Unlike many other automotive issues, there's no dashboard warning light for wheel misalignments. While mechanics might notice signs of an alignment issue, it's usually drivers who first realize there's a problem with their vehicle's alignment. Here are some common signs of wheel misalignments.

The Vehicle Drives at an Angle
When your vehicle's steering wheel is pointing straight ahead, your vehicle should drive forward in a straight line (as long as the road isn't tilted to one side or the other). If your car veers to the right or left when you hold the steering wheel so it points forward, there's something wrong.

This issue may be caused by either a misaligned wheel or a problem with the steering system. A misaligned wheel will pull the vehicle to one side or another because the wheel isn't pointing in the exact direction that it's supposed to. A steering system problem will create a discrepancy between the way the steering wheel is aimed and the direction the front wheels are pointing.

To determine whether pulling is arising from either a misalignment or a steering system, it's usually necessary to have a vehicle checked by a knowledgeable mechanic. A mechanic will be able to manually check the steering system, and they have the equipment required to digitally check wheel alignment.

One Tire Is Especially Worn

Front and rear tires wear at different rates, which is why mechanics recommend having your vehicle's tires rotated periodically. The two tires on the front and the two on the back, however, shouldn't wear differently from each other. Your vehicle's front left and front right tire should have the same amount of tread left, as should the rear left and rear right ones.

If one tire is much more worn than its counterpart on the opposite side of the vehicle, your vehicle probably has an alignment issue. The tire is likely wearing faster because it's misaligned.

The Tires Wear Unevenly

Just as the front pair and back pair of tires should wear at about the same rate, each individual tire should wear evenly across its tread. Uneven wear is evidence that one part of the tire is receiving more pressure than the others, which is caused by either incorrect tire pressure or a misalignment. Uneven tire wear on an individual tire might manifest as:

  • Heel/toe tire wear, which is when one side of the tread wears faster than the other
  • Feather-edge tire wear, which when one side of individual tread ribs are worn more than the other side of the tread ribs
  • One-sided shoulder tire wear, which is when the inside or outside of the tire wears faster than the opposite side of the tire
Any of these call for first checking the tire's pressure and then recalibrating the vehicle's alignment if the tire pressure is correct. (If the tire pressure is incorrect, it should be adjusted and the condition should be monitored. Should this stop the uneven wear from worsening, then the uneven wear can be attributed to the tire pressure and a realignment is unnecessary.)

The Tires Make Squealing Sounds

A tire that squeals at higher speeds is usually a sign of a serious wheel misalignment. The high-pitched squeal is caused by the tire being forced (by the other tires) to go in a direction that it's not pointing. The friction created as the tread is dragged cross-wise across pavement creates vibrations and noise that both increase as speed increases.

If an alignment progresses to this point, it should be promptly addressed by a mechanic.

If you notice any of these issues with your vehicle, let the pros at Teloloapan Muffler & Brakes II Inc. give your vehicle a computerized wheel alignment.