It might seem a little dramatic to suggest that poor alignment is ruining your car, but it may be happening. At its core, the purpose of an alignment procedure is to ensure your vehicle can track correctly down the road. In this case, tracking refers to maintaining a straight line when you keep the steering wheel centered.
Various issues can cause your vehicle's alignment to drift, including normal wear and tear. However, routine alignment services can help maintain your vehicle's tracking even as these components age.
So How Does Poor Alignment Hurt Your Car?
Okay, you probably get that alignment is critical, but what happens if you let your car's alignment fall too far out of the factory specifications? The most noticeable effect that poor alignment has on your vehicle will be poor tracking. In other words, your car will want to pull itself to the left or the right as you drive. You may even notice that driving straight requires keeping your steering wheel off-center.
These are telltale signs that your wheels have a severe issue with their alignment, but it's time to think about what's happening closer to the road. The area where the rubber meets the road (literally) is known as the "contact patch." When everything is working correctly, the contact patch is a relatively narrow rectangular area that spans the width of your tire.
When your car has tracking issues, your tires may not contact the road evenly. In severe cases, they can even drag as you fight to keep the car straight. These problems result in noticeable wear issues that can rapidly ruin even relatively new tires. Ignore alignment problems for long enough, and you'll find yourself burning through rubber at a wallet-destroying rate.
Even worse, poor alignment can create a positive feedback loop with your steering and suspension components. Alignment issues can put more strain on these parts, causing them to wear out more quickly and degrading your alignment even further. These issues can potentially be much more expensive to repair than a worn tire.
What Can You Do To Save Your Car?
If you notice tracking issues, make sure you schedule an alignment immediately. Even if you aren't experiencing any problems, it's a good rule of thumb to perform an alignment whenever you install new tires or rotate your current ones.
Adding wheel alignment services to your routine maintenance schedule is the best way to keep your car from suffering unnecessary and entirely avoidable damage. The relatively low cost of this straightforward maintenance procedure can potentially save you hundreds of dollars or more over the life of your vehicle.
For more information, contact an auto shop that offers wheel alignment services.