Have you encountered a pot hole? Bumped the curb? Is your car pulling to one side when you drive? All of these are signs your car may need a wheel alignment. After a harsh winter, or frequent driving on poorly maintained roads, or even driving through frequent construction can leave your car a bit out of sorts. There are several reasons to pay attention and have your wheels aligned regularly, about every 6,000 miles or so.
One of the most important reasons to have your wheel alignment checked on a regular basis is to get the optimal wear out of your tires. Let’s be honest, tires are expensive and getting the maximum life out of them is best. A car that is out of alignment, even a little bit, can lead of uneven wear. Wheel alignment is the “ounce of prevention” to reduce the need for a “pound of cure” that is replacing your tires earlier than you’d like.
You can’t always see it
Sure, it’s true that a car may pull to the right or to the left and then you know it’s out of alignment. But the reality is that today’s cars are complex and a lot depends on the precise alignment of your wheels. Poor handling and uneven tire wear are likely a sign it’s been too long since your last alignment. The precise angles that correctly position your tires may be off by an imperceptible amount that only a regular checkup can detect.
Much like maintaining proper air pressure and using cruise control can help optimize the fuel economy of your car, wheel alignment also makes a difference. Some estimates are that as much as 10% of fuel economy can be lost due to improper alignment. That means if you spend $3.50/gallon you are losing $0.35 per gallon. It really adds up!
Wheel alignment needs to be done by a professional, but there are things you can do to help minimize the impact. Because a wheel alignment is about the vehicle’s suspension it makes sense to not keep things in your car you don’t need on a regular basis. For example, a set of tools in the trunk adds weight to the car and changes the weight distribution from what the manufacturer originally set. In vehicles that routinely need equipment on board, such as a police cruiser or construction vehicle, the alignment should be done with it fully loaded to compensate for the difference in weight and weigh distribution.