What Causes vehicles to lose their alignment?
Many things can cause your system to “go out of alignment”. The most common causes are stuff like, hitting curbs, pot holes, concrete parking slabs and just generally hitting uneven surfaces. What a lot of people don’t realize is that regular wear and tear can also knock your alignment out of spec. As your tires wear down, they fail to provide the same support which slowly changes the alignment dynamics of your suspension.
Each chassis has a very specific alignment set up that is specified by the factory. In order for your vehicle to “drive as designed”, your vehicle needs to be aligned to this spec.
How to Align Your Suspension
Many people ask, “Do I really need to care about the alignment of my suspension/tires?”. The answer is yes! It is very important. We will start with why it is important. When the alignment of your suspension is off it can and most likely will cause the following problems:
1. Your tires will wear unevenly leaving you with a bumpy, loud and rather annoying ride.
2. Extended wear on your suspension, brakes and steering system components.
With one or all of your tires being out of alignment, the vehicle will “fight itself” as it’s trying to drive down the road. This is going to create more wear and tear on suspension components and steering components such as bushings, control arms, ball joints and tie rods. When these items get worn down, you’ll experience “play” in the suspension and/or steering which gives you less feedback when you’re sitting behind the wheel. From a performance standpoint, there is nothing worse.
3. Pulling or pushing to one side of the road which can be very dangerous.
One of the biggest myths in the car repair industry is that a driver can tell if his/her car is out of alignment because it will push or pull to one side or the other. Unfortunately that simply isn’t true. All too often this is how a driver determines if their vehicle is out of alignment. It’s considered good practice to have your vehicle aligned at least once a year (twice if you live in what’s considered to be a “harsh climate” like NH).
4. Decreased efficiency in gas mileage.
Everyone nowadays is concerned with fuel economy….until it means that they have to pay for something that they think is “unnecessary”. Unfortunately that’s how most people think of alignments. They’re simply just uninformed (or mis-informed).
Your unaligned suspension system causes higher levels of friction on the tires. This friction creates more resistance at the road surface which ultimately causes your car to work harder. That means that your vehicle is burning more fuel. Are we talking about the difference between a 1 ton pick-up truck and a Toyota Prius? Of course not, but you could certainly see the difference of 3-4mpg and over the course of a year, that could equate to a fair amount of fuel depending on how much you drive. On top of that, you’ll be replacing worn out suspension components and having a pretty lousy commute to work every day.
So, is it worth it to spend $100/year to not have pre-maturely worn out tires, steering components, suspension components as well as poor fuel economy. We’ll let you make the choice, but I think you know what our answer will be 🙂
Written February 15th, 2016
Updated February 4th, 2019