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Symptoms & Causes of a Bad Wheel Alignment

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Symptoms & Causes of a Bad Wheel Alignment

Alignment refers to the adjustment of a vehicle’s suspension. The suspension is what connects a vehicle to its wheels, and it is responsible for the up and down movement of the wheels as the vehicle moves over bumps in the road. If the alignment slips out of place, it can cause the vehicle to pull to one side, create harsh vibrations, and unevenly wear away at the tires

Proper alignment is essential for maintaining control of the vehicle and ensuring that the wheels make contact with the road surface as evenly as possible. If you suspect that your vehicle’s suspension has fallen out of alignment, consult a mechanic as soon as possible. Although you can continue to drive with a bad alignment, it can affect performance and increase your risk of collision.

Unfortunately, you will not be able to fix a bad alignment on your own. To learn more about your vehicle’s suspension system and how to identify a bad alignment continue reading below. We’ll explain everything you need to know and guide you on how to fix the issue.

Related: Should I Balance My Tires Before An Alignment?

What is the Suspension System and How Should it Be Aligned?

The suspension system is a system of parts that work together to keep the car’s wheels in contact with the ground and to make the ride more comfortable. The suspension system includes the springs, shock absorbers, and links that connect the suspension to the car’s frame. The suspension system also includes the tires, which provide contact between the car and the road.

The suspension system must be held in alignment, meaning that all the parts must be lined up correctly, in order for it to work properly. If the suspension system is not in alignment, it can cause the car to handle poorly and make the ride uncomfortable.

What Can Cause the Suspension to Fall Out of Alignment?

There are a number of ways that a vehicle’s suspension can fall out of alignment but the most common cause is by driving into a curb or deep pothole. By directly impacting the suspension, it can knock parts of place or damage components of the suspension system. However, this isn’t the only way that your vehicle’s suspension can fall out of alignment.

For example, the component parts can just wear away over time, causing the suspension to weaken and fall out of alignment. A worn-out suspension is particularly dangerous because it can cause the car to handle poorly and pull the steering wheel to one side, putting you and other drivers at risk of an accident. If you notice this issue, have the suspension checked as soon as possible.

Related: Why Steering Wheel Shakes at Low Speeds

How to Tell if the Suspension is Out of Alignment

There are a few signs that can indicate that the suspension is out of alignment. One of the most common signs is the car pulling to one side. This can be caused by the suspension not being level, which can cause the car to pull to one side when you turn the steering wheel.

Another common sign of suspension problems is uneven tire wear. If the suspension is not in alignment, the tires will not be able to make contact with the road surface evenly.

This can cause the tires to wear down unevenly, and it can also cause the car to vibrate. Furthermore, keep an eye out for the following tell-tale signs:

  • Loose steering: If your vehicle’s suspension has fallen out of alignment, you may notice that your steering is looser than usual. This can make driving and maneuvering your vehicle more difficult and may also increase wear and tear on your tires.
  • Unusual tire noises: If your vehicle’s suspension is out of alignment, you may notice that your tires make an unusual noise. This can be a sign that your tires are not properly inflated, or that they are not making contact with the road surface evenly.
  • Decreased fuel efficiency: If your vehicle’s suspension is out of alignment, it can cause your vehicle to have decreased fuel efficiency. This is because your vehicle has to work harder to move down the road, which uses up more fuel.

If you notice any of these signs, it is important to have the suspension checked by a mechanic.

What is the Notorious “Death Wobble”?

You may have heard the term death wobble used to describe the sensation of an incredibly bad alignment. A death wobble refers to a rapid vibration that happens if one of the tires is not properly secured. This can happen when a lug nut is loose or a tire is unbalanced. The death wobble can be extremely dangerous, as it can cause the vehicle to lose control and possibly crash.

When is it Dangerous to Drive with a Bad Alignment?

It’s never safe to drive with a bad alignment, but it’s especially dangerous if the car is pulling to one side. This can make it difficult to control the car, and it can also make it more difficult to see the road. You may also find that the steering wheel refuses to stay level or vibrates aggressively, which can make it difficult to keep the car in a straight line.

Another danger of driving with a bad alignment is that it can cause the tires to wear down unevenly. This can make the tires more likely to blow out, which can be dangerous at high speeds. It can also make the car more difficult to control. If you notice any of these problems, it is important to have the car checked by a mechanic as soon as possible.

Can You Fix a Bad Alignment on Your Own?

It is technically possible to fix your own alignment but you’ll never achieve the same pin-point accuracy that a mechanic can achieve. You’ll also spend hours on the repair compared to just a few minutes by going to a professional.

Alignment report given by a mechanic shop

When a mechanic performs an alignment, they use a special machine that correctly measures the angle and position of your vehicle’s wheels. The machine then resets your car’s suspension back to the manufacturer’s recommended settings by shaking and vibrating your car until the sensors detect that the new settings are in place.

Related: What Is Average Wheel Alignment Cost?

How to Prevent a Bad Alignment

There are a few things you can do to prevent a bad alignment. For one, avoid driving over potholes or into curbs. If you do hit a pothole or curb, it is important to have the alignment checked as soon as possible. If you notice a sudden change in your vehicle’s steering, the suspension has likely slipped out of alignment.

Also, be sure to have your suspension checked regularly. Most mechanics recommend an alignment after rotating your tires to prevent potential suspension problems. If you don’t get your alignment checked after rotating tires, the vehicle may unevenly distribute weight across all four tires, causing the suspension to fall out of balance.

The Takeaway

A bad alignment can cause your vehicle to pull to one side, make the steering wheel vibrate, and cause the tires to wear unevenly. It can also make the car more difficult to control and may even lead to a blowout. If you notice any of these problems, it is important to have the car checked by a mechanic as soon as possible.

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