Does your vehicle drift to one side while driving on a straightaway? This may be an indicator that its alignment is off and needs to be checked.
The benefits of good tire alignment far outweigh the costs. First and foremost, properly aligned vehicles provide the stable, accurate handling the manufacturer intended, enhancing safety. It is also worth noting that if misalignment is not corrected, there could be additional costs and problems down the road.
Costs of Tire Alignments vs. Misalignment Damages and Expenses Driving
Misalignment that goes uncorrected adds unwanted problems and expenses. To prevent this, have your vehicle’s tires, suspension and alignment checked periodically.
A vehicle works harder to drive straight on the road when the tires are misaligned, increasing fuel consumption. According to Investopedia, a misalignment can lower fuel efficiency by up to 10%.
When tires aren't aligned correctly, they are essentially dragged straight as the vehicle drives. Imagine a shopping cart whose wheels are favoring the left or right side. It becomes difficult to steer the cart straight while the wheels continuously try to pull the cart to one side, and the cart must be dragged to move straight.
Driving a misaligned vehicle is no different. The vehicle works harder to keep travelling straight on the road, while the misalignment continuously pulls the car to one side or the other. Extra pressure is exerted on the tires due to the back and forth pulling of the vehicle, leading to premature wear.
Risk of Accidents
In cases of severe misalignment, a vehicle’s emergency handling may become abrupt or unpredictable, resulting in a loss of stability and control.
Blowouts and Flats
Misalignment causes tire tread to wear faster than usual due to unequal pressure on the tread. If the additional wear goes unnoticed, the resulting prematurely worn tire is more susceptible to punctures, loss of air pressure and sudden failures - “blowouts”. This may mean damage to the vehicle, and possibly a loss of control and an accident.
Signs of Misalignments
While only a qualified alignment technician can tell for certain if a vehicle is out of alignment, there are signs an owner can look for to tell if there may be a problem. And, having the alignment checked when one of the following signs is evident can prevent problems from getting worse (and costing more to fix).
Drifting to a Side
You’ll need to check all four tires’ pressure before performing this test - and be sure they agree with the car maker’s recommendations on the vehicle placard. The test: On a straight, level road you should be able to briefly remove your hands from the steering wheel and have the vehicle continue travelling in a straight line. If the vehicle drifts or “pulls” to the left or right, it’s possible it’s out of alignment.
Uneven treadwear is another result of misalignment. If the tires are not rolling straight when driving or are tilted too far from vertical, one side of the tread will wear more quickly than the other. They will also deliver fewer miles than if they were properly aligned, requiring more frequent replacement. If your tires exhibit uneven wear, be sure to have the alignment checked.
Prevent Paying for the Costs of Tire Alignments
Avoiding alignment checks and adjustments leads to increased problems and expenses. Fortunately, there are proactive steps to prevent misalignment and the associated costs.
Avoid Curbs and Potholes
Alignment can be thrown off when a vehicle’s suspension receives a severe shock, such as hitting a curb or pothole, or crossing a poorly graded set of railroad tracks. Impacts like these affect not only the alignment but can also result in damage to the vehicle’s suspension and steering. Taking extra care to avoid road hazards can reduce the chances of misalignment and suspension damage.
Avoid Neglecting Maintenance
Regular maintenance is vital to keep a vehicle healthy, especially its tires. Just like your annual physical, an annual inspection of your vehicle’s suspension, including an alignment check, is a great way to ensure it delivers the safe, reliable performance it was designed for.
Being involved in an accident, even something as minor as a fender bender, can throw a vehicle’s alignment off. It goes without saying that avoiding accidents, even small ones, is important to maintain good vehicle performance.
Pay for the costs of tire alignments, not misalignments
The costs of tire alignments are far less than the expense which may result from neglecting them. Avoid unwanted expenses associated with driving on misaligned tires by being proactive and taking your vehicle to a trusted mechanic when signs of misalignment are first noticed.