What You Can Do When You Feel the Warning Signs of a Bad Alignment

February 11th, 2022 by

A car is shownon a lift in a garage before a mechanic preforms an auto alignment near you.

Keeping your wheels properly aligned seems like a pretty simple thing, but you’d probably be surprised to hear that it is one of the most common issues we need to deal with at our service center. Folks often ask, does your car shake when you need an alignment? This is actually one of the major warning signs of a bad alignment. When it comes to your car’s alignment, you need to listen to your vehicle. It is often trying to tell you that you are having a problem. If you notice any of these warning signs illustrated below, you’ll need to search for “auto alignment near you.”

At Thomas Nissan of Joliet, our service center is standing by to help you with all your vehicular needs, including adjusting the alignment of your car. Our team of trained technicians will give your car a comprehensive check to make sure that whatever is wrong with your vehicle isn’t a symptom of a bigger problem. In this way, we tackle the cause of the service problem to keep your car on the road running smoother and longer than you can imagine. Moreover, fixing the alignment will help you with a number of different issues going forward.

How Do I Know I Have a Problem With My Alignment?

Shake, Rattle and Roll may have been a big follow-up hit for ’50s legend Bill Haley & the Comets, but it is the last thing you want to have happen with your car. That shaking is one of the critical symptoms of an alignment that has gone out of whack. Here are some others that might be a symptom.

Do you notice your vehicle pulling to one side? This problem might also be caused by wheels that are no longer aligned. This is similar to having to keep your steering wheel at a slight angle to keep your car going straight. Wheels need to be trued up with one another, or you are going to have issues with your car’s steering, leading to pulling or steering problems.

Some symptoms of a bad alignment are auditory. If your wheels squeak when you make a turn, or your wheel makes noises when steering, then this could also be caused by an issue with the alignment. Those noises are not normal but are your car trying to tell you there is a problem.

Finally, you can identify poorly aligned wheels visually. One key symptom is uneven wear on your tires. Think about it. Misaligned wheels will cause differing wear on tA black car is shown in close up during an auto alignment.e tires. In fact, this uneven wear can make the bad alignment worse, as your car will favor one side even more as the tires become more worn. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is time to bring your car in for an alignment.


What Causes a Bad Alignment?

There are a number of different things that can cause your car’s tires to become misaligned. The most common reason is an accident. Many folks report the symptoms of the bad alignment after they have struck a curb or hit a particularly deep pothole. This causes the stress to be centered on one wheel as opposed to all four.

While the term is called tire alignment, this can be a bit misleading. The tires become misaligned through the interaction of the wheel and the shocks and struts that make up your car’s suspension system. If the shocks and struts get worn out, this could also affect your car’s alignment. While this usually happens to older cars, it still pays to have this checked out if you are experiencing difficulties.

The final cause of a bad alignment is actually quite simple. Your car’s manufacturer has set the proper pressure for the tires on your vehicle. This is measured in psi and often appears on the bottom of the interior door well on the driver’s side of your car. If you don’t keep your car’s four tires inflated to the proper pressure, you can begin to get symptoms of a bad alignment. Similarly, this can happen if you fail to routinely rotate your tires. The tires will eventually wear unevenly, which can lead to other problems, including the need to incur the cost of a new set of tires.

What Gets Adjusted During an Alignment?

There are three things that can be adjusted to fix the alignment of your tires. The first part is called the toe, and it makes a slight adjustment to the forward angle of your car’s front wheels. Toe-in means that there is a slight inward angle for the tires, while toe-out gives the wheels a slight angle away from each other. The determination of which way to go depends on your vehicle, with many front-wheel drive vehicles being designed for a slight toe-out angle.

The second thing that might be adjusted in an alignment is the camber. This is the tilt of the wheels at a vertical angle. Negative camber refers to wheels with a slight inward tilt at the top sloping towards the front, while positive camber refers to a tilt that slopes to the rear. Again, this will depend on the vehicle that you are driving.

The final adjustment isn’t to the wheels themselves but rather to the suspension system. This is referred to as caster alignment. This is the direction that the shock and strut for each wheel are positioned. If they are in an inward leaning angle, this is called negative caster. On the other hand, if they are in an outward leaning angle, this is referred to as positive caster. The caster angle will affect the pivot point when you are making a turn, as well as how the steering wheel on your car re-centers itself after you complete the turn.

Before you start thinking you can do this at home, think again. Making adjustments to your car’s alignment requires specialized equipment, as well as a working knowledge of the alignment specifications of different vehicles. Each manufacturer has different toe, caster, and camber settings for each of its models. Without proper training and equipment, you can end up doing more harm than good. Also, these adjustments are measured in fractions of an inch, so it is very easy to get it slightly off, which will also damage your tires and suspension system.

Some drivers ask us if a four-wheel alignment is necessary. The answer depends on your vehicle’s drivetrain. Typically, you can get away with a front-end alignment on a front-wheel or rear-wheel drive vehicle. These are the only wheels that typically get affected when the alignment goes bad with front-wheel or rear-wheel drive cars. Even so, the technician may choose to do a thrust angle adjustment to make sure that all four wheels are square with each other.

On the other hand, if you drive an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle, it is a good idea to get a four-wheel alignment. Since each of the wheels is receiving engine power and torque, there is a chance that the misalignment of one can throw off the other three wheels. This is why you should get all four aligned in this situation. Typically, the technician will adjust the toe and caster on the front wheels and the toe and camber on the rear set. Once this is done, you should have no more problems with alignment on your all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle, giving you the traction, handling, and cornering on and off the road that you require.

A mechanic is shown preforming an auto alignment.

Reap the Benefits of Well-Aligned Wheels

Some people come to us when we quote them the price for a tire alignment and start to wonder if they can get away driving on misaligned wheels. The answer is a simple no. While some people balk at putting the money into their cars to keep them running well, driving on misaligned wheels will cost you more money in the long run. They will make your car more difficult to handle, which can have very severe consequences when driving through heavy rain, sleet, or snow. Do you want to risk the safety of yourself and your passengers because you didn’t want to pay for a tire alignment?

Similarly, misaligned tires will take a serious bite out of your car’s fuel economy. This drop in gas mileage will cost you more money than the simple repair of a tire alignment. With gas prices spiking nationwide, this expense can add up quicker than you think. Finally, driving on misaligned wheels will cause your tires to wear out faster. The cost of a new set of tires is much more expensive than getting an alignment. Also, driving on bald tires reduces grip and traction, which can create its own hazard out on the road.

For all these reasons, you should stop by our dealership for a tire alignment if you hear, see, or feel any of the symptoms illustrated above. Your car is trying to tell you something, so you had better listen!