The other day I was driving my Mom’s minivan on the highway and I noticed the vehicle consistently pulling to the right. My mother, not one for keeping a regular maintained schedule (unlike like her mechanic son :), informed me that she had no idea of what a “tire alignment” was, or for that matter when the last time one was performed. Needless to say, her car was in our service garage the next day for a proper wheel alignment.
And guess what? Her Dodge mini-van drove as straight as an arrow on that same highway!
By now you’re probably guessing that I’m a big advocate for properly maintaining your car’s alignment. Proper wheel alignment is crucial for many reasons, and it’s important to have it done as often as you get your vehicle serviced.
But first, what is wheel alignment?
Simply put, it’s the process of ensuring that the car wheels are perpendicular to the road. It ensures that the wheels are also parallel to each other, that the pressure between them is always constant and that no friction will occur. In layman terms, it’s the process of ensuring that your driving experience will be comfortable and smooth.
Well, there are numerous factors that lead to misalignment, including merely driving your car. Potholes are also one of the primary causes. Improper wheel alignment can cost you a lot and significantly affect your driving performance.
So, why is proper wheel alignment necessary? Here are some of the benefits you may want to know:
- Reduced Tire Wear: Premature wear of the tires can be quite costly. One of the major signs of wheel misalignment is uneven and excessive tire wear. If your car isn’t aligned properly, the tires will show wear more quickly as they are not rolling straight. You’ll have to replace them more often which can be very costly. At the end of the day, a proper wheel alignment will save you money.
- Improved Gas Mileage: In this day and age, we all look to better our gas mileage and save money. Well, having your wheels aligned properly decreases resistance while rolling which improves your gas mileage. It’s ideally important to ensure that the tires are properly inflated as this will increase gas mileage as well.
- Improves Safety: Correct wheel alignment also helps you drive more safely as is reduces tracking problems and improves steering. The enhanced control and handling of your car can help you avoid accidents.
- Improves Car Handling: Other major signs of wheel misalignment involve handling your car. These signs can be when the steering wheel pulls to the right or left, if it vibrates or it’s not centered when driving straight ahead. While driving, you may also have a feeling of wandering or looseness. All these signs can be eliminated by proper wheel alignment, eventually providing a smoother ride.
Get an alignment on your maintenance schedule…
If you want your car to perform optimally at all times, you may want to have it regularly maintained. It is advisable to follow the car manufacture’s recommendations as stated in the owner’s manual. However, as a general rule, you should schedule for wheel alignment and checkup every 10,000 miles or at least once a year.
More often than not, car repair service providers include suspension system inspection as part of regular maintenance. This kind of inspection can allow your qualified and certified technician to spot potential issues before they become problematic and costly in the future.