I’m sure there are some people wondering how did their vehicle wheel alignment change, even when the vehicle has been in top condition without any physical or mechanical damage? Well if you live in Alberta, let’s start counting the ways.
- Potholes. The wheel alignment changes when your vehicle constantly bangs into potholes. Every time your car runs over potholes, the suspension takes a hit. The more recklessly you drive over potholes, the more aggressively the alignment gets damaged.
- Curbs. Whether your parking or going through a drive-through, bumping into the curbs is enough to change the alignment specifications.
- Manholes Covers. Same answer as potholes.
- Normal Wear. Normal wear and tear which every vehicle experiences as they age cause such issues. Rubber components start cracking or losing their elasticity. Various ball and socket joints develop looseness. A slight misalignment over time can cause a lot of uneven or premature tire wear.
- Accidental Damage. Even the slightest fender-bender can have a nasty domino effect on the health of your vehicle. An embarrassingly slow collision at a 4-way intersection can still result in damage to your suspension and steering system. It may not jump out at you, but small initial signs can grow into significant I-need-a-tow-truck concerns on the side of the highway in the future. You can't ignore this stuff.
Our vehicle's suspension system (i.e., shocks or struts) is something we often take for granted. However, after supporting several tons of metal year after year, eventually the shocks will wear out and suspension repair will be necessary. Some people mistakenly believe the suspension is mainly about having a smooth ride, and therefore these repairs aren't as important as other maintenance issues like oil changes or brakes. However, having a bad suspension can greatly affect your ability to control the vehicle, especially when stopping or turning, so it's in your best interest not to ignore this part of auto maintenance.
How do you know when it's time for suspension or steering repair? Your vehicle will usually tell you. Here are eight things to watch for.
- Vehicle rides roughly
Most people can tell their suspension is wearing out when they begin to feel every bump in the road, or when every bump causes the vehicle body to "bounce." A rough ride is an obvious sign that your vehicle's suspension needs work.
- Drifting or Pulling to one side.
With a failing suspension system, you'll often feel the vehicle "drift" or "pull" when you're driving straight. There is a long list of things that can cause this. The first item on the list is a tire with severely low air pressure. The rest of the items have to be inspected by an automotive technician.
- Dips or "nose dives" when stopping
When the shocks are worn out, you're likely to feel the vehicle body lurching forward and downward nose-first when you apply the brakes firmly. This can actually affect your ability to stop the car quickly (a bad suspension can increase stop time by up to 20 percent).
- Abnormal Tire Tread Wear Take a look at your tires. If you notice the tread is wearing down unevenly on your tires, or if you notice abnormal worn spots, this is often a symptom that the suspension or steering system isn't holding the car evenly, and therefore putting uneven amounts of pressure on the tires.
- Steering Wheel is off-centered.
A steering wheel that is not centered (even if the vehicle is driving straight) is an indication of the toe angle not being within specifications. This can also be caused by worn steering components.
- Difficult Steering
If you find steering is especially difficult, especially when you’re moving slowly, something might be wrong with your suspension. Sometimes the steering may feel like it gets stiffer when you turn the wheel or hold it in a turned position. Any number of components in your steering or suspension systems could be a source of these issues.
- Vehicle Makes Odd Noises.
Worn suspension systems are notorious for hard-to-find clunks, squeaks, groans and other noises. Vehicles that have high mileage or decades of use tend to have perishable rubber parts that become brittle or tear with the introduction of time and heat. This tearing will enable things like control arm bushings to wiggle during driving, which in turn can cause annoying noise while diminishing the performance of your vehicle while it is driven.
- The vehicle shakes or vibrates. In some cases, this can be caused by a caster angle that is not within specifications, but the most common cause of this is worn out suspension parts, tires that are out of balance or warped brake rotors.