Everything You Need to Know About Alignments

November 13th, 2020 by

A mechanic is aligning the tires on a vehicle.

As a vehicle owner, you may know about the regularly scheduled maintenance that your car needs in order to perform at its best. Keeping your oil fresh and regularly buying new tires are important responsibilities that you’ll need to take seriously, and keeping up with these tasks can greatly affect the way your car operates. But one of the most important maintenance tasks is an alignment, which can have a bigger impact than you may realize on your car and its overall performance, so finding a reputable tire shop near you is key. How often do you get an alignment, and what does an alignment even do? Learn more in this guide to alignments

Why an Alignment is Important

It’s important that your tires make proper contact with the road. What many car owners don’t realize is that there are various factors that can affect this placement, knocking it out of alignment at a moment’s notice. Everyday events can cause your car to lose its alignment, like weather and road conditions (that dreaded pothole!), wear and tear on parts, and any changes in suspension. Proper alignment not only helps your car driver better – it also helps you get more life out of your tires, increases your fuel efficiency, and keeps you safer behind the wheel. This is why alignments are so important when it comes to maintaining your vehicle.

Regular Checks on Tires

Being sure to check your tires regularly will help you maintain optimal performance and safety. Having your tire tread checked regularly is advised, and one of the ways you can do this easily at home is with the quarter test. Simply insert a quarter into the tire’s tread, and if the tread covers George Washington’s head, your tires are in favorable condition. However, if the tread is below this point, it’s an indication that new tires are needed. It’s recommended to check this every couple of months.

Proper maintenance can help prevent accidents as well. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), an average of 200 people die annually from tire-related accidents… many of which could have been avoided with proper maintenance. It’s been reported that one in four cars have at least one tire that suffers from under-inflation, and only 19% of vehicle owners perform proper tire checks regularly. Tires are known to lose approximately 1 psi of pressure monthly, which can really add up over time, and improper pressure can cause other issues to arise, such as misalignment and changes in vehicle performance.

A mechanic is inspecting the tread of a tire at a tire shop near you.

How Do You Know If You Need an Alignment?

Alignment can be affected by more than just normal wear and road conditions, and other factors have been known to play a big role in misalignment. For example, if you’ve recently gotten a new set of tires (or even one new tire), you’ve lifted or lowered your vehicle, or if you’ve been in an accident (even a minor accident), chances are your alignment has been affected. You’ll also want to listen to your vehicle as there are common signs that an alignment is in order. These include:

Pulling: you may notice that your vehicle is subtly or sharply drifting to one side or another (not staying centered).
Vibrations: steering wheel vibrations mean your tires are pulling at different angles instead of all working together.
Crooked steering wheel: if you notice you’re driving with an off-center steering wheel, it may be due to alignment issues.

It’s a good idea to check on your front and back tires to see if the wear on each set is the same. More wear on one set may mean that they’re misaligned, and a trip to your local tire shop should be scheduled soon.

What Does an Alignment Do?

An alignment allows your vehicle’s suspension to get back to a state of stability where all four tires meet the road at the proper angle, helping your vehicle drive centered and perform optimally. During an alignment, adjustments will be made to your vehicle’s tires and axles using an alignment machine.

Your vehicle will be connected to a system that will run diagnostics to obtain a series of measurements, helping the mechanic place your tires perfectly in line. The whole process, from start to finish, can take anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour, depending on the condition of your vehicle. Once your tires are aligned properly, you should be able to feel a difference when you get on the open road, especially if they were very badly aligned before.

Types of Alignments

Many people wonder what the difference is between a two-wheel and a four-wheel alignment and whether or not they need all four wheels adjusted. This will depend on your vehicle. The common types of alignments include:

Front-end alignment: also known as a two-wheel alignment, this type of alignment only aligns the front tires.
Thrust alignment: the front end is aligned with the rear axle, which is typically recommended for vehicles with a solid rear axle.
Four-wheel alignment: all four wheels are aligned, which is especially helpful for four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles.

The most common type of alignment for modern vehicles is the four-wheel alignment due to its comprehensive approach and ability to reduce wear and tear on all four tires.

A black and white photo is showing racks full of tires.

How Often Should You Get an Alignment?

It’s recommended to get an alignment at least once a year, twice a year if you regularly drive on rough terrain or if you travel frequently. This will help keep your car running properly and smoothly. This type of service can be scheduled in conjunction with your regular maintenance, like oil changes, to make keeping track of everything a breeze. And of course, if you notice any of the common signs that may indicate alignment issues, taking your car to a tire shop near you as soon as you can is highly advised.

It’s important to note that not all signs may present themselves in obvious ways. There may be subtle pulling or slight steering wheel vibrations that develop slowly, and you may not be aware of it unless you are looking for it. This is why paying close attention and scheduling your routine maintenance is imperative.

Choosing the Right Tire Shop

Choosing who works on your vehicle is a big decision, especially since your vehicle plays such an important role in your everyday life. Let’s face it, your vehicle has a lot of responsibilities, and if you don’t take care of it, it’s not going to take care of you! That’s why it’s advised to find a reputable tire shop near you that can offer you top-notch services from the experts to ensure that your car continues to run smoothly for years to come.

Dealerships such as Romeoville Toyota offer excellent services for new and used vehicles, making it easy to get everything you need for your vehicle in one convenient location. So, don’t skimp when it comes to your tires, and be sure to recognize how important proper alignment can be when it comes to the longevity of your vehicle. In keeping up with your vehicle’s regular alignments, you’re able to drive confidently, no matter where the road takes you.

At Romeoville Toyota, our service center can help you get the most out of your tires and your vehicle! Our factory-trained and certified technicians are friendly, knowledgeable, and professional and will ensure that your tires are mounted, inflated, and aligned properly. Give us a call or contact us through our website to get your car the attention it needs.

Posted in Tire Shop Near Me