Car handling is a crucial factor to consider for a good driving experience and drivability. If you have ever found it difficult to keep your vehicle straight while driving or found it difficult to steer, you are driving with bad alignment.
Driving with a bad wheel alignment is not recommended. It is detrimental for your tires as they wear faster, brakes, suspension, fuel consumption efficiency, etc. Symptoms of a bad alignment include uneven tire wear, tire squealing, vehicle pulling one-sided, vibration, and more.
Subsequently, I will examine the following:
- Some common causes of bad alignment in your car.
- Symptoms to pay close attention to if you suspect a bad alignment
- Should you drive with bad alignment
- Recommended fixes from a professional
- And cost to fix a bad alignment.
Let’s dive into it!
What Causes Bad Wheel Alignment?
Several factors may be responsible for a bad wheel alignment in your car. These causes could range from driving habits to worn-out parts. Let’s have a look at some of them:
The heavy impact from driving: The impact from potholes or curbs may be strong enough to alter your vehicle’s wheel alignment. This is if they occur frequently, and no care is taken to reduce the impacts.
Vehicle Modification: Modifying parts of your vehicle, including the rims and lifting the cars, can alter the vehicle’s alignment.
Worn-out component: Wear and tear from friction may also cause bad alignment in a vehicle. These components include the wearing of the tires, suspension bearings, and others that have drastic implications for vehicle alignment.
Over-due alignment: Sometimes, the car is due for an alignment. Wheel alignment should last between 2-3 years; after that, a new alignment is required.
Low tire pressure: Underinflated tires can cause the tire to drag and pull to one side of the road. Sometimes, tires with the wrong PSI cause uneven height and wear on those tires.
What Are the Symptoms of bad alignment?
Bad wheel alignment has several symptoms that make driving difficult and dangerous. Subsequently, we will discuss toe-in-alignment symptoms and some symptoms of bad camber alignment.
What happens when your car is out of alignment?
Wheel alignment means correcting the geometry of the suspension system. A car’s suspension system comprises components like the wheel, control arm, mounting point, etc., all of which must be aligned to work properly. A variance in the threshold means that these components will struggle to balance and steer the car.
Alignments can be broken into Camber alignment, toe alignment, and caster.
Camber alignment covers the vertical slop of the wheel. If the wheel is positioned incorrectly, it means the camber is off and needs to be fixed.
Toe measure the direction of the four wheels. Are the four wheels rolling in the same direction and simultaneously?
Caster means balancing the steering and weight of the car, preventing the vehicle from drifting off due to uneven weight distribution.
The following are some of the symptoms of bad alignments:
1. Car pulling to the right or left side
A clear symptom of a bad wheel alignment is when you experience the car pulling to either the right or left side. When this happens, the vehicle will drift in one direction, but the steering wheel will not return to its normal position. That is, the steering and wheels aren’t point in the same direction.
2. Loose steering wheel
Another common symptom of bad alignment is a loose wheel. Here, the wheel is often free and goes beyond the intended steer of the driver. This can be dangerous for inexperienced drivers and is a sign you need realignment soon.’
3. Steering wheel vibration
Another bad alignment symptom is vibration in the steering wheel. The uneven tires and bad suspension means that the car is less balance and less likely to absorb shocks as the car move. If you experience this or change the uneven tires, you must realign your car wheel.
4. Squealing noise
Bad alignment noise, such as squealing noise from tires, especially during accelerations, is a sign of misalignment that causes the tires to wear faster. It is also possible that the noise is from the brake pads. Either way, inspect the alignment, suspension, and brake system if you hear this noise.
5. Excessive tire wear
Due to the imbalance of the car wheels, there is usually excessive wear on the tires. You should physically inspect the tire’s thread for signs of excessive wear on some of the tires. This will be more than the others will be glaring. Use a thread depth meter to check the extent of the wear and get a more accurate result.
6. Steering wheel won’t return to position
If you notice that your steering wheel doesn’t centralize or return to its normal position, you need realignment. Usually, as you drive, the steering wheel should return to position when you take off your hand momentarily. You will need alignment and steering wheel inspection as something else may be broken.
Is it OK to drive in bad alignment?
No, I do not recommend to my readers that they drive with a bad alignment. As explained earlier, alignment is important in vehicle suspension and control. Bad alignment not only gives a bad driving experience but also affects the drivability and puts the driver in danger. Also, driving with a bad alignment may damage other components like the tires, brake pad, and suspension system.
How do you Fix the Bad Alignment?
- If your car keeps losing alignment, here are detailed steps on what you should do to fix the problem.
- Check the tire pressure. Ensure that the tires are evenly inflated at the same PSI.
- Always consult your vehicle manual for specifications on aligning the Toe, camber, and caster.
Inspect the front-end suspension for worn-out or loose parts. Make sure the car is parked on flat ground. Follow these steps:
- Jack up the vehicle at the front end and ensure that the steering is locked.
- Once the car is lifted, shake the wheels both horizontally and vertically. If it doesn’t move much, the suspension is in great shape. Otherwise, something is loose or broken.
- Replace all damaged parts of the front suspension.
- Measure your vehicle toe. You want to measure the distance between the tires and their rotation. You can do this using a string and a measuring tape.
- Also, measure the camber of the tires. This is the vertical angle of the wheels looking ahead.
- Correct the toe by adjusting the tie rod end. The tie rod end connects the steering system and the wheels.
How much Does it cost to fix bad Alignment?
A wheel alignment cost depends on several factors, such as the vehicle brand, the number of wheels to be aligned, and the vehicle’s make. You should budget between $50 to $80 for a front-wheel alignment. A four-wheel alignment will cost anything between $100-$180. Luxurious cars cost more to repair. It should cost around $350 or more for all-wheel alignment. The duration of alignment repair is between 30 minutes to an hour.
We do not recommend driving with a bad alignment for too long. As soon as you notice any of the symptoms above, follow the recommended fixes discussed. Also, visit a professional mechanic to have your vehicle checked. Remember, the sooner you fix your bad alignment, the better you can avoid costly repairs and damages to tires and other components. Thank you for reading!