5 Signs Of A Bad Wheel Alignment and Why you should fix it

It is important to never drive for too long with a bad wheel alignment, as it will wear out your tires fast. Here's how to tell your wheel alignment is bad

Symptoms Of A Bad Wheel Alignment

When you’re driving down the road, and your vehicle is continuously pulling to one side, it’s more than just an annoyance. It’s the chief sign that you need a wheel alignmen. If you ignore it, you’re just inviting more problems.

In this guide, I’ll go over the top five symptoms that your vehicle needs a wheel alignment. From there, I’ll break down different kinds of wheel alignments and why this is so crucial for your vehicle. Let’s take a quick look at the possible signs.

Symptoms Of A Bad Wheel Alignment

The most common symptom of a bad wheel alignment is that your car pulls to one side while driving at higher speeds. If your steering wheel is not aligned when driving on straight roads, that is also a strong sign that the wheel alignment is bad.

While a bad wheel alignment can lead to increased maintenance costs, if you don’t know what’s going on, you’ll never know that you need to fix it. Here is a more detailed list of the signs of a bad wheel alignment that you need to look for:

1. The Vehicle Pulls to One Side While Driving

Driving Highway E1609861365670

This is by far the most common symptom that your vehicle needs a wheel alignment. If you’re driving straight down the road and take your hands off the wheel, your vehicle should continue to head straight. While this might vary from time to time due to the road’s condition, it shouldn’t always pull in the same direction.

If your vehicle is consistently pulling the same way when you’re not actively holding the steering wheel in place, chances are you need a wheel alignment.

2. Your Steering Wheel is Not Properly Aligned

Turn Steering Wheel E1609947180429

When your steering wheel is completely centered, your front wheels should be too. If you center the steering wheel while you’re turning the vehicle, that’s an alignment issue.

This specific problem could be an issue with your wheel alignment, steering wheel alignment, or steering column alignment. No matter what the problem is, an alignment should take care of the problem.

3. Uneven Tire Wear

Uneven Inner Tire Wear E1609864079396

If your vehicle’s tires are misaligned and you don’t correct the situation, you’re going to get uneven and unusual tire wear. While properly rotating your tires will help mitigate this problem, it won’t save your tires from the unusual wear and from quicker than average wear.

Since one tire isn’t straight while you’re driving, it’s continuously rubbing at an angle. This leads to a ton of premature wear, and will have you replacing your tires far sooner than usual.

In addition, you’re putting extra stress on your steering and suspension components for that wheel, and they’ll wear down prematurely, too.

4. Squealing Noises While Driving

Noise From Car

If the misalignment is bad enough, you’ll hear a squealing noise as your driving. That noise comes from your tires dragging across the pavement, instead of rolling as they should. You’ll likely only hear these squealing sounds if the alignment is particularly bad. If this is the case, you need to get it fixed immediately.

5. A Vibrating Steering Wheel

Vibrating Steering Wheel

If you need a wheel alignment and it’s bad enough, you might feel vibrations in the steering wheel as you drive.

Those vibrations are caused by the tire skipping across the pavement as you drive. That skipping is putting pressure on all of the steering components between the steering wheel and the tires, and the end result is the vibrations you’re feeling.

Related: 5 Causes of Steering Wheel Shakes While Driving

Types of Wheel Alignments

There are three different alignments that you can make to your tire. Some drivers will intentionally create these conditions, but they’ll always lead to premature wear and reduced performance. The three types of wheel alignments are:

1. Camber Angle

Camber Wheel Alignment

Camber refers to the way the top of the tire tilts in relation to the bottom of the tire. If the top of the tire is sticking out farther towards the car’s edge, you have positive camber. If the bottom sticks out farther, you have negative camber.

Both positive and negative camber reduce the amount of traction each tire gets, and leads to premature tire wear.

RELATED: Why Do Tuned Cars Have Very Inclined Wheels?

2. Toe In & Toe Out Angle

Toe In Toe Out Wheel Alignment

Toe refers to the way the front of the tire tilts to the rear of the tire. If the front of the tire points in, you have “toe-in.” If the front of the tire points out and away from the car, you have “toe-out.” Incorrectly aligned toe will lead to premature tire wear, and your tires will “skip” as you drive.

3. Caster Angle

Caster Angle Wheel Alignment

Finally, the last major wheel alignment is caster. Caster refers to the way your vehicle’s suspension mounts to the hub. If the upper point leans towards the rear of the car, you have negative caster, and if it leans towards the front, you have positive caster.

Unlike the other alignments, which you always want straight up, you actually want a slight positive caster to help control your vehicle.

RELATED: How long does a wheel alignment take?

Why Wheel Alignments Are Important

Wheel Alignment

Wheel alignments are a critical part of your vehicle. While you might think that’s alright if the alignment is a little bit off, what you might not realize is that the longer you let it go, the worse it will get and the more damage you’ll cause.

Tires wearing down prematurely is just the start. You’ll also wear down your suspension and steering components. If the alignment is bad enough, you’ll end up breaking things.

Just as bad is the reduced performance that bad wheel alignments cause. You’ll get worse traction, which will keep you from accelerating as quickly, and more importantly, will increase the necessary braking distance.

For all these performance and premature wear concerns, you need to get your alignment fixed as soon as you notice a problem. While you might think this is an expensive process, that actually couldn’t be further from the truth.

Learn more about the cost by checking my other article: Wheel Alignment Cost.

Either way, it’s a small price to pay to get a few thousand more miles out of your tires and save your suspension and steering components for a few extra years. It’s a small price to pay now that more than pays for itself down the road.

Magnus Sellén
Written by:

Magnus is the owner and main author of Mechanicbase. He has been working as a car mechanic for over 10 years, and the majority of them specialized in advanced car diagnostics and troubleshooting. Certified Automotive Diagnostic Technician.

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