Spotting Car Trouble: Symptoms of a Bad Wheel Alignment

signs of bad wheel alignment

Proper wheel alignment enhances the handling, traction and road grip of a vehicle, which is crucial for safe and smooth driving. Typically, it is recommended to get a wheel alignment every 16,000 to 19,000 km or once a year, whichever comes first. It is because, with time, suspension parts, such as ball joints, control arms, and wheel bearings may get loosened or damaged, leading to misaligned wheels. Such problems occur due to driving on uneven surfaces, hitting potholes and other motoring incidents that trigger a sudden jolt. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss the signs and causes of bad wheel alignment. To start off, we’ll first learn some basics about wheel alignment and common causes behind bad alignment.

What is Vehicle Wheel Alignment?

understanding more about car wheel alignment
Wheel alignment helps to synchronise the steering and suspension system

Car wheel alignment is a process of wheel angle adjustment to ensure the wheels are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. This adjustment helps to synchronise the steering and suspension system of the vehicle, which in turn improves the handling, stability, and safety of the vehicle. By aligning the wheels, the tyres also wear more evenly, which increases their lifespan and saves you money in the long run.

Wheel Alignment Vs. Wheel Balancing

People often confuse wheel alignment with wheel balancing. However, both of these are completely two different processes. As discussed, wheel alignment involves the adjustment of wheel angles to make sure they contact the ground at appropriate angles and are parallel to each other. On the other hand, wheel balancing refers to equalising the weight distribution around the wheel to eliminate vibrations.

Common Factors Behind Bad Wheel Alignment

Bad wheel alignment is one of the most frequent car problems. There might be a myriad of reasons why a car’s wheels can become misaligned. However, the most common causes of bad wheel alignment are mentioned below. 

Insufficient Tyre Pressure 

insufficient tyre pressure is a common cause behind bad car wheel alignment
Driving with improperly inflated tyres can misalign car wheels

Insufficient tyre pressure causes the car to drift or pull to one side, as it changes the suspension’s height and causes an improper tyre alignment.

Sudden Impact 

Collisions with curbs, potholes, or other road hazards that cause significant pressure and impacts can alter the wheel alignment of the car.

Wear and Tear 

It is a natural process that affects almost every vehicle part, especially in older cars. Worn-out suspension or wheel bearings can tilt the tyres and cause them to sit at an incorrect angle, causing bad alignment.

Delayed Alignment Check

One of the most common reasons for a bad wheel alignment is simply delayed inspection. It is generally recommended to have your wheels aligned at least once a year.

Alarming Signs of Bad Wheel Alignment 

Now that you are aware of all the causes of bad wheel alignment, let’s take a look at the most common symptoms of bad alignment.

Vehicle Drifting to One Side

car drifting on one side is a major sign of wheel misalignment
A car veering to one side can be an indication of an alignment problem

A vehicle should travel in a straight path even when the driver lets go of the steering wheel. However, if a car tends to pull or drift to one particular side while driving on a straight road, it may indicate an alignment issue. 

The severity of bad alignment can be determined by how often the car swerves to one side. If left unaddressed, the driver may find it harder to control the vehicle and maintain a straight line. In such cases, it’s recommended to seek the services of a mechanic to realign the car as soon as possible.

Squealing Sound from Tyres

If a driver notices a squealing noise from the tyres while turning or accelerating, it can be one of the symptoms of a bad wheel alignment, which can cause uneven tyre wear. However, worn brake pads can also cause a squealing sound, that said, to check whether the sound is caused to alignment or not drive it on a straight path. If the car drifts on one side while making the sound, it is a bad alignment. If not, then it might be some other serious issue that should be checked immediately. Different types of mechanical problems can cause squealing noise from a car.

Vibration in Steering

A car should not have a vibrating steering wheel. If the steering wheel does vibrate, it may be a sign of poor alignment or unbalanced tyres. However, it is important to note that car vibrations can also stem from other issues besides misaligned tyres. 

Furthermore, it can also be an indication of a sloppy steering wheel that can be hazardous as it decreases response time when turning. Vibration in steering caused by misaligned wheels may also be one of the reasons behind a car shaking.

Poor Steering Response

Modern cars are equipped with electric power steering systems that facilitate effortless turning and provide a more comfortable driving experience. Nonetheless, while driving with a bad wheel alignment, the driver may experience a hard steering wheel, requiring additional force to turn the wheel.

Tyres with Uneven Tread Wear

Uneven tread wear suggests that the alignment is not optimal
One tyre with more wear than the others suggests that the alignment is not optimal

Examining the tread wear of tyres is an effective way to assess wheel alignment accuracy. Uneven tread wear, where one tyre has more wear than the others, can suggest that the alignment is not optimal. Tread depth meters are useful tools for measuring tyre tread depth with accuracy. However, there is also a useful trick to checking tyre tread depth with a coin.

Tips to Prevent Wheel Misalignment

Now that we have walked you through the symptoms and causes of bad wheel alignment, let’s learn some tips to avoid the issue of misaligned wheels.

  • Avoid hitting curbs, potholes, or other road obstacles that can damage the wheels. Reckless driving habit is what causes bad wheel alignment in general.
  • Regularly inspect tyre pressure and make sure they have optimum pressure as mentioned in the user’s manual.
  • Check and replace suspension components like shock absorbers, ball joints, and tie rod ends at regular intervals. 
  • Get the vehicle’s alignment checked and adjusted by an authorised dealer at least once a year.
  • Avoid overloading the vehicle with excess weight. It could damage the suspension and alignment.
  • Be cautious when driving on rough roads or uneven surfaces to avoid unnecessary wear and tear on the vehicle’s wheels and suspension system.

This concludes our detailed guide in which we elaborated on the common causes and signs of bad wheel alignment and useful tips to prevent the issue. 

Regular bad alignment could be an indicator of major defects in a vehicle. Therefore, when buying a used car in the UAE, make sure that all of its important parts are properly functioning. 

Keep following the dubizzle car blog for more informative pieces and step-by-step guides to fixing common car troubles.


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