Category Archives: car suspension problems

Why does my car need an alignment?

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alignment keep cars going straight down the road
If your car is pulling to the side of the road, it’s time for an alignment.

Ever been to a chiropractor because your back is “out of wack”? Or have an injury because your body is misaligned? Just as your muscles, bones and joins can have issues from daily walking, sitting, running and jumping, your car is also prone to more severe problems from daily wear and tear of driving.

It’s not that surprising, is it? Our Wisconsin winters wreak havoc on our roads, which in turn beats up on cars—from shifting pavement, potholes and ice that causes our car to slide and bump. The result: your tires and suspension are out of alignment (just like your body), which can cause other problems:

  • Uneven tire tread wear.
  • Car that pulls to the right or left.
  • Steering wheel that is not centered when driving straight.
  • Steering wheel vibration.

While you can drive with these issues (not always safely!), a car with alignment issues costs more in the long run. A car without regular alignments needs tires more often (because tires wear faster) and needs more suspension part repair and replacement. More importantly, driving in a misaligned car can cause accidents especially during our icy, treacherous winter roads in Wisconsin.

Every model of car needs a different, precise alignment so this is not something that can commonly be done at home. Just like you wouldn’t trust your body to an amateur to adjust your alignment, you shouldn’t trust your car alignment to just anyone. Take your car to Tire-rifik, where a certified alignment technician can perform a full car alignment:

  • Inspect your steering and suspension system.
  • Check your tire condition and air pressure.
  • Adjust your 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 advisor for details)
  • Road test your vehicle to insure your alignment is a straight forward alignment.

An unbalanced car typically has a vibration or shake that becomes progressively worse as the car’s speed increases. The speed at which the vibration first becomes apparent varies depending on the size and weight of the tires and wheels, the size and weight of the car, the sensitivity of the steering and suspension, and the amount of imbalance. The vibration or shake usually starts in at 35 to 45 mph and increases in intensity as your speed increases.

Talk to your mechanic about how often your car needs an alignment, and keep it on a regular schedule. Often, you can have your car alignment checked as part of your spring car maintenance or car work before winter. The amount of time between car alignments is dependent upon the amount of miles you put on your car, as a car alignment is recommended every 6,000 miles.

Spring Car Maintenance

engineWinter is hard on a car. That’s why it’s your job as a responsible car owner to take spring as an opportunity to get your car inspected and ready for the next hard season for your car, summer (yes, it will come someday Wisconsin, be patient). Spring is the time to get your faithful tires checked after a hard winter of driving, your car aligned after sliding into a pole, and to get other important components of your car checked, corrected and ready for summer:

Alignment. Hard winter driving can knock your car’s alignment off, causing your tires to wear unevenly and need replacement prematurely. If your car pulls to the left or right, your steering wheel does not stay straight when driving or your tires wear unevenly, your car needs an alignment. A car with alignment issues wears through tires faster and has more costs due to undue wear on suspension parts.

Tire wear. Have an experienced mechanic check your tires to see that they wear evenly, and the amount of tread wear left. If the tire wear is low, your tires need to be replaced. If your tires are wearing unevenly, your car needs an alignment to prevent future breakdowns from undue wear on suspension parts.

Battery. Believe it or not, the Wisconsin heat is harder on batteries than winter cold. If your batteries are low from hard starts during winter, or shows one of these other signs of a dying battery, the summer heat is about to leave you stranded from a low battery.

Brakes. If your brakes are making any of these noises, it’s time to replace the pads or rotors that you need to safely stop. It’s normal for brakes to make occasional squeaking sounds when they get wet, but just as often your brakes are worn and in need of replacement. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, brake failure is inevitable—leaving you in the midst of an accident you caused or in a ditch waiting for a tow truck.

Air filter. A clogged air filter can affect the performance of your car. While an air filter is not something that needs to be necessarily replaced at every spring car maintenance check (though it may need to depending on your driving conditions), an air filter should be inspected regularly.

Don’t forget to check your windshield wipers and headlights so you have optimal visibility. Call or email for an appointment today to have a mechanic inspect those two key parts of your car, and get the rest of your spring car maintenance done before Wisconsin’s spring showers and summer thunderstorms hit. Remember, April showers may bring May flowers, and also car breakdowns and accidents if you car doesn’t get the annual spring car maintenance and inspections it needs.

Don’t Ignore those Common Car Sounds & Noises: Thumps, Bumps & Clunks

engineYou don’t want anyone to drive your baby, but if you can’t hear those common car noises (the thunks, clunk and bumps!) it’s time to let someone else take the wheel. Fact is, those common car noises can cost you thousands of dollars if not repaired quickly. A small “clunk” from the front of your car can cost you thousands of dollars in suspension parts if you don’t get your car to the shop, not to mention the inconvenience of waiting for your car and finding rides while your car gets fixed.

Let’s face it: we Wisconsinites need our cars, and we need our cars quick. So if you want to keep your cars going, minimize time in the shop, and save money, it’s time to turn down the radio and listen for these common car noises:

  • Thumps, clicks or clunks in the front. Ball joints, CV joints and other suspension parts are most commonly the problem—and problems that can get bigger fast. When broken, suspension parts have a tendency to damage other parts because they rub or knock against each other. The result: more than one part that needs to be repaired, a longer repair appointment and a bigger bill.
  • Squealing from around your tires. It sounds like a howling cat. Or a squeaking bird. Or a grinding wheel. Could it be…your brakes? It’s normal for brakes to make occasional squeaking sounds when they get wet. If the squeak doesn’t go away, or if the noise is a grinding noise, your vehicle needs attention. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, brake failure is inevitable—leaving you in the midst of an accident you caused or in a ditch waiting for a tow truck. Don’t let your pads wear too low either.  If you wait too long to replace your pads and they get too thin, they can damage the rotors and cost you more.
  • Squealing from under your hood. While there are a lot of culprits that could be the problem, the most common problem is a worn serpentine belt. Schedule an appointment and have the technician check for fraying or damage to this important belt, which charges your battery, is vital for circulating coolant and runs your car’s accessories. A car with a broken serpentine belt is a car heading for disaster—for the driver and their pocketbook. Not only is the car hard to steer with a broken belt, but the engine is on the road to overheating—and thousands of dollars of repairs. Compare that cost versus the low cost of replacement, usually a $100 dollars or less, and you’re clearly saving a mountain of money by getting your car into the auto shop early.
  • Rough starting noise. You’ve probably heard it before: the rar-rar-rar that your car makes when you turn the key. If your car doesn’t start up right away, schedule an appointment to get your car battery check. It may be dying—and there are three clear signs that you can look for. In this case, a dying battery is not going to cost you more money in repairs, but it does cost you money when you are stranded and can’t get to work.

If you hear (or don’t hear) any of these noises, don’t procrastinate. Make an appointment to get that car problem checked right away, before it causes more problems (and costs more money).