When your alignment goes awry, it can be a real drag
Each of your car’s tires places about 35 pounds per square inch of pressure on the road. That’s roughly the same amount of pressure as an adult male elephant standing at rest.
Imagine that elephant standing with one foot on the ground and the other three on a trailer being pulled by your car. You start moving, and he’s going to pick that foot up in a hurry. He’s probably going to be pretty mad at you for taking off, too. I’d recommend being extra careful – and nice to the elephant – when you get out of the car.
Okay, so you’re probably never going to tow an adult male elephant. But every time you drive, your car is putting about that much pressure on the road. You don’t want it dragging its feet, either.
Potholes, that little bit of curb you jumped turning into the grocery store parking lot, all of those speed bumps you go over on the way to work – any sharp jolt – can make your wheels go out of alignment. And when your wheels are misaligned, your car is going to start dragging its feet.
What’s going on down there?
When your wheels are misaligned, your tires are pointed in different directions. One tire is trying to go one way, another is trying to go someplace else. It’s like a tug of war between your left and right tires, with each trying to drag the other in the direction it wants to go.
During this battle you may notice your steering wheel vibrating. Or, when one wheel wins the tug-of-war, you may notice your car drifting toward one side of the road. These are two of the most common clues that you need an alignment.
What’s the cost?
Like any other battle, this one has its casualties. Uneven tread wear is one of the most common, and easiest to check. Just give each tire a look-over to see if one side is a bit more worn than the other. You might even find some tread damage. Avoiding that damage is one of the reasons you want to catch misalignment early.
The longer the war between your tires goes on, the worse the damage gets. A little uneven wear becomes a bald patch, which could then become a tear. The tire will have to be replaced at the bald patch stage, and one good tire costs more than a four-wheel alignment.
There is also a cost to your safety. The back and forth between your wheels and the wear on your tires can make your car more difficult to control, especially on wet roads and in dangerous driving situations.
What are the benefits?
In addition to being safer, getting the maximum mileage out of your tires, easier steering and a smoother ride, properly aligned tires also deliver better gas mileage.
If you’re still not sure if your wheels are out of alignment or not, give us a ring. We will be happy to conduct a free alignment inspection any time during regular store hours, and we include one with every oil change. Oh, and if you are in the habit of towing adult male elephants, please make sure all four feet are securely in the trailer before you start to drive.