Can You Drive a Car with a Bad Wheel Alignment? Have you ever experienced your vehicle pulling itself over one side all of a sudden or noticed uneven control on your steering wheel?
Well, if you experience such, there must be an underlying issue: your car has a bad alignment. When it happens, I know the first thing you will wonder is whether to keep driving or pull over your car.
So, can you drive a car with a bad wheel alignment?
Yes, you can drive a vehicle with a bad alignment. However, it is not a good idea because has its disadvantages. The car might pull highly to the left or the right, and it wears the tires out twice faster than a car with proper alignment.
A lousy wheel alignment also results in an increase in fuel consumption, wrong steering, might pull highly to one side causing and it affects the car’s handling adversely.
Do you want to know when your car is out of alignment and how to handle your vehicle?
This article is perfect for you and is about to answer all your worries.
So, read on!
What Is Wheel Alignment?
Wheel alignment is the process of adjusting your car’s suspension system (the system connecting the car to its wheels). It does not involve adjusting the tires or the wheels.
Wheel alignment therefore ensures the wheels of your car are adjusted so that they do not pull hard to one side.
When automobile manufacturers made your car, they ensured that all the angels of the wheels were aligned optimally.
However, as you drive your vehicle on imperfect highways with bumps, cracks, and debris, the angels of the wheel shift over time and the wheels misalign. Other things that cause your wheels to misalign are going over big objects, potholes, and, worse, accidents.
Therefore, there is a need to align your car because when it is misaligned, it will affect how your car drives and other components like suspension, wear the tire out, and affect fuel economy. The goal for a wheel alignment is to correct the wheel angels to each other and the road too.
Types of Wheel Alignments
The suspension type of your car determines the type of alignment for your car.
In this regard, there are three types of alignment; front-end alignment, thrust, and four-wheel alignment.
When you take your car to the mechanic, they will be in the best position to recommend the correct type of alignment for your vehicle.
Here are the three types of alignments;
1. Front-end Alignment
They are also known as two-wheel alignment, the most basic kind of alignment.
Primarily, front-end alignment adjusts the front axle. It is performed on the two-front wheels because you will find that in most cars, the back part of the suspension is not adjustable.
However, it is not a good recommendation for new cars.
2. Thrust Alignment
Thrust alignment is performed together with two-wheel alignment.
The technician does thrust alignment when aligning the front wheel with the rear wheels. It ensures that all the four wheels of your car are square with each other.
Thrust alignment is best for cars that have a solid back axle.
3. Four-wheel Alignment
It is a comprehensive kind of alignment that combines the wheels of the front end and thrust-angle adjustments and at the same time position the back axle angles.
As the name suggests, a four-wheel alignment is basically for four-wheel and all-wheel drive cars and front-wheel drive vehicles with adjustable or independent back suspensions.
The exciting thing about four-wheel alignment is that front-wheel-drive cars can also get four-wheel adjustments if they have adjustable rear suspensions.
How Do I Know If I Need A Tire Alignment?
Proper wheel alignment improves your vehicle’s performance, your safety and extends the life span of your tires.
So, how do you know your car has a bad alignment and is time for proper alignment?
I will tell you to listen to your car and check out for any warning signs.
Here are the signs that will tell you when your car is out of alignment.
1. Drifting or Pulling to One Side
If your car is drifting or pulling to either right or left, that is an obvious sign that it needs an alignment.
If, for instance, you are driving on a straight surface and you have to steer constantly to keep it straight on the road, it means you have a bad alignment.
Also, you can try letting go of your steering for a moment when driving on a flat surface. If your car pulls to one side and you need to steer the opposite direction to keep it straight, you probably have a faulty alignment.
However, if the car only drifts slightly towards the shoulder, it could be because you are driving on a sloppy road, which is common, so you do not have to worry about alignment. To be sure, you can check for other signs.
2. Steering Wheel is Off-center
So, how do you know your steering wheel is off-center? When driving, you will feel like you are turning slowly in one direction.
It can be a result of front-end alignment or four-wheel alignment.
If this misalignment results from front-end alignment, a technician will align the front tie rods to the required degree to remove any pulling on the steering wheel. It will change the position of the wheels relative to the position of the steering to ensure they point in a similar direction as the back tires.
Front-end alignment resolves the direction pull, but it can create a problem of “off-tracking”. Meaning your car will be moving on the road at a slight sideways angle.
It can be dangerous and change the performance of your car and handling characteristics. Also, it will decrease the economy of fuel because of added drag and resistance of the wind.
Therefore, the best way to solve the problem is to have a four-wheel alignment. Since the issue of the steering wheel being off-center is primarily due to an issue with the back wheel angle, it should be adjusted first.
After adjusting the rear wheels perfectly, they will also point the front tie rods to have the wheels in line with the back tires. Eventually, it will reset the steering wheel to the center hence the steering will go to back normal position.
3. Shaking Car or Steering Wheel
When driving, your car or steering wheel should not vibrate until you feel them. So, if you accelerate and feel the vibration in your hands, your car has a poor alignment.
Therefore, the vibration could be your wheels out of alignment due to hitting a curb or potholes.
If you experience the vibration, make sure you get your car checked by a technician before it gets worse.
4. Loose Steering
If you are driving and it feels like your steering is loose or wandering around the road, you might have a bad wheel alignment.
Your vehicle should respond directly to the direction you are steering it. So, if you feel like you are turning the wheel more often with little movement of the tires, then there could be a problem with alignment.
5. Uneven Tire Wear
Abnormal wearing out of tires indicates that your car has issues. Tires should wear evenly, inside and outside. If your tires are uneven wearing out, you are likely to notice that your wheels are out of alignment too.
To check if your tires are wearing out evenly, measure the tread depth in a few areas of every tire. If the wheels are correctly aligned, they will be the same, but you will notice alignment issues if they are not.
You can also conduct a specialized technician to check it out if you are not sure about the alignment. Abnormal tire wear can also indicate other issues, so having a technician check out your car will point out the problem.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
How much does a wheel alignment cost?
It will cost you about $65 and $100 to have a front-end alignment. That is like a regular part of your vehicle’s care routine.
Some car care facilities provide lifetime alignment for $200.
How much does a wheel alignment cost at Firestone?
Firestone charges $80 before tax for standard alignment for either front wheels or all four wheels.
However, Firestone is not the cheapest for wheel alignment.
What happens if you don’t get front-end alignment?
You put yourself and other road users at risk.
When you don’t get an alignment, your wheels will wear out unevenly, your suspension will loosen, and you will have a problem steering your car.
How long does a wheel alignment take?
It takes an hour on average to align either two-wheel drive or four-wheel-drive cars.
However, if there is too much damage on the suspension, wearing out of tires and other parts, replacing the components will take a little more time.
Can an alignment be done in 20 minutes?
For a proper alignment, it will take around 60-90 minutes. So, if you get it done in 20 minutes, chances are, it was not done correctly.
Is wheel alignment the same as balancing?
No, wheel alignment is how your wheels are designed to sit in when put on your car, while wheel balancing is done to stabilize the tire’s weight and wheel assembly so as to travel evenly.
Can You Drive A Car with A Bad Wheel Alignment- Final Thoughts
A car with a bad wheel alignment can cost you very much. It is therefore essential to understand the signs of a poor alignment so that you can prevent any risks.
Can you drive a car with a bad wheel alignment?
The answer is yes but do not ignore the problem! If you want to take it to a mechanic for diagnosis and proper repair, you can drive. However, you should be careful and avoid getting comfortable driving in a car with a poor alignment. It is dangerous to you and can be expensive.
Fortunately, there are few things you can know when your car has a bad wheel alignment without the expertise of a mechanic. If your car pulls to one side, uneven wearing out of tires, your steering loose, vibrating steering or the steering wheel is off-center.
Therefore, call your mechanic and have the problem fixed if you notice these signs. It is not very expensive and will cost you about $65 to $100 and save you other problems associated with driving with bad alignment.
Hi I’m Marshall based in 1478 Doctors Drive Santa Monica, CA. I’m your DIY Car Repairman with more than 5 years experience in automobile repair, a skill I learned from my old man.
I started this blog to share my experience on both simple and technical aspects of your car.