Do I Need an Alignment Check Before Travelling?

What is an alignment check?

An alignment check determines whether your vehicle’s suspension is correctly calibrated. If your car is out of alignment, the wheels will not be properly angled in relation to the road surface. Using a machine, a mechanic will check the angle of each tire and determine whether an adjustment is required.

The service is offered by most garages or auto repair service center and is relatively inexpensive. It’s not really necessary to include in your general car maintenance routine unless you notice that your tires are wearing prematurely, or that your vehicle is listing or drifting in one direction.

However, having it checked once in a while can maximize vehicle performance: even if you haven’t noticed a serious problem and alignment is within the parameters set by the manufacturer, it can sometimes still be improved.

What causes vehicle misalignment?

Normal driving, over time, can cause the alignment to shift gradually. Something as simple as vibrations from driving on uneven road surfaces over thousands of miles or bumping up against a curb can cause the vehicle’s suspension to shift.

However, a recurring problem is likely due to a worn suspension on an older vehicle. A vehicle that consistently falls out of alignment probably has more serious issues than gradual, minute shifts over many miles. A realignment shouldn’t have to be performed that often.

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How can I tell if my vehicle is out of alignment?

The easiest way to tell is by driving the vehicle. If your car is drifting to one side when it should be driving in a straight line, or if the steering wheel vibrates, wobbles, or doesn’t seem straight, it’s probably out of alignment. Another way to tell is if you have uneven tire wear, which should be fairly visible just by checking your tire treads.

If you are experiencing these issues, you should bring your vehicle to a service center. It’s also possible that your issues are due to another issue, such as unbalanced tires. The root of your issues can be diagnosed by a mechanic.

Why do I need to have my suspension realigned?

The first reason is handling. It’s unsafe to drive a car that handles in an inconsistent, unpredictable way. When your vehicle is not aligned properly, operating it is unsafe.

Tire wear is another reason why even slight vehicle misalignment should be addressed. Tires are designed with certain operation specifications in mind, so they wear unevenly and more quickly when they aren’t correctly angled toward the road surface.

Traction and control are also reduced when tires aren’t aligned properly. This extends from the way the tires grip the road to the way the vehicle steers to the way it brakes. Under pressure, or in adverse weather conditions, having a misaligned vehicle can increase the risk of a collision or other accident.

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