Auto Maintenance Basics: Alignment

There are a handful of things that we’re told we need to maintain to keep our cars in shape, some of which we have to know, like filling the gas tank, but others that may slip through the cracks. Tire alignment is one of those things that we may have heard of, but it’s not always at the top of the to-do list.

Do you know what a tire alignment is, what it does for your car, or why it’s important? Check out our list of tire alignment basics below.

What is a tire alignment?

A tire alignment is an adjustment to the suspension and steering system, which is what connects the wheels to the rest of the vehicle. The adjustment performed during an alignment ensures that when the steering wheel is centered, the wheels are straight so the vehicle goes straight forward. When the steering wheel turns to the right, so do the tires and so does the vehicle.

How can you tell when an alignment is needed?

Your vehicle will give you signs when it needs an alignment, so keep an eye out for the following.

  • The steering wheel vibrates while the car is moving, especially at higher speeds,
  • The steering wheel is off center when driving straight, or the car veers to the right or left when the steering wheel is straight,
  • The tread on your tires is wearing unevenly, or
  • You notice the vehicle pulling to one side as you drive.

Why does my car need to be aligned?

Alignments are one of those things that are really important, but you may not know it unless you know cars well.

Proper alignment improves the life of your tires, saving you money on replacements. Misaligned tires are susceptible to uneven tread wear, which means they’ll need to be replaced sooner. Regular alignments keep your tires even (when they’re also balanced, rotated, and properly inflated) and they last longer.

Proper alignment gives the driver control over the vehicle, increasing safety of the vehicle.  When the tires aren’t aligned right, the steering on the vehicle is less accurate, which impairs the driver’s ability to control the direction of the vehicle. Especially in an accident, it’s crucial for a driver to have control!

Proper alignment gives you a comfortable ride. In addition to being safer, properly aligned tires allow for a smoother ride. The tires are rolling as they’re designed to, they’re not vibrating, and there will be fewer bumps when the suspension system is maintained.