When your car's wheels aren't properly aligned, it can lead to a variety of long-term issues. Not only can it affect your tire wear, but it can also affect your car's handling and safety on the road. Unfortunately, many car owners don't recognize the early signs of alignment problems. Since the alignment often shifts gradually, the changes appear slowly. That makes it easy to miss them until they're severe. Here are a few things that you should watch for that indicate your car needs a wheel alignment.
Does Your Steering Wheel Sit Straight?
When you're driving straight, the steering wheel should be sitting pretty much centered so that it's straight. It may not be precise, but you shouldn't have more than a slight offset when the car is going straight down the road. The best way to tell if the wheel is sitting straight is to look at the emblem in the middle of your steering wheel. The emblem should be pretty much level and straight. If it's not, that's an indication that you may need an alignment.
In addition, when you make a turn in your car, the steering wheel should start to self-center when you let go of it. That means that your wheel should start to turn back to center on its own. If it doesn't do that, it's an indication that your tires aren't properly aligned.
How Does Your Car Handle?
Your steering should be fairly tight and responsive in your car. In addition, the car should stay where you put it on the road. If your car's alignment is off, you may notice that the steering is a little bit loose or sloppy. It may not respond as quickly as it normally does. If you feel a lot of play in the steering wheel, that's cause for concern.
As the alignment worsens, the car may also start to pull to one side or the other when you're going down the road. If you find yourself fighting the steering wheel while you're driving straight, that's a key indication that the alignment needs to be adjusted.
Do Your Tires Wear Evenly?
You should inspect your tire tread on a regular basis. If you look at them and find that they are wearing unevenly, or you have a strip of excessive wear on either the outer or inner edge of the tire, those are indications of alignment problems. When the alignment is off, it alters the way that the tire comes in contact with the ground. This can lead to premature tire damage, ultimately costing you more in tires and putting you at risk of an accident.
If you believe that your car needs a wheel alignment, call your local mechanic today.