Jason bought four new tires that cost him nearly one thousand dollars installed. That’s no small amount of money, but Jason did a lot of research before he bought his tires. He was confident he made a wise purchase, because he read consumer reviews, compared prices, and made sure he bought exactly the right tires for his car. The tires came with a guarantee of 80,000 miles, which he expected would last longer than he owned the car. Though Jason put a lot of thought into his tire purchase, wheel alignment never crossed his mind. A few weeks later, Jason found the biggest pothole in the western hemisphere on his way to work. He cursed a little at not seeing the pothole in time to avoid it, but he gave it no more thought. After that encounter, the steering wheel wobbled a little, but Jason still did not think much about it. When the time came to get his oil changed and tires rotated, however, Jason was in for an unpleasant surprise. His expensive tires would have to be replaced soon—long before they reached 80,000 miles. They had been wearing unevenly ever since the pothole incident, because Jason's front end was out of alignment.
Jason made two mistakes. First, he should have had the alignment checked when he bought the tires. Even if he had not driven into the giant pothole, the wheels already could have been out of alignment. He may have been wasting his money on good tires that would wear out much faster than necessary. Second, Jason should have had the alignment checked again after the pothole incident. Wheels, particularly the front ones, can often go out of alignment when they land in a pothole, hit curbs hard, or otherwise connect with something that can knock them loopy. Poor driving habits such as swerving can also cause alignment problems.
Getting wheels realigned is relatively inexpensive, particularly when considering how expensive it can be otherwise. If you do not get your alignment checked by a trained technician, you may just be throwing good money away like Jason. Not only did he need a front-end alignment, he also needed new tires.
What to look forSeveral symptoms can indicate that you need to have your wheels checked by an alignment specialist. Telltale signs include:
- The ride is not very smooth.
- You have to “fight” the steering wheel when the car is in motion.
- When you let loose of the wheel for an instant, the car veers to one side or the other.
- The vehicle’s gas mileage has taken a turn for the worse.
- The tires have uneven wear, such as less tread on the inside.
- The tires squeal.
How proper alignment helpsIf you experience any of these issues, get your alignment checked immediately. Immediate benefits include:
- Driver and passenger safety
- Better gas mileage
- Smoother ride
- Longer lasting tires
- Less strain on the steering wheel
Your safety and the condition of the vehicle are too important not make sure the wheels are properly aligned. And don’t have the alignment checked just anywhere. A lot service centers—even tire installation stores—do not provide alignment services. A certified alignment specialist will check everything related to the proper alignment or the vehicle’s wheels, including fixing “frozen” bearings, bushings and more.