Being a safe driver in Vancouver, Washington, means having access to a vehicle you can trust. Do you make a point of keeping up on oil changes and other preventive maintenance services? If so, you might assume your car is ready to hit the road. However, you could accidentally ignore a crucial aspect of road safety — your car alignment.
If you’re unfamiliar with tire alignment, you might assume alignment issues are a minor snag at worst. But that isn’t even close to being true — this situation can make driving your car safely all but impossible. And by delaying your next visit to an Vancouver alignment shop in an attempt to avoid paying the associated tire alignment cost, you could create even worse problems. Read on for a thorough look at what can happen when you put off your need for a full or front-end alignment.
Here’s What Causes Improper Car Alignment
Cars are designed to withstand a great deal of force daily, but that doesn’t mean all their parts are equally durable. Some vehicle components (including the parts responsible for alignment) are more vulnerable to impacts than others.
Alignment problems in your vehicle can be caused by:
- Driving over a pothole
- Hitting a speed bump, a curb, or debris in the road
- Getting in a car crash or colliding with a stationary object
But car alignment issues aren’t always the result of dramatic situations such as these. Over time, your car’s rubber components will begin to crack and lose their elasticity, and its ball-and-socket joints will start to loosen. When that happens, these parts will have difficulty doing their jobs, eventually spelling trouble for your vehicle’s alignment.
Look Out for These Wheel Alignment Symptoms
Some of the biggest problems associated with improper car alignment include:
Misaligned wheels aren’t facing the direction they’re supposed to, and this can have a negative impact on your car’s overall handling. For example, you might try to steer one way and find yourself going in a subtly different direction — or if your wheels are extremely misaligned, another direction entirely.
While you should never ignore steering problems, they can be particularly dangerous in some situations. If you often drive on jam-packed city streets or during inclement weather, fixing this issue should be your highest priority.
Uneven Tire Wear
While no one can extend the life of a tire indefinitely, there are some ways you can protect your wheels, such as taking steps to promote even tread wear. Under normal circumstances, each tire on your car should have equal amounts of wear, and this wear should appear in similar locations on each tire.
Issues with your vehicle’s wheel alignment could easily affect your tires’ tread wear. If your wheels suffer wear and tear in locations not designed to withstand this burden, they could suddenly begin to shred, which will cause damage to other wheel and axle components.
Some types of tire wear closely associated with car alignment problems include:
- Feathering (in which a tire is smooth on one side and sharp on the other)
- Heel/toe wear (in which one side of a tire wears down quicker than the other in a circumferential “sawtooth” pattern)
- Camber wear (in which a tread’s inside or outside is much more worn than its center)
Prioritizing tire rotation will help you avoid tire wear issues such as these. Still, protecting your wheels involves more than just rotating your tires every so often, so be sure to get your wheels aligned on a regular basis.
Increased Fuel Usage
If your tires aren’t correctly aligned, they’ll have to work harder than usual to deliver the same results. That extra work takes extra energy, meaning your car will burn through gas faster than expected. As a result, what seems like a high tire alignment cost could actually end up saving you money in the long run.
These aren’t the only problems you could face as a result of misalignment. Your car could also run into issues such as:
- Steering wheel vibrations during a turn
- A steering wheel that’s crooked while you’re trying to drive straight
- Tire squealing when you turn corners at a typical speed
- Impaired handling while braking or turning corners
- Problems related to your suspension
When Do You Need Wheel Alignment?
Sometimes, it’s easy to tell when your wheels are out of alignment. But that’s not always the case because if your tires gradually lose their alignment, you might not consciously notice a difference. Despite this, you need to resolve this issue before your vehicle develops any of the symptoms described above.
Fortunately, you’ll have little trouble keeping up on this vital task if you include alignment checks in your overall service schedule. Ideally, you should have your alignment checked roughly once every 6,000 miles (or sooner, if you’ve recently been in a collision).
Get Quality Car Alignment Service
Depending on your car’s alignment situation, you may need a full wheel alignment or simply a front-end alignment (that only focuses on aligning your vehicle’s two front wheels). In either case, it’s wise to take care of this service at a Vancouver auto shop you can trust.
If you’re overdue for alignment work, schedule an appointment today!