Owning a car is about more than just knowing how to drive. You also need to be aware of what’s going on with your entire vehicle to see if there’s anything that needs to be repaired.
More often than not, wheel alignment or tire alignment can go unnoticed as its symptoms can seem innocent enough or are not considered by many drivers to be a cause for concern.
However, misaligned wheels can result in premature tire wear, as well as create potential driving hazards, thereby making it important for every driver to address this issue immediately.
What’s a Tire Alignment and How Does it Work?
Tire alignment refers to how your car’s wheels are angled. This can affect steering, handling, and maneuvering, as misaligned tires will result in imbalanced friction due to uneven pressure your tires experience when their treads make contact with the road.
Related: How Long Can You Drive on a Patched Tire?
Aligning your wheels doesn’t just mean aligning the tires themselves, but also the entire system that connects them with the vehicle, which is your car’s suspension.
How Does Bad Alignment Affect Tires?
Does bad alignment wear tires quickly? Definitely.
Aside from this, misaligned wheels can cause your tires to drift sideways, potentially resulting in sideswipes or collisions, the latter involving 12 million vehicles in the U.S. in 2018.
When left unaddressed, uneven tires may also result in more expenses depending on how much damage your vehicle has sustained. If you suspect that your tires have been misaligned, don’t hesitate to take it to a mechanic as soon as possible so they can diagnose and address the issue.
When they check your car, mechanics will primarily be concerned with three things:
● Camber: This measures how your tires are angled in an inward or outward manner when viewed straight from the front of your vehicle. If there’s too much inward tilt, or when your wheel leans toward the car with the bottom angled farther away, this is known as a negative camber.
A positive camber, on the other hand, is when there’s too much outward tilt, or when a wheel leans away from the car. Common contributors to camber misalignment can include worn ball joints, bearings, and other wheel-suspension parts.
● Toe: The toe is the opposite of camber alignment. It pertains to how your tires turn inward or outward when viewed directly from above. If the front of the wheel is angled toward the center of the car, this is known as a positive or toe-in alignment. If the front of the wheel is angled outwards, that’s a negative or toe-out alignment.
● Caster: This is primarily concerned with steering, stability, and cornering.
Caster pertains to the axis of your wheel when viewed from the side of the car.
A positive caster will cause the axis to tilt toward the driver, while a negative caster will tilt the axis toward the front of the vehicle.
Your casters are likely misaligned when your steering wheel feels too light or too heavy. For cars that have front-wheel drive, casters cannot usually be adjusted, so examine the suspension instead.
How Long Will Tires Last With Bad Alignment?
You might be wondering: how fast can a bad alignment ruin tires? The answer would, of course, depend on how frequently you use your vehicle. Tire wear can happen gradually, but if your wheels are misaligned, it’s more than likely that your tires won’t last as long as they should. Underinflation is one symptom of misalignment, which can easily cause worn tires.
Other symptoms can include the following:
● Swerving or veering to one side: When driving on a straight road with little to no traffic, test your wheel alignment by letting go of the steering wheel. If your wheels are aligned, then the car should maintain its course. Otherwise, it will tend to swerve or drift off to one particular side.
● Imbalanced tire wear: This is perhaps one of the most obvious signs of wheel misalignment. If certain treads are wearing out faster than others, chances are, your wheels are misaligned.
● Squealing tires: This can happen whenever you turn or accelerate. Brakes with worn pads may also be another culprit so have this checked as well to properly diagnose the issue.
● Loose, vibrating, or uneven steering wheel: If your vehicle has a slow response time during turns, it’s likely that your wheels are misaligned. Similarly, if your steering wheel vibrates or is off-center, misalignment might also be the cause.
Will Tires Last if You Have Bad Alignment?
How long will tires wear with bad alignment? It’s really just a matter of time.
The more pressing question should be: why is it important to have your wheels aligned? Here are some compelling reasons:
● Safety: All sorts of vehicular accidents and driving hazards can occur when tires are misaligned. Because wheel alignment can affect steering and handling, the risk of facing a collision or hitting a pedestrian is greater since your car can veer away from the road.
Ignore misalignment long enough and steering will be more difficult to do, which may eventually cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Increased road friction resulting from alignment may also affect your breaks, causing damage not only to your car but also to those in your immediate surroundings. This can be especially crucial when you have passengers on board.
● Smoother drives: Having even treads on each tire means that you’ll have a smoother and more comfortable driving experience. If your tires are misaligned, uneven tread wear can occur, which can make driving difficult or unpleasant, not to mention dangerous.
● Longer vehicle lifespan: Because your tires are connected to your suspension, misaligned wheels can potentially damage your car’s axle, springs, and dampers. Your brakes and other parts can also be affected, further contributing to unnecessary strain your vehicle can suffer from.
Visit Your Mechanic
Whether you own a sedan, a truck, a trailer, or any kind of vehicle, it’s important to always pay attention to your tire alignment.
To find out whether your car is due for alignment, head over to NOLA Automotive Repairs to get professional maintenance services that can ensure your vehicle’s safety and longevity on the road. Contact us today!
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NOLA Automotive Repairs has been serving New Orleans clients for nineteen years, making us one of the trusted auto repair shops in The Big Easy.
We offer a variety of services including engine repair, brake jobs, AC repair, and diagnostics.