4 Causes of Wheel and Tire Alignment Problems
We’ve all been there: driving down a long stretch of road when you notice your car is pulling to either the left or right. Despite there being no change in the direction you’re traveling, you find yourself having to correct the steering wheel just to continue driving straight. This is just one of the classic signs of problems with your wheel alignment and tire alignment—and it’s not something that should be ignored.
Wheel and tire alignment is the process of adjusting a vehicle’s suspension components to set the wheels and tires at specific angles, creating optimal handling, performance, and tire wear.1 . A vehicle that is out of alignment will drift, the steering wheel will shake, and over time its tires will wear unevenly.1. But what causes a vehicle to go out of alignment? Here are the four most common reasons:
1. Check Out the Tires
The first thing you should do when you feel your car drifting is check the tire pressure. Invest in a quality tire pressure gauge and check your tire pressure regularly. If a tire is low, chances are your vehicle is pulling in that direction; this is because the low tire’s rolling diameter is lower than the properly inflated tire on the other side, increasing its drag.2
Learn how to fill your tires with air here.
Get the tire re-inflated to the proper PSI and see if that fixes the drift you’ve been experiencing. If the tire keeps losing air, you might have a leak and should visit a tire shop soon to diagnose the problem. Your mechanic will also be able to spot uneven tread wear and determine if it may be time for a wheel and tire alignment. It’s also possible a tire repair or patch will solve your problem.
2. Have a Mechanic Inspect Your Brakes
If your car drifts more suddenly, then it may be due to issues with your brakes. Certain parts of the brake assembly are notorious for sticking, causing part of the brake to stay in contact with the wheel on one side of the car.3 . This friction creates drag, resulting in the car pulling in that direction. If you’re experiencing these sudden pulls while driving, get to a mechanic right away.
Do you know what to do with squealing brakes? Check it out here.
3. Examine Your Suspension Parts and Hardware
Certain parts of your car’s suspension system and hardware can cause a car to go out of alignment. Worn or loose wheel bearings can cause tires to tilt, meaning the tire is no longer set at the optimal angle.4 Other parts, such as worn out tie-rod ends and ball joints or a damaged steering gearbox can also cause a car to pull to the left or right.4 You should consult your mechanic to determine whether a repair or wheel alignment and tire alignment is needed.
4. Your Car is Due for a Re-Alignment
If you haven’t encountered any of these issues but are still experiencing drift, then your car may simply be due for a fresh wheel and tire alignment. It’s recommended that you have re-alignment performed once or twice a year, but this can vary depending on where you live and the road conditions you encounter.1 If you regularly travel on rough roads or hit the occasional curb or speed bump, more frequent tire alignments may benefit your vehicle performance and tread wear.
Here’s a list of five ways to avoid a flat tire.
While not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you think of regular car maintenance, a tire alignment may be what saves you from a time-consuming and costly tire repair or replacement—or even a more expensive repair. The average cost for a wheel and tire alignment at a local tire shop is around $70 to $100, but can get more expensive if you go to a dealership or have a luxury vehicle.1 The alignment itself takes about an hour, and since most shops have only one alignment system, it’s best to schedule ahead of time. Need help finding a tire shop to get a wheel and tire alignment? Find a location using the Synchrony Car Care™ network locator.
Don’t let car trouble hold you back—apply for the Synchrony Car Care credit card today. With no annual fee* and 24/7 secure online account access, you can easily manage all your routine car maintenance, as well as be prepared for the unexpected when it happens.
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