Theoretically, all four wheels should be vertical to the ground and parallel to each other, right? However, when the vehicle starts pulling to one side – or after a hard impact with a curb – most drivers suspect that the wheels might be out of alignment. Another good sign that your vehicle’s alignment is off is irregular tire wear, vibration and odd handling characteristics are other clues.
Taking a few minutes to check your alignment will make your tires last longer and your vehicle handle better.
1.) Your steering wheel is off center: If you are driving straight down a flat, level road, your steering wheel should be sitting close to perfectly straight. There’s usually a small amount of inconsistency depending on the road, but overall, the wheel should be sitting centered and straight. If the wheel is off center by more than a few degrees in either direction, it’s time to have an alignment performed.
2.) Your vehicle pulls in one direction or the other: Similar to the first point, vehicle pull is most easily noticed while driving straight down a level road. The vehicle should drive straight ahead with very little effort on the steering wheel. If your car pulls to one side or the other, it’s time to have your alignment checked and corrected, which usually corrects the vehicle pull and improves overall drivability.
3.) Abnormal tire wear in certain spots: Tire wear can speak volumes about the condition of a car. A qualified technician can use tire wear patterns to make educated guesses about tire pressures, suspension condition, and alignment problems. Tire wear is most often noticed by a mechanic while performing a tire rotation or an inspection or service. There is added benefit in that proper alignment greatly increases the life of your tires by ensuring they wear evenly.
4.) Your steering wheel doesn’t return to center: After you complete a turn, the steering wheel should naturally return to center on its own as you keep driving. If your steering wheel doesn’t start to return to the center, then that’s a good indication that your alignment is off. If this is the case, then you should have an alignment check done, and a full alignment performed if necessary.
5.) The vehicle handling feels loose: If the steering in your car feels a little loose or unstable, one of the possible causes is poor wheel alignment. This can be felt as wandering all over the road when driving, or the car feeling very loose and sloppy around corners. If your vehicle feels a bit unstable while driving, regardless of driving straight or turning, you should have the alignment checked.