(Updated on June 24, 2021)
Every vehicle has a suspension system that is attached to its wheels. Since the suspension is also connected to the rest of the vehicle, this allows the wheels and their tires to move the vehicle as they’re rotating.
When you purchase a new car, a wheel alignment has already been done to it. This means that the suspension has been configured appropriately so that the wheels are positioned and angled just right on the surface of the road. This is important because it will ensure that you have a smooth driving experience.
Unfortunately, wheels do not stay aligned forever. There are certain driving circumstances which can cause the wheels to become gradually misaligned.
For instance, if you drive on uneven roads or over potholes on a regular basis, this will foul up the alignment of the wheels. Sometimes it will be a very minor misalignment problem, but that can still cause problems for the tires and the overall driving experience.
An accident is often cause for severe misalignment. If the vehicle is fixable, a complete wheel alignment is one of the last steps to be done to make sure camber, caster, and toe angles are returned to proper specs.
Related: Average Wheel Alignment Cost
Common Signs of a Bad Wheel Alignment
You won’t necessarily be able to tell if your wheels are misaligned simply by looking at them. You will need to pay attention to the symptoms of a bad wheel alignment. Once you notice them, you should take your vehicle to the auto shop and have its wheels aligned right away.
Below are the top 5 symptoms of poor wheel alignment.
1) Worn Tire Treads
The most visually obvious symptom of a bad wheel alignment is when the treads of your tires start to become worn. Instead of having all those deep grooves and patterns to them, your treads will look a lot smoother.
Unless your tires are several years old, worn treads are an indication that you have a wheel alignment problem and new tires are in your future. Do not let this problem go unfixed for too long because it will impair your driving ability.
2) Pulling to the Left or Right
There is a simple test that you can perform to see if your wheels are misaligned. Just find a straight flat road to drive on with no one around. Center the steering wheel and then let go of it while the vehicle is in motion.
The car should continue to drive straight if the wheels are aligned. But if the car swerves too much to the left or right, this means the wheels are not aligned properly.
3) Vibrating Steering Wheel
Wheel alignment is supposed to create a smooth driving experience. You should not feel any vibrations coming from the steering wheel if you have good wheel alignment. Therefore, if you do feel vibrations coming from the steering wheel, then it means you have a wheel alignment problem.
These vibrations might not seem like any big deal, but they are. Think of them as an early warning sign to get your wheels aligned before the symptoms progress into something much worse.
4) Tire Squealing
As your tire treads continue to get worn out from a bad wheel alignment, you will notice your tires squealing a lot more. You will hear them squeal as you step on the accelerator pedal and when you go to make turns. The more off your alignment is, the louder the squealing will be.
5) Steering Hesitation
You will experience all kinds of steering issues if you have a bad wheel alignment. The biggest issue will be a hesitation in the steering as you go to turn the wheel.
For instance, when you start rotating the steering wheel to make a turn, the vehicle doesn’t immediately start turning. It may take a split second longer to notice the car start to change direction. This is a serious wheel alignment issue that must be addressed as soon as possible or else it will likely cause an accident.