How to know if your car is properly aligned

Although the majority of American car owners have their wheel alignment checked by an auto care professional during routine mileage checkups, there are a few tips that can help you know whether or not it is time to have your vehicle inspected.

Wheel alignment consists of adjusting the angle of the wheels so that they are completely perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other, Family Car Parts reports. While a recently purchased used car will be perfectly aligned, normal wear and stress can cause the front wheels to slowly become crooked, whether or not your vehicle is equipped with an adjustable or non-adjustable rear suspension.

The easiest way to assess whether your car is misaligned is to visually inspect the tire itself. If there is uneven or especially rapid tire wear, take your vehicle into the shop immediately. While tire wear is the simplest way to diagnose poor alignment, it is often the last symptom to appear. If you let the problem go unattended for too long, you may find yourself being forced to purchase four new tires.

When your vehicle is not aligned properly, you may also feel that it does not naturally drive in a straight line, or is pulling or drifting to one side of the road on its own.

A final, more comprehensive examination of your wheel alignment can be conducted using just a coin. Take a quarter and place it in the tread at the inside, outside and middle of the tire, the news source recommends.

If you find that the tread is deeper on one side of the tire than the other, it’s time to take your car to the shop. Also, if it is deeper on the edges, your tire is overinflated. If the treads are deeper in the center, you should inflate your tire as soon as possible.

Proper wheel alignment is important for a variety of reasons. Improper alignment can lead to premature tire wear, decreased gas mileage, poor handling and can even cause accidents, Hunter Engineering reports.

Industry experts recommend that you have your vehicle’s tires checked every 10,000 miles or once every year.