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How To Know If Your Vehicle Needs An Alignment

January 23rd, 2018

How to check your wheel alignment to drive safely in Grand Rapids and West Michigan

Now that we’ve made it about halfway through the winter season in West Michigan, it’s probably a good time to know where you stand in terms of your vehicle’s alignment. I don’t think anyone was surprised to find the roads an absolute horror show after the latest thaw, as we were reunited with our old friend the pothole. These gaps, pits, or large craters in the asphalt are formed when water seeps into cracks and expands when it re-freezes. While your vehicle will eventually need an alignment from normal driving, if you hit a pothole or a curb it may need one sooner.

Simple Things To Check Before You Bring Your Vehicle In

Whether you drove through a pothole recently or not, you might notice your vehicle pulling to one side, vibrating or shaking on the highway, or just feeling a little squirrely on turns. These are all signs that something isn’t quite right and should be checked out.

Before you bring it in though, look and make sure your tires are properly inflated, as this might clear up the issue if they are not. Also, during the winter, check and make sure your wheel wells aren’t caked with snow and ice. Shaking on the highway could just be some ice caught in your rim and throwing the wheel off-balance. Snow buildup behind the wheels can make the steering feel different too. An hour or two in a warm garage will clear these issues up no problem.


What is a Wheel Alignment?

When your vehicle was manufactured, the wheels were adjusted a certain way for optimal performance, stability, and tire life. This is your alignment, and there are three different measurements at play here:

1. Camber: This is the angle at which your tires meet your vehicle vertically. It’s easier explained using the top of the tire – if it’s closer to your car (tipping in) than the bottom, then you have a negative camber.
2. Toe: To best describe this, look down at your feet. Point your toes out like a duck, or in towards each other. Adjusting your tires’ toe follows the same basic concept, and is the root of most alignment issues.
3. Caster: This is a measurement of the steering axis, and is almost never adjusted. However, it is related to your alignment and worth mentioning.

How Do I Know If My Alignment Is Off?

The signs of a poor wheel alignment usually aren’t subtle, especially if you do a lot of highway driving. However, having a skilled professional take a look once a year will ensure that this easily-corrected issue doesn’t turn into a big expensive one. Here are a few things you can watch out for:

  • Vibrating, shaking, or wobbling – especially at high speeds
  • Pulling to the left or the right
  • Tires wearing down unevenly
  • Crooked steering wheel when going straight
  • Something just feels “off” – especially when turning

Why Properly Aligned Wheels Are Important

Wheel Alignments serve a few different purposes, and the biggest one is safety. Properly aligned wheels are tuned to how the manufacturer intended, and the tires to interact with the road in the way they have determined is the most stable and predictable. This is most important in heavy rainstorms or during the winter.


Schedule Your Next Wheel Alignment with Borgman

While there are a number of routine maintenance tasks you can do yourself with a little know-how, a wheel alignment should not be one of them. We have the proper facility, specialized tools, and highly-trained professionals to align your wheels to your vehicle’s spec with pinpoint accuracy – ensuring your safety and the longevity of your tires and suspension. Our technicians can also spot other issues while doing this, such as worn out bushings, tie rods, and other simple repairs that can be done before a tow truck gets involved.

If you need an alignment, or just want to have it checked by a certified and trusted technician, give us a call at 616-534-7651, or schedule an appointment online. Be sure to visit our Service Specials page for the latest coupons and offers. Drive safe, West Michigan!


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