How Often Should I Have My Tires Aligned?
As a car owner, it’s important to pay attention to the vehicle’s maintenance. Failing to do so can lead to damage or costly repairs. One of the tasks you should complete is having your car’s tires aligned. Misaligned tires can cause your vehicle’s handling to diminish and inhibit your ability to turn the vehicle or move in a straight line. When this happens, not only will you have difficulty driving, but it can also jeopardize the safety of those in the vehicle.
What Is a Tire Alignment?
A tire alignment involves lining up the vehicle’s wheels with each other and the road. To achieve proper alignment, the vehicle’s suspension system needs to be properly configured and positioned. Although there are certain vehicle maintenance tasks that you complete yourself, such as oil changes or changing out windshield wipers, tire alignments require an expert mechanic and an alignment machine.
When the mechanic conducts the tire alignment, the vehicle’s wheels and axles become square with each other. The way the mechanic does this is by adjusting all the suspension angles that affect the tire positioning and movement to make sure the steering wheel remains perfectly centered. Each vehicle manufacturer has its own designated angles for how the tires should be aligned, and these numbers are stated in degrees.
The type of suspension system plays a part in the type of alignment your vehicle needs. Vehicles that are four-wheel or all-wheel drive need a four-wheel alignment. However, if your vehicle has rear-wheel or front-wheel drive, it should only need thrust-angle or front-end alignment.
What Are the Benefits of Getting Your Tires Aligned?
Having your tires aligned will keep you and your travelers safe on the road because it allows the vehicle to travel smoothly and safely. When the vehicle is unaligned, it veers to one side and can cause you to make unsafe adjustments to the steering while driving. Uneven wear on the tires can also decrease the vehicle’s responsiveness in situations where you need to brake quickly or navigate through difficult driving conditions and terrain. This jeopardizes the safety of those inside the vehicle and on the road with you. Other key benefits include the following:
- Increases the lifespan of the tires: Even wear-and-tear on the tires can increase their lifespan, so you won’t need to purchase new ones as often. If left uncorrected, unaligned tires will need to be replaced in half the time they normally would.
- Improves fuel economy: According to Investopedia, improper alignment can reduce overall fuel economy by as much as 10%. This number equates to about 31 cents per gallon, so having the vehicle correctly aligned can help you save money at the gas pump.
- Helps the suspension work better: Wheels that are out of alignment can cause additional stress on parts of the suspension, including the struts and shocks. Your vehicle is built to absorb the impact when it comes in contact with bumps in the road, but over time, these parts can wear down faster if the alignment is off.
What Are Some Signs Your Tires Need Aligning?
While driving your vehicle, you might notice certain signs that the vehicle needs attention. Some signs include the following:
- Constant pulling in one direction: If you notice your vehicle tends to pull sharply in one specific direction, this might happen due to under-inflated tires. However, if you notice the vehicle continues to do this even after you inflate the tires, it might be time to have the tires aligned.
- Slight pulling: While slight pulling isn’t as blatant as constant pulling, it can also be a sign that your vehicle is unaligned. One way you can determine if your vehicle pulls is to drive to an empty parking lot that has a level surface. Drive in a straight line and remove your hands from the steering wheel. If the vehicle drifts to one side, it might need an alignment.
- Vibrating steering wheel: In certain instances, steering wheel vibrations might signal misaligned tires because the tires are pulling in opposite directions. This might occur when the vehicle reaches speeds higher than 30 mph.
- Off-center steering wheel: You might compensate for wheel misalignment by keeping the steering wheel off-center. Pay attention to how your steering wheel is positioned when driving.
- Unevenly worn tires: Examine your front tires thoroughly for the level of wear on each one, including the rear tires. They should have similar wear patterns, so uneven wear patterns might signal that your tires aren’t properly aligned and need to be serviced.
How Often Should You Get Your Tires Aligned?
The frequency with which you might schedule a tire alignment depends on several factors, including your driving habits and the type of vehicle you’re operating. Vehicles that have performance-oriented or wider tires typically need their tires aligned more often. Also, if you frequently drive over bumpy roads, regularly haul heavy items in the vehicle’s trunk, or were recently involved in an accident, you should have a mechanic check the wheel alignment.
While the frequency depends on what’s listed in the owner’s manual, most mechanics recommend having the tires aligned every two or three years. Whenever you bring your vehicle into a service center for any type of regular maintenance, such as an oil change, the licensed mechanic should assess the tires and determine if the wheels need aligning. It’s recommended that you do this every 6,000 miles. It’s also best to stop in and have the wheels checked before you head off on a road trip.
Tire alignment is one of the most important maintenance tasks for your vehicle. For additional information about tire alignment or to schedule an appointment to have your vehicle’s tires aligned, contact Boch Toyota. Either reach out to our service department directly or use our convenient online scheduling portal to make an appointment. Our service department is open every day of the week with extended hours until 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, so you can find a time that works best for your busy schedule.