Having work done on your vehicle can be costly and confusing if you are unsure of its complexity. Sometimes, you are not sure if the mechanic is sincere in their assessment either. Are they telling you that you need an alignment after service just for the extra cash or is it really for your safety?
There are a few signs that indicate you need an alignment on your car – whether that’s uneven wear, “pulling” when driving or when your car isn’t tracking straight – but there are times when you should get an alignment after vehicle service.
When do you need an alignment on your car?
There are signs and symptoms that will indicate that you may need a wheel alignment. If your car doesn’t drive straight, if you’ve recently had suspension repairs or if you’ve hit a large pothole and notice poor driving performance – these are all signs that you should have your alignment checked.
We’ll explore those signs and what types of service should end with an alignment.
What Are Wheel Alignments For?
A wheel alignment will adjust what angle your tires rotate during operation. They should be at a proper angle to make smooth contact with the road while driving. This way, you have the best steering and handling control when using your vehicle.
Adjusting the way your suspension operates ensures that your wheels synchronize with the rest of the vehicle for safe driving. They also prolong the life of your tires by avoiding uneven wear and tear.
It is always a good idea to monitor your vehicle’s operation for any signs that it may require a wheel alignment regardless. If left for too long, your automobile can suffer costly damage to the tires and steering components. This situation can be entirely preventable when you know what to look for.
Some Common Signs That Indicate You Need an Alignment
Even if you are not mechanically inclined, several common signs can point to needing a proper alignment. Some of these situations include:
- Uneven wear on the tires
- Increase in fuel consumption
- The vehicle is harder to steer and maintain control
- There is a clunking noise coming from the corner of your vehicle
- Your automobile veers to one side while driving
Uneven Wear on the Tires
If you notice any uneven wear on your tires, this can be a common side effect of a loose ball joint. Lower ball joint problems will cause wear on the inside of your tires, while upper ball joint issues will wear on the outer tire edges.
You may notice one tire has more wear than another. Anytime your tires show uneven wear, you should take your automobile in for a proper wheel alignment.
Increase in Fuel Consumption
If your vehicle is suddenly using more fuel than it used to, it could be due to tire drag from an improper alignment. When your wheels are not rotating smoothly, they will drag, causing extra wear and tear and making the vehicle work harder to operate.
Vehicle Is Harder to Steer and Maintain Control
Vehicles that are out of alignment may be more difficult to steer or maintain control at higher speeds. This side effect can be dangerous, especially if it is not taken care of as soon as possible.
Difficulty turning corners without straining or stiff steering control are just a couple of signs that an alignment is necessary.
There Is a Clunking Noise Coming From the Corner of Your Vehicle
If you hear a clunking noise coming from a corner of your vehicle where the tires are, this could indicate a loose ball joint that may require a wheel alignment after. These sounds may be louder, turning corners, or going over bumps when your suspension works harder than driving straight.
(A clunking noise from either corner can also indicate worn out struts or shocks – or any number of other issues – it’s best to troubleshoot the issue to find the cause)
It may only start as a slight noise, but your vehicle’s steering components will continue to break down and create costly damage if you do not intervene.
Vehicle Veers to One Side While Driving
Some vehicles that require a wheel alignment will significantly pull to one side or the other. Sometimes this pulling is due to uneven tire wear or broken down steering components, but completing an alignment can help diagnose further problems.
If your automobile is suddenly veering to one side, especially after hitting a curb, potholes, or driving through other extreme road conditions, an alignment may help.
Do You Need an Alignment After Replacing Ball Joints?
If your vehicle is in the shop right now, you may wonder if you need an alignment after replacing the ball joints.
Unfortunately, there is no cut-and-dried answer to this question. A wheel alignment is only a recommendation for many vehicles and not a necessity after a ball joint replacement. But for others, it could be an essential task when additional factors are involved.
Although not all vehicles need an alignment after replacing ball joints, sometimes it can help. You should ensure that you check with your manufacturer’s recommendations and follow them closely. A proper wheel alignment will extend the life of your tires and keep your steering components working as they should each time you operate your vehicle.
Although many vehicle types will run and steer just fine after a ball joint replacement, other situations will require this for your automobile. Some of these circumstances include:
- The last alignment was done with bad ball joints
- Your vehicle manufacturer recommends it
- The auto requires other repair work that affects the steering
Last Alignment Was Done With Bad Ball Joints
If the last time your vehicle had an alignment was with bad or loose ball joints, then you will require another one. Once you replace the defective parts, the toe and chamber areas will most likely not match up correctly, which can cause issues.
Anytime a steering component is replaced, it could affect the alignment’s geometry, although it may not be evident until you change a bad ball joint.
Your Vehicle Manufacturer Recommends It
The manufacturer’s recommendations require a new wheel alignment after ball joint replacements for optimal function for some vehicles. If you are unsure if this job is necessary, it is a good idea to check with your owner’s manual or talk to a representative with the manufacturer.
Often, recommendations that you do not follow can void your warranty coverage or cause further problems.
The Automobile Requires Other Repair Work That Affects the Steering
If your vehicle is in the shop for more steering work than just a ball joint replacement, an alignment is most likely needed. Changing steering components will adjust how your automobile operates and affects your steering.
Replacing items like a control arm or bushings can make an alignment essential. In addition, some vehicle models will have the ball joints and steering components built as one piece rather than separate parts, creating a wheel alignment requirement after replacement.
Do you need an alignment after getting new tires?
Yes, you should get an alignment when you replace your tires. It’s important to have the right amount of tire pressure and correct wheel alignment so that you can drive safely. If you’re unsure about whether your tires are aligned correctly, bring them into a shop where they’ll be checked by a professional.
How do I know if my tires are out of alignment?
If you notice any strange vibrations while driving, uneven wear on your tires, or steering problems, then you may want to check
If you don’t have an alignment done after replacing your tires, you’ll notice problems right away. The steering will feel loose and unresponsive, and the car may pull to one side when driving. If this continues, the tires could wear unevenly and fail prematurely.
How do I know if my tires need an alignment?
The first sign that your tires need an alignment is when the steering feels loose or unresponsive. Steering issues can be caused by worn out tie rods, broken ball
Alignment is important for any tire replacement project. If the worn treads were unevenly worn, then they may need replacing before new ones are put on.
You might be wasting some cash if you don’t have an alignment done after getting new tires. If you spend $700 or more for brand new tires but forego the alignment afterward, they could wear out quickly (or unevenly) if your car has an alignment problem that isn’t addressed.
If the wheels aren’t tracking in the right direction, whether that’s camber, caster or toe, the tires will be exposed to undue stress that will accelerate wear.
Do you need an alignment after replacing shocks or struts?
Aligning your car after replacing a strut or shock replacement will help prevent premature tire wear. It also ensures that the new parts fit properly in relation to each other and the rest of the vehicle.
The importance of aligning the wheels after a strut replacement has been a topic that I have covered in several other articles, but it bears repeating. If you do not perform an alignment after replacing your struts, then you may be putting yourself at risk for a possible accident.
Camber, the vertical angle – inward or outward – of the tires, can be affected by installing new struts. If the alignment isn’t properly set when tires are installed, they may not be aligned correctly, which could lead to uneven tire wear.
Toe and Caster settings can also be affected by any changes to struts (like replacement).
When viewing an automobile from above, Toe measures the angle at which the wheels turn inward (towards each other) or outward (away from each other).
Caster refers to the direction in which the front end of the vehicle turns relative to its vertical orientation. If the toe settings are not correct, they could lead to rapid tire wear which may affect your ability to control the car. Also, if the caster settings are incorrect, then steering might be difficult because the wheels don’t want to stay pointed in the right direction.
Should you get an alignment after hitting a large pothole?
Hitting a large pothole can do damage to all sorts of components on your car. It can impact tire balance, alignment, strut or shock wear, ball joint wear or damage other suspension components.
If you know you have hit a large pothole recently, it doesn’t immediately mean you should get an alignment. You should first look for signs or symptoms of wear or your vehicle not driving correctly.
Feeling a wobble while you drive after hitting a pothole, the car not tracking correctly, or clucking noises when you drive over bumps are all warning signs that damage was done. Each one could have a different solution.
Once you identify the symptoms you can better decide what to do to fix them. An alignment is one possible solution.