Keeping your vehicle’s wheels aligned not only ensures you drive in a straight line when you’re on the road, but it also protects the overall wellbeing of your vehicle. Poor alignment can cause your tires to wear irregularly and can negatively affect the overall handling of your vehicle.
If you take your vehicle off-roading on a frequent basis, you may need to get your vehicle an alignment sooner than an individual who uses their vehicle for commuting purposes only. If you enjoy off-roading, it is important to know the signs that your vehicle needs an alignment.
#1. Your Steering Wheel Doesn’t Stay Straight
When you drive your vehicle, if you let go of your steering wheel, it should stay centered. It may drift a little if the road is curved downwards to the left or right for drainage purposes, but your steering wheel should stay mostly straight.
If you let go of your steering wheel while you are driving and it pulls harshly to the left or the right, that is a strong sign that your vehicle is out of alignment. You may also feel this pull when you are driving. It shouldn’t take a lot of effort to keep your vehicle driving straight.
This warning sign is more obvious with front-wheel drive vehicles and less obvious with four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles.
When you get your tires aligned, the mechanic will make sure your tires align with your steering column. This should eliminate the pull you feel and see on your steering wheel while you drive.
#2. Your Tires Start to Wear Abnormally
All of your tires should ideally wear down at the same rate, provided you properly rotate them at the recommended mileage for your vehicle. The tread should wear down in the center of your tire, where your tire has the most contact with your vehicle.
When your vehicle is not properly aligned, you may start to see abnormal wear patterns on your tires. Specifically, you will notice that your tires seem to be wearing down more on one side or edge than on the other. Your vehicle being out of alignment generally causes this type of abnormal wear pattern.
You want your tires to wear down evenly. This will provide you with the smoothest ride. When your tires wear evenly, you will also be able to replace them all at the same time, which is the ideal way to replace your tires.
#3. Your Wheel Starts to Vibrate
When you hold onto your steering wheel, you may feel the bumps in the road as you go over them, but you shouldn’t feel your steering wheel move at all. Your steering wheel should not vibrate. When your alignment is off, your steering wheel may vibrate.
If your tires are off balance or out of alignment, they can cause vibrations in your steering wheel. They can get off balance if you drive over a pothole or participate in general off-roading activities. You may not feel your steering wheel vibrate when you are driving at slower speeds through town.
However, when you get on the freeway or drive on roads with a higher speed limit, you will start to feel the vibrations more. You feel the vibrations more at higher speeds because your tires are rotating faster.
Over time, if you don’t get your vehicle aligned, the vibrations will get worse. This can compromise your ability to keep a good grip on your steering wheel and drive safely down the road.
If your steering wheel doesn’t stay straight and starts to vibrate when you drive, you need to get your tires aligned. Be sure to watch for irregular wear patterns as well. The professionals at Evans Tire & Service Centers can help you keep your off-roading vehicle in proper alignment for all of your adventures.