location pin cart Message Us

Sales: (780) 434-8411

Service: (780) 437-8456

Toll Free: (800) 272-9608

Four Actual Signs Your Car Needs to be Re-aligned

By Jeremy Koch on

An out-of-alignment car is a common result of everyday driving, but what does that really mean? The term alignment doesn't really refer to your car's wheels, instead it refers to the suspension. As part of normal driving, parts of your car's suspension may become worn, and springs can become stretched out. Even a small accident or bumping a curb can disrupt your suspension, knocking some of the highly calibrated components off-kilter, making your wheels sit at improper angles. An alignment restores these angles to their correct measurements, making sure that your wheels sit straight.

The four tell-tale signs your car needs to be re-aligned:

  1. Uneven tire wear -- often, more wear on the outside of some tires -- is a prime indicator that your car is likely out of alignment
  2. Your car seems to be drifting to one side, even when you think you're driving straight
  3. Your steering wheel vibrates
  4. You are driving straight, but your steering wheel isn't centered

If none of these indicators occurs but it's been awhile since your last alignment, check your owner's manual to see how often the manufacturer recommends having this service.

The most visible benefit of an alignment is less tire wear. And when tires do wear down, they'll do so evenly on a properly aligned suspension. Tires can be quite expensive -- easily $100 - $200 or more per tire -- whereas an alignment often costs $50 to $100, making it a cost-effective procedure that should be part of your car’s regular maintenance. An alignment will ensure that your car drives straight and handles properly, making your ride safer. You'll also get better gas mileage because your tires will be properly aligned with the road, decreasing resistance.  

What happens during an alignment? A car alignment is actually an elaborate process that brings the car's suspension into its proper configuration, positioning and adjusting components so that wheels are aligned with one another and the road surface. The alignment should be performed by an experienced mechanic, who uses an alignment machine. An alignment essentially requires squaring a car's wheels and axles with each other so that they're moving in the same direction. The technician adjusts the various suspension angles -- known as toe, thrust, camber and caster -- that influence tire movement and position. The technician will also ensure that the steering wheel is centered. Each car's manufacturer designates standard angles for the alignment, specified in degrees. If you're a driver of a high-performance car or sports car, your mechanic may be able to align your suspension to improve handling and tire performance, but such an alignment may still lead to uneven tire wear. The type of alignment you receive will depend on your car's suspension.

A four-wheel alignment is reserved for all-wheel drive vehicles or front-wheel drive vehicles with independent or adjustable rear suspensions. In this case, both axles have to be properly aligned so that all four wheels align in a rectangle, parallel to one another and perpendicular to the ground. If you don't have a four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle, your car will likely only require a front-end alignment, in which only the front-axle components are adjusted, or a thrust-angle alignment. Thrust angle refers to the angle that a car's rear wheels point relative to the car's center. In such an alignment, the rear wheels and axle are realigned so as to be parallel with the front axle and perpendicular to the center line of the car. After the alignment is complete, it's appropriate to ask for a printout -- which many technicians now provide -- that shows before and after images of the suspension alignment. Questions? – we are here to help!

By Jeremy Koch on
Call (780) 434-8411
Call Koch at (780) 434-8411