When the weather temps start to look like a roller coaster, our Wisconsin roads can start to feel like an amusement ride. All the jostling from pot holes and uneven roads can take their toll on your car, causing a whole host of problems down the road. An unbalanced car can lead to extensive repair bills and car breakdowns if you don’t get your car in for a wheel alignment. Here’s how to know when your car needs a wheel alignment, how often it should be done, and all the other questions we frequently get asked about wheel alignments.
How to know your car needs an alignment
There is no hard and fast way to tell your car needs a wheel alignment: you can’t look under the hood or the carriage of the car and know for certain. What you can do is notice a vibration or shake that worsens as your car goes faster. Typically, the shake starts at around 40 mph and gets worse as your speed increases, and may also be felt in the steering wheel. You may also notice uneven tire tread wear when you rotate your tires (or replace them), or a pull to the right or left when you drive. Another way to tell is to look at your steering wheel when driving straight down the road: is it straight? If not, it’s time to schedule an appointment for a wheel alignment.
How often you should schedule a wheel alignment
The answer to this question depends on the amount of miles you put on your car annually, but usually your car needs a wheel alignment every 6,000 miles. You can also ask your mechanic to check for signs of an unbalanced car when you take the car in for an oil appointment.
Where you should go for a wheel alignment
A wheel alignment is not a simple task that can be done in your garage. Every model of car needs a different, precise alignment that adjusts the camber, caster and toe angles (if adjustable) to the manufacturer’s specifications. (Additional parts and labor may be necessary on some vehicles – see your customer service manual for details.)
Why your car needs a wheel alignment
Think of an unbalanced car like a body skeleton that’s out of whack; you can keep walking but other parts of your body are usually injured from unbalanced movements. Same with a car out of alignment: while you can drive an unbalanced car, a car with balance issues needs more repairs over time and can become a safety issue. A car without regular alignments wears through tires faster and may need suspension part repair and replacement. Driving your car with a shake or pull can also be a safety hazard when roads become slippery.