
Do you think your car may be out of alignment? Don’t wait to address the problem. Untreated misalignment can lead to other vehicle issues. Learn more about issues related to alignment problems on Central Body Company Inc.’s wheel alignment services page.