Whether you drive a car or truck one of the most important things on your checklist of regular maintenance items is a wheel alignment. Some people put it off or don't have it done because it's an extra cost and they figure that it's not necessary, but this couldn't be further from the truth. There are some very good reasons why you should make sure that the wheels of your vehicle are in proper alignment. Here is everything you need to know about it, along with an estimate of what it costs.
What causes wheels to become misaligned
You may purchase a vehicle that is well aligned, but this won't last forever. There are several things that can cause your wheels to become misaligned. Getting a new tire or even a set of new tires can cause misalignment. The same is true when you have the tires rotated, which is highly recommended. If you're involved in an accident or drive over extremely rough or bumpy roads, it can happen as well. If you happen to hit a curb or a pothole while driving, these are other common culprits.
Signs that your vehicle needs an alignment
If you notice that the performance and handling of your vehicle changes over time, it may need a wheel alignment. When things are out of whack, your car can become harder to handle and maneuver. You may notice a shimmy or roughness. Another sign of misalignment is uneven wear on the tires. The most common sign is when your car pulls to the right or to the left when you take your hands off the steering wheel for a few seconds. In fact, this is an excellent way to check for misalignment. These are signs that you should not ignore because, in addition to a decline in vehicle performance, it may put your safety in jeopardy. The risk of experiencing a tire blowout while driving increases when there is uneven wear on the tires. In addition to this, misaligned tires decrease your fuel economy so it's going to cost you more to drive it.
What is it?
A wheel alignment is also known as tracking or breaking. It's a standard maintenance task that should be performed by a qualified mechanic certified in this specialization. The mechanic performs mechanical procedures that adjust the angles of the front wheels and the rear wheels to make the vehicle operate in a straight an true trajectory when in motion. This is done with regard to the manufacturer's specifications for the vehicle and it takes into account the tire type and size. It's a precision process that should not be attempted by amateurs.
The benefits of wheel alignment
Wheel alignment can improve your fuel economy so you're getting the maximum possible miles per gallon if everything else is in order in the operation of the vehicle. It can also prevent future damage to the axles of your vehicle. If a misalignment is allowed to go for long periods of time, it can cause problems that may require costly repairs. It also improves the handling of your vehicle, giving you greater control and improving safety. Lastly, it reduces uneven wear and tear on your tires and extends the life of them which makes the vehicle safer to drive and costs less in tire repairs and replacements.
How much does it cost?
The total cost of a wheel alignment depends on the type of your vehicle and the number of wheels that need to be aligned. Each mechanic or company that specializes in this service has their own rate system, but most of them charge similar fees. A two-wheel alignment costs an average of $75. A four-wheel alignment on average runs between $150 all the way up to $200. You should have your vehicle aligned approximately every ten thousand miles, according to most manufacturers, but if you are fortunate and don't drive on rough or bumpy roads, don't need to replace flat tires and if you don't have any accidents, hit potholes or curbs, you may only need to have this procedure done in three or four years. Your auto mechanic can assess your vehicle to determine if it is in need of an alignment and will give you an estimate of the cost.
Written by Garrett Parker
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