September 17, 2023 | Sammy Tran

Why Tire Alignment Matters

Tire Alignment: What You Need to Know

tires and concerned man split image

Tire alignment is one of those unsung heroes of vehicle maintenance that often slips through the cracks. Many drivers remember to change their oil, check their brakes, and even rotate their tires, but wheel alignment frequently goes unnoticed.

This oversight can be perilous. Misaligned tires not only wear out prematurely, costing you extra in replacements, but they can also compromise the vehicle's handling, making it unpredictable or even unsafe on the road.

In essence, neglecting this simple check could jeopardize both your wallet and your safety.

Here's what you need to understand about this essential service.

What is Tire Alignment?

Tire Alignment Mechanic andrew_shots, Adobe Stock

At its core, tire alignment, also known as wheel alignment, involves adjusting the angles of the tires so they are set to the car manufacturer's specifications.

It ensures that your tires are pointing straight ahead, parallel to each other, and are at the right angle with respect to the ground. It isn’t about adjusting the tires or wheels themselves but rather fine-tuning the vehicle's suspension.

How to Know When You Need It

Memorable Strangers factsPixabay

Several tell-tale signs indicate the need for tire alignment:

Uneven tire wear: One of the most common signs. If one of your tires is wearing down faster than the others, it's a clear sign that your wheels aren't aligned correctly.

Vehicle pulls to one side: If your car tends to drift to the left or right when you're driving straight, it could be a sign of alignment issues.

Steering wheel vibration: A shaky steering wheel can often mean that your wheels are out of alignment.

Misaligned steering wheel: If you're driving straight but your steering wheel isn’t centered, it's likely time for an alignment check.

What is Done During an Alignment

Tire Alignment in a shopgolubovy, Adobe Stock

During a wheel alignment, a technician will either adjust three main alignment angles – camber, caster, and toe, or in the case of four-wheel alignment, all four wheels are aligned to the center of the vehicle.
Here’s a brief breakdown:

Camber: This is the inward or outward tilt of the tire when viewed from the front. Too much inward or outward tilt indicates improper alignment.

Caster: The angle of your wheel’s pivot, which is attached to the suspension, and when this angle is out of alignment, it can cause issues with straight-line tracking.

Toe: This refers to the extent to which your tires turn inward or outward when viewed from above. If they’re neither completely straight nor at the appropriate angle, it means your wheels aren’t aligned properly.


Why It's Important


Tire alignment is essential for several reasons:

Safety: A misaligned vehicle can pull to one side, leading to difficulty steering or even accidents.

Tire life: Proper alignment ensures even tire wear, extending the lifespan of your tires and saving you money in the long run.

Fuel efficiency: A vehicle with misaligned wheels works harder, which means it burns more fuel.

Consequences of Neglecting Tire Alignment

Angry man about flat tireantoniodiaz, Shutterstock

If you choose to ignore the signs and skip getting an alignment:

Rapid tire wear: Your tires will wear out quicker, meaning you’ll have to replace them more frequently.

Higher fuel costs: As mentioned, misalignment can decrease fuel efficiency, leading to more frequent stops at the gas station.

Possible damage to the vehicle: Over time, driving with misaligned wheels can lead to other parts of your vehicle, like its suspension, wearing out or getting damaged.

Tire alignment might seem like a minor aspect of car maintenance, but its implications are vast. Regular checks and timely adjustments will ensure a safer, smoother, and more economical drive.