Get Your Ride in Line
Every time we buckle up to drive, we tend to take for granted our vehicle’s smooth ride, steady turning and straight steering. But if you notice that your steering has become more difficult, your steering wheel is pulling or your tires are wearing out too quickly or unevenly, your vehicle may have an alignment issue.
If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms, it’s time to get your vehicle to your reliable local NAPA Auto Care center for a wheel alignment service. Our ASE-certified technicians are ready to adjust your vehicle’s suspension and steering to ensure you get that steady and safe driving you expect from your ride.
Bad Wheel Alignment Symptoms
Your vehicle’s suspension and steering systems are complex and incorporate several components that can wear down. Even with normal day-to-day driving, your vehicle encounters uneven and sometimes harsh road conditions that can cause one or more of the following bad wheel alignment symptoms:
- Uneven or accelerated tire wear, bald spots or worn edges
- Pulling to one side when you’re driving straight ahead
- The steering wheel is crooked when you’re driving straight ahead
- The steering wheel vibrates while you’re driving
- The tires squeal while you’re turning
How to Check Wheel Alignment
Because this can happen slowly as time passes, you may overlook alignment problems because you’ve grown used to them. Wheel alignment issues can also occur suddenly in certain situations, such as hitting a particularly deep pothole or tall speed bump or sideswiping a curb. Even a minor fender-bender collision can misalign your steering system. Here is how to check wheel alignment on your own if you suspect there is an issue:
- Find a safe, paved area that is flat with lots of room—an empty parking lot or level road with no traffic is ideal.
- Before you begin, use a tire gauge to check the air pressure in all four tires. Underinflated tires can cause steering issues that can feel like alignment problems.
- Check that the area is clear of traffic. Then put your vehicle in drive and drive straight ahead at a low speed (5–10 MPH).
- Loosen your grip on the steering wheel and check to see if it stays straight or if your vehicle starts drifting or swerves suddenly to the left or right. Quickly return your hands to the steering wheel.
- Repeat these steps two more times. If your vehicle continues to pull or swerve, take your it to your local NAPA Auto Care center because you may need an alignment service.
What is a Wheel Alignment Service
Let’s look at what a wheel alignment service covers and what to expect when you drop off your vehicle. Make sure you are ready to answer a few questions that can help the technicians better understand the best fix for your vehicle. Consider the following:
- When did the issues start? Did you hit a curb or pothole, or were you involved in a fender-bender?
- How frequently do you notice the issues?
- Was there any work done on your suspension system recently? This can include new bushings, tie rods or ball joints.
A typical alignment service starts with a NAPA Auto Care technician performing an initial inspection. The technician will take a careful look at your tires and may recommend replacing them if they are too worn or have an uneven wear pattern. The steering components and the suspension system are also thoroughly inspected for any issues. The technician references your vehicle’s manufacturer-specified camber, caster and wheel toe angles.
The camber angle measures the vertical tilt of the wheel, the caster angle measures the angle of the steering pivot, and the toe angle measures the angle of the wheels in relation to the centerline of the vehicle. The NAPA technician then adjusts the suspension system according to these measurements to ensure that the wheels are properly aligned.
How Long Does a Wheel Alignment Take?
Depending on your drivetrain and suspension, the technician will either perform a 2– or 4-wheel alignment service. The entire process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on the extent of damage or complexity of the adjustments needed.
How Often Should You Get a Wheel Alignment?
Ignoring alignment issues is not only dangerous. It can also directly affect the performance of other parts of your suspension system, resulting in costly repairs down the road. Remember to schedule an alignment service once every two years as part of your routine vehicle maintenance. With more than 17,000 NAPA Auto Care centers nationwide, you can schedule an alignment service at a local NAPA Auto Care near you! And now, thanks to our Repair Estimator Tool, you can get a quote on your exact make and model before you schedule an appointment.
More than 90 years ago, the National Automotive Parts Association ("NAPA") was created to meet America’s growing need for an effective auto parts distribution system. Today, 91% of do-it-yourself customers recognize the NAPA brand name. We have over 6,000 NAPA Auto Parts Stores nationwide serving all 50 states with a unique inventory control system that helps you find the exact part that you need.