Alignments – how many times have we heard this all-too common term? Next question – when was the last time you performed one on your current vehicle? Despite what you may or not believe, you should have your vehicle aligned every 12 months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. And while we’re on the subject of what to believe or not, let’s destroy a common myth or two about alignments. If you hit a pothole, you rarely need an alignment unless you hit it really hard. The tire and rim take most of the impact, not the suspension. And it’s the suspension that affects alignments – not tires.
If you felt a vibration after hitting a pothole, then we would say you probably have either lost a balancing weight of the wheel or bent the rim. In that case, you would have to either replace or repair the rim and check the tire for any damage like broken belts.
Also, whenever you have suspension and/or steering components replaced like tie rods, struts, or wheel bearings, it is highly recommended to get the vehicle aligned. Here’s another point to ponder – most passenger car vehicles have alignment points on all four corners. So only having a “front end alignment” is not very beneficial, even though it may be cheaper on the pocketbook. In most cases, trucks and rear wheel drive derivative SUV’s are the only vehicles that can get away with a front end alignment.
Lastly, there are a few things you can check on a regular basis. Be sure to notice any changes in the way your car handles. Does it pull or drift on a smooth road? Check the air pressure in all four tires – to help you with that, there is a sticker on the drivers door jamb that will tell you the correct air pressure settings. An under-inflated tire can also make a vehicle handle like it needs an alignment. Bottom line – check the basics first, then move onto the more expensive things.