While all vehicles include a huge number of individual parts, it’s easy to argue that the tires, the only parts that actually come in contact with the ground, are vitally important. Without quality tires, any vehicle will be more difficult to drive and less safe. However, having quality tires is only one part of the driving equation. Those tires must be properly cared for to ensure everyone in the vehicle is safe. Having the vehicle’s wheels aligned is a big part of that care.
What is a Wheel Alignment, and Why is it Important?
All the wheels on a vehicle need to be pointed in the same direction so the vehicle goes where the driver intends. On the surface, that might seem simple, but it really isn’t. Today’s vehicles are complex machines, and each of the parts can impact several others. That’s especially true with the vehicle’s steering system. Modern wheel alignment equipment is designed to ensure each of the wheels is set precisely as the manufacturer intended. The experts at Hamm’s Tires tell customers a wheel that varies even a few degrees from those specs will negatively affect the way a vehicle handles and how the tires wear. That means the vehicle may not respond properly in emergencies. In addition, the tires will wear out quickly and need to be replaced far sooner than should be necessary.
Should Owners Drive Vehicles that are not Properly Aligned?
Vehicle maintenance experts unanimously say no, it’s never a good idea to continue driving a vehicle that needs a wheel alignment. The safety issues, combined with the increased wear and tear on a vehicle with improperly aligned wheels, mean it’s always a good idea to have the vehicle’s wheels aligned if there is any indication of a problem. So, what are some signs a vehicle needs an alignment?
· Uneven Tire Wear. When the wheels are not aligned, the tires will begin to wear unevenly. Generally, owners will notice more wear on either the inner or outer edges of the tires. If any uneven tire wear is noted, contact a service center for an appointment as soon as possible.
· The Vehicle Pulls to One Side. Any time a vehicle starts to pull to one side or the other, it’s time to have the alignment and tires checked by an expert. In some cases, the issue will be a tire rather than the alignment, but maintenance is needed regardless of the problem found.
· The Steering Wheel Shakes. If the steering wheel shakes during driving, the vehicle needs immediate attention. Again, the problem could be caused by either a tire or alignment problem, but it needs to be dealt with promptly.
There are other mechanical issues that can cause similar symptoms, but the net result is the same: the vehicle needs immediate attention. The service center will examine the vehicle to determine the underlying cause of a problem and provide strategies to deal with the issues found.
How Often Should a Vehicle Be Aligned?
There is no specific time table suggesting when a vehicle needs to be aligned. Instead, take the vehicle to a service provider at the first sign of any problem, especially those listed above. If you’re purchasing new tires, it’s generally a good idea to have the shop check the vehicle’s alignment at the same time. Doing so will keep those tires like new for longer. If you’ve got questions, contact a tire and alignment expert for advice now.