16 Oct The 5 Signs and Symptoms of Misaligned Wheels
Misaligned wheels are a common problem that, if left unchecked, could increase you risk for a crash and cost big bucks.
A common issue drivers might not be aware of is the affect misaligned wheels have on their vehicles. The signs that your car’s wheels may be misaligned may be subtle, especially when you’re focused on the road, but they shouldn’t be ignored.
While misaligned wheels may be a small, easy-to-fix problem for any car, it can contribute to bigger problems down the road. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, yearly, 11,000 crashes can be attributed to tire-related issues, which can be caused or exacerbated by misaligned tires.
Symptoms of Misalignment
There are five common symptoms of misaligned wheels drivers should look out for. They are:
- Uneven tire wear — If the wheels on your car are properly aligned, they should exhibit similar wear patterns on both the front and back tires. Tire wear should be checked by a mechanic when you take your vehicle in for preventive maintenance and any other service issues.
- Sharp turning — If your vehicle’s tire pressure is correct, having your vehicle turn sharply left or right when the steering wheel is at a neutral position could indicate misaligned tires.
- Slight pulling — One way to check the alignment of your vehicle’s wheels is to drive slowly on a straight road with no traffic or obstacles and let your car drift for two to three seconds. If your vehicle starts to pull to the left or right, your wheels may be misaligned. This test can also be performed in an empty parking lot.
- Steering wheel vibration — Misaligned wheels often pull against each other, causing a vehicle’s steering wheel to vibrate. The strength of the vibration can give you an indication as to the severity of the misalignment.
- “Crooked” Steering Wheel — If you’re driving straight and your steering wheel is not in the neutral position, your vehicle may need its wheels aligned.
Causes of Misalignment
Misaligned wheels can be the result of any number of causes. Oftentimes wheels become misaligned over time for a number of factors, rather than any single reason.
Most commonly, wheels can become misaligned when a vehicle experiences a sudden, jarring, or heavy impact. This can include something as minor as hitting a pothole or curb or as severe as getting into a crash. Depending on the severity of the impact, a vehicle’s wheels may be forcefully knocked out of alignment.
Simple wear and tear over time will misalign wheels. As suspension springs age, they begin to slacken, which can affect the alignment of a vehicle. Regular vehicle checks with a mechanic can prevent misalignment due to aging.
Results of Misalignment
Drivers should always keep themselves aware of their vehicle’s alignment. The effects of misaligned wheels can range from minor problems to potentially life-threatening crashes. For example, not fixing a vehicle’s alignment can drive up gasoline expenditures, because misaligned tires cause greater resistance between the wheels and the road, leading to poorer fuel economy.
Misaligned tires will also lead to greater wear and tear, increasing maintenance costs from more frequent tire replacements. Increased wear and tear can also, in the worst cases, cause a tire to blow out, risking a crash, injury, and even death on the road.
Maintaining Aligned Tires
Ensuring that a car’s tires are aligned is simple; all it takes is an inspection by a reliable mechanic. Sending your car in for regular inspections based on fleet policy will help optimize the health of your vehicle and its fuel efficiency. An inspection can also help fix any other potential problems your vehicle may be facing, such as rotation and balance.
While misaligned tires may seem like a relatively small issue with a vehicle, if left unchecked, they could grow worse over time and compound other problems. Keeping your tires aligned can help save fuel, money, and even your life and the lives of others.