Driving around town with a steering wheel that is off-centered is both frustrating and dangerous. If your steering wheel is pulling one way or another while driving this is a sign that something is not quite right with your vehicle.
A steering wheel that is not straight while driving, is a fairly common issue and you will need a wheel alignment. Taking your car to an auto repair shop for a checkup will fix the problem and routine checkups will minimize the chances of this happening. It will also reduce the chance of further complications to your car due to poor wheel alignment.
If you suspect you need a wheel alignment but are not sure, read on for more information and tips on what you can do about it.
Why Is My Steering Wheel Not Straight?
Worn steering parts, problems with your car’s suspension, and a good old fashioned wallop from some rough terrain could be the cause of your car’s misalignment.
Evaluate The Situation
Understanding what an alignment is and evaluating your car’s current situation is an important part of assessing the need for a wheel alignment.
All new cars come aligned. When you get a new car from the manufacturer, they have specifications in place for the alignment of your car. The point of this is to maximize performance and minimize effort when you drive.
You feel a pull from the steering wheel when driving. You are driving along and you feel your car drifting and pulling to one side. Furthermore, your steering wheel is doing more of the driving than you like for a non-self-driving vehicle. These are all signs your alignment is out of whack.
You notice wear and tear to tires and parts. Another telltale sign that your vehicle has come out of alignment is when you notice that your tires are worn more on one side than the other. In this case, you may not have even noticed a pull when driving.
Some funny sounds and shakes while driving offer up more signs of wheel misalignment. Jerking or vibration in your steering wheel while you drive or screeching tires when you turn a corner could mean it is time for a wheel alignment.
Does This Mean I Need a Wheel Alignment?
After inspecting your vehicle for signs that you need a wheel alignment, you will seriously want to consider taking your car to the shop for further evaluation. Below are some reasons why:
Tire Strain: Having a wheel alignment issue could cause wear and tear to your tires. This means that the money you save now by not going to get your car aligned will ultimately go into buying new tires. In a worst-case scenario, if you are driving at high speeds and your car has come out of alignment, the added pressure on your already damaged tires could cause a blowout and risk the safety of you and your passengers.
Trouble Braking: Wheels that have trouble turning and don’t move in the same direction when traveling cause affect your brake performance. Needless to say, trouble braking or an uneven brake could put you in a dangerous situation.
Shaking and/or Vibrations: Shaking and vibrations when driving are an unwelcome facet of car ownership. If your car is shaking due to the improper alignment of your wheels, it would be in your best interest to get this looked at by a mechanic as shaking and vibrations could cause additional damage to your tires, steering system, and other parts of your vehicle.
Fuel Economy: No matter where you live, if you are a car owner, fuel consumption is on your mind. Another great reason to get your wheels aligned as soon as you sense something is wrong is to save on fuel costs. If your tires are misaligned and your car is not moving along smoothly, this could cause your tires to drag costing you up to 10% more when it comes to fuel efficiency. In addition to saving your wallet from extra fuel charges, having a fuel efficient vehicle is better for the environment.
Overall Safety: Besides keeping your car at optimal performance, having your wheels properly aligned will keep your vehicle from damage that could cause dangerous situations when driving. Besides reducing your chances of human error by giving you the smoothest ride possible, maintaining the alignment of your wheels will put less strain on other parts of your vehicle that are vital to the functionality of your car on the road.
What Causes Steering Wheels to get Misaligned?
When your tires are not aligned, the effect will sometimes be a steering wheel that is not straight when driving. The wheels of a car become misaligned when your car’s suspension is compromised. While this can happen due to time and regular use, some other factors might have caused the alignment to come out of alignment hence affecting your steering wheel.
The roads you are driving are rough: Potholes, rough terrain, and hitting any large object or curb could send you alignment off-kilter. If you find yourself involved in an accident, even a minor one, you may want your alignment specialist to have a look.
Modification to the height of your vehicle: Some car owners adjust the height of their vehicles for various reasons. Whether you are adjusting the height of your vehicles for performance on certain terrains or purely for style, you should note the importance of adjusting your suspension as well. The suspension works best at the appropriate height for your car. When these two are not adjusted equally, the alignment of your car could suffer.
Worn and/or Damaged Parts: Your steering wheel is a system of parts that regulate the direction of the movement of your vehicle. The column ends in a gear called a pinion that is attached to the rack which in essence controls your tires. If any of these parts are worn from overuse or damage, your steering wheel could go off-centered and cause a wheel alignment problem. Parts such as suspension springs can also lead to a change in wheel alignment.
Keeping your tires aligned is a necessary part of car ownership. Getting your car’s alignment checked every 6,000 miles are so will be one aspect of keeping your car in its best overall shape.
How Much Will A Wheel Alignment Cost?
The price you pay for a wheel alignment will be well worth it. Most car alignments are a reasonable price if there are no other issues with your vehicle and depending on how much needs to be corrected.
Two-Wheel Alignment: A front wheel alignment (or two-wheel alignment) will adjust the problem in your front wheels. This is usually the case for cars with a solid rear axle that doesn’t require adjustment. The mechanic may also check the “thrust angle adjustment” which positions all four wheels to be square with one another. A two-wheel alignment will cost somewhere from $50 – $75.
Four-Wheel Alignment: A four-wheel alignment adjusts all four tires and is typically the case for vehicles with all-wheel drive and independent suspension. This will cost around $100 – $150. But again, this will all depend on how much needs correcting and if your car has warranties in place for such services.
Will The Misaligned Steering Wheel Damage My Vehicle?
A misaligned steering wheel will damage your vehicle so it’s best not to take any chances.
Damage to suspension: If your wheels are misaligned you may be causing stress to your car’s suspension. Damage to any part of your suspension’s components could result in serious auto work that will cost time and money.
Tire Damage: One main facet of wheel misalignment is what it does to your tires. As mentioned before, your tires need to be working together to maximize smooth driving conditions. When they become unevenly worn, not only will you need to replace your tires, damage to your brakes and other mechanisms will have consequences on your car’s ability to function properly.
Accident Prone: With wheels that are not aligned and constant pulling from your car, it’s easy to see how you can become victim to a car accident. Loss of control and the fact that your tires could blow out could cause a serious, unintended accident that will leave your car and potentially, your passengers, at risk.
If your tires are not straight while driving, the best course of action to take is to have your car looked at by a professional. Having a wheel alignment could save you time, money, and save you from an accident.
Hi, I am Brad. Car Independent is your source for independent views on cars and car accessories. Whether you looking to buy a new car or something cool for your car, you have many options. My aim to help you make the best-informed choices.