Answers to Three Frequent Questions about Automobile-Alignment Problems

Because they lead to higher gasoline consumption, uneven tire wear, and even transmission problems, automobile-alignment issues can end up costing you a bundle. Worse still, if an alignment problem gets severe enough, it can compromise your safety. If you would like to learn more about alignment problems and how they affect your car, read on. This article will present answers to three common questions.

What are the symptoms of poor alignment?

Perhaps the easiest symptom to diagnose is a steering wheel that seems to always be pulling toward one side or the other. Over time this may become so pronounced that it feels like you are wrestling with your car at every turn. Even if the wheel doesn't seem to be actively fighting against you, you may notice that it remains cocked at an angle even when you're moving straight down the road.

Tires are another place where alignment problems tend to manifest. This can be a little trickier to diagnose, however, because tire wear can also be caused by a failure to rotate the tires often enough. Take a close look at the wear patterns. Poor alignment generally causes wear on either the inside or the outside edge of the tires.

What causes alignment problems?

Unfortunately, it doesn't take much to throw a car's alignment out of whack. Common causes include driving over potholes, accidentally popping curbs, and bumping into the concrete barriers at the top of parking spots. Likewise, hitting or being hit by another car can easily throw alignment off. Even apart from such minor auto collisions, alignment problems also tend to develop on their own over time. This has to do with the gradual degradation of ball-and-socket joints and other components.

What happens during a wheel alignment?

A wheel alignment essentially involves the squaring up of axles and wheels. The idea is that all of these parts must be adjusted so that they are moving in precisely the same direction as one another. A difference of as little as a few tenths of an inch in the relative angles between these parts can make a huge difference in the overall alignment.

In addition to aligning the axle and wheel directions, your mechanic may also choose to tweak your suspension angles. Known variously as thrust, toe, caster, and camber, these angles play an important role in determining the movement and positioning of your tires. Finally, your mechanic will likely check to ensure that your steering wheel is properly centered.

For more information, consult a shop such as Ohs' Body Shop's Inc.