How to Tell When Your Wheels are Out of Alignment  | Scott's Fort Collins Auto

How to Tell When Your Wheels are Out of Alignment 

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If you drive with your wheels out of alignment, you’ll begin experiencing issues with your vehicle. Wheel alignment errors can cause three basic problems on your car; irregular tire wear, handling problems and a crooked steering wheel. In this article, we’re discussing the signs of each of these problems and when it means you need to have your alignment reset. 

Understanding Alignment 

A car’s alignment is the system that connects the vehicle to it’s wheels. The key to proper alignment is adjusting the angles of the tires, which in turn affects how they make contact with the road.

Wheel alignment errors can cause three problems on your car:

  1. Irregular tire wear
  2. Handling problems 
  3. Crooked steering wheel 

Signs of Misalignment 

Your car will begin showing noticeable signs that could indicate misalignment occurring. Common signs that show your car’s alignment is off can include: 

  • Your vehicle pulling to the left or the right
  • Uneven or rapid tire wear 
  • Having a crooked steering wheel when driving straight
  • Squealing tires 

A common sign that your car is misaligned is excessive shoulder wear noticeable on a tire. This type of irregular wear is often caused by errors in camber or toe. Camber is the inward or outward tilt of the wheel, and can cause outside shoulder wear if the wheel is tilted too far in board, the inside shoulder will wear. Toe errors will also cause shoulder wear rapidly. If the wheels are pointed too far inboard, the outside of the tread will wear first.

A pull problem is another sign of misalignment. If your front wheels are both titled to the left, this can cause your car to always veer towards the left. Alternatively, if the front wheels are tilted to the right, the car will want to go to the right all the time. 

Alignment vs. Balance 

Sometimes, people throw the words alignment and balance out interchangeably but they’re not the same thing. Tire balancing is what you need when you need to correct an uneven distribution of weight in the wheels. While imbalanced wheels can also lead to excessive tire wear, it can also cause your car to vibrate, damage to the suspension, among other issues. Tires become out of balance due to uneven tire wear or loss of a wheel weight because of rim hitting a curb or pothole. Additionally, if you leave your car parked for extended periods of time without driving it, the tires could develop flat spots that cause imbalances. 

Can You Correct Alignment at Home? 

While you can’t correct alignment issues on your own, there are things that you can do to maintain proper alignment once it’s reset. To maintain proper alignment, follow these tips from Firestone

  • Keep your trunk clean. Since alignment is based on tire angles, if you have too much weight in the back end of your car, it can lower your vehicle height and throw off your alignment. If you don’t need it in your car, take it out. 
  • Maintain correct air pressure in your tires.
  • Drive defensively. If you place less strain on steering and suspension components it can help you maintain proper alignment. 

Line Back Up with Scott’s Auto

If you notice that your car is beginning to show signs of misalignment, trust our team of professionals at Scott’s Auto. Our certified technicians are here to make sure that you stay safe on the road. With four convenient locations, we’re here for you in the communities of Fort Collins, Loveland, Grand Junction, and Montrose. Call to let us know when you want to come in… or just stop on by! 


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