What Everyone Should Know About Wheel Alignment
Wheel alignment, also known as tire alignment, is an essential responsibility for car ownership and maintenance. Similar to changing your oil, you should make sure that you’re getting your wheels aligned at the right times if you want your car to remain in optimal and safe working condition.
The following is everything you need to know about wheel alignment as a car owner.
What is a Wheel Alignment?
Wheel alignment means you’re getting your car’s suspension system adjusted. Wheel alignment isn’t just intended to straighten your tires. Instead, it’s a systematic adjustment to make sure your components are moving at the right angles.
The overarching goal of wheel adjustment is to ensure proper contact between the tires and the road.
Having a basic understanding of your car’s suspension is essential here too.
Your suspension system is protective made up of shock-absorbing vehicle components, such as dampers and springs. Your suspension helps make sure you’re driving safely and smoothly because it absorbs energy from impact and bumps on the roadway.
Your suspension system also helps your tires remain in contact with the road through increases in tire friction.
Sometimes, the suspension is described as a carriage, and it’s on that carriage the cabin of your car sits.
Your suspension helps you enjoy a comfortable ride because it protects you from the impacts you experience even on well-paved roadways.
Your suspension is incredibly important. Since it’s responsible for maximizing friction, you’re able to have more stability when you steer your vehicle, and you get the benefit of more comfortable handling. The more contact your tires get with the road, the safer and more secure your drive will be.
The primary reasons you need a tire alignment with these things in mind include helping prevent your vehicle from pulling to one side and to avoid too much wear on your tires and steering and suspension parts. Wheel alignment also helps give you the best possible road holding.
How Often Do You Need To Take Your Car for Wheel Alignment?
You probably aren’t finding a recommendation for how often you should get a wheel alignment in your owner’s manual. There are a lot of variables that play a role in when you should do it, which is why there isn’t a standard answer.
If you notice your vehicle pulling to the right, you may need an alignment. If your steering wheel is shaking even when you’re on a smooth surface, it may be time for an alignment.
Aim to get your wheel alignment checked at least once a year. You can also time it by doing it every other oil change.
Some tire experts will say to do it every 6,000 miles, but newer cars can often go longer while older cars may need an alignment more often.
Along with the car’s age, some of the things that are factors as far as timing wheel alignments include:
- What type of tires do you have? If you have a sports car or your vehicle has wider tires, you might need an alignment more often. You’ll also want to make sure your tires are always appropriately inflated. If you’re driving on a low tire, it can affect your alignment. If you get even just one new tire, also have your wheels aligned.
- What type of driving do you do, and what are the conditions like? If you’re always on the highway, you may be able to get away with less frequent alignments compared to regularly driving on rough or dirt roads.
- If you experience an impact of any kind, you should likely take your car in to check the alignment.
Finally, there are three types of alignment.
First is a two-wheel alignment. During a two-wheel alignment, which is also known as a front-end alignment, the technician performs the alignment on the two front wheels only. In many vehicles, the rear part of the suspension isn’t meant to be adjusted.
Four-wheel alignments of course, are adjustments done on all four of your tries. There are also thrust alignments that can be done with two-wheel alignments to make sure the front and back wheels align with one another.
An ASE-Certified technician can perform a diagnostic which means they’ll visually inspect your suspension and steering systems as well as your tire wear.
If wheel alignment isn’t already something you’re regularly doing, talk to a certified technician to determine when you should have it done.