Spring is pothole season, and when you hit one it can throw your wheels out of alignment. If left unrepaired, misaligned tires can increase your future costs and risk for a crash.

wheel hitting pothole

 

Though misaligned wheels can be an easy-to-fix problem for any vehicle, it can create bigger problems down the road. According to a study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 9% of crashes involve tire related issues, which can be caused or exacerbated by misaligned tires.

Driver safety is improved when vehicles are in optimal operating condition, and what may seem like minor issues should not be ignored.

 

Signs of Misalignment

Symptoms of wheel misalignment may be subtle.  Watch for these five signs that can alert you to a possible misalignment. They are:

  1. Uneven Tire Wear – Properly aligned tires exhibit smiliar wear patterns on both the front and rear tires. Have your tires checked for wear by a mechanic when you take your vehicle in for preventive maintenance and any other service issues.
  2. Sharp Turning – Vehicles that turn sharply left or right when the steering wheel is at a neutral position could indicate misaligned tires, when tire pressure is correct.
  3. Slight Pulling –  Vehicles that pull to the left or right when driving straight ahead may indicate misaligned wheels.  You can test this by driving very slowly on a flat surface with no traffic or obstacles, such as in an empty parking lot, and let your vehicle drift for two to three seconds. If your vehicle starts to pull to the left or right, you may have wheels out of alignment.
  4. Steering Wheel Vibration – Misaligned wheels often pull against each other, causing a vehicle’s steering wheel to vibrate. the strength of the vibration can give you an indication as to the severity of the misalignment.
  5. “Crooked” Steering Wheel – If you are driving straight and your steering wheel is not in the neutral position, your vehicle may need its wheels aligned.

 

Causes of Misalignment

Most commonly, wheels can become misaligned when a vehicle experiences a sudden, jarring, or heavy impact. This can include something as minor as hitting a pothole or curb or as severe as getting into a crash. A  vehicle’s wheels may be forcefully knocked out of alignment, depending on the severity of the impact.

Simple wear and tear overtime also can misalign wheels. As suspension springs age, they begin to slacken, which can affect the alignment of a vehicle. Regular vehicle checks with a mechanic can prevent misalignment due to aging.

 

Results of Misalignment

The effects of misaligned wheels can range from minor problems to potentially life-threatening crashes. Some examples are:

  • Increased fuel usage – Misaligned tires cause greater resistance between the wheels and the road, leading to poorer fuel economy.
  • More frequent tire replacement – Misaligned tires lead to greater wear and tear, which accelerate the need for tire replacements.
  • Elevated crash risk – Increased wear and tear can lead to tire blow outs which are one cause of vehicle crashes.

 

Maintaining Aligned Tires

Ensuring that a vehicle’s wheels are aligned is simple: all it takes is an inspection by a reliable mechanic. Be sure to adhere to your fleet’s preventive maintenance policy, that optimize the health of your vehicle and its fuel efficiency. An inspection can also catch any other potential problems your vehicle may be facing, such as rotation and balance.

While wheels out of alignment may seem like a minor issue, if left unchecked, it can worsen and compound other problems. Keeping your tires aligned can help save fuel, money, and even your life and the lives of others.

 

Drive safely!

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