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It’s All About Alignment

Spring is right around the ­­­corner…and so is the next pothole that might cause you and your vehicle “a HOLE” lot of problems.

Just like your chiropractor knows that everything must be in proper alignment for optimal motion and health; the same goes for your car. When your wheels are out of alignment a host of problems can occur such as: diminished steering, advanced tire wear, suspension and braking issues.

Brandon Pickering, General Manager of Pickering’s Auto Service offers, “It’s always amazing to me how a person’s health and the health of your vehicle are comparable.

Keeping your vehicle healthy by performing needing adjustments keeps your life in motion much like keeping your body healthy and making proper adjustments to diet and exercise allow you to stay healthy and in motion. Proper alignment is an adjustment that both people and vehicles can benefit from.” Pickering goes on to say,

“A wheel’s alignment is related to a car’s suspension system where the car’s wheels connect to the vehicle. An “alignment” is the adjustment of the angles in that system for better contact where, as they say, the rubber meets the road!”

Co-owner and brother Trent Pickering adds, “Don’t be confused. Tire balancing and wheel alignment are different things.  Both are needed for a safe and smooth ride but tire balance corrects for the weight imbalance of your tires and alignment corrects the angles of the tires.”

You can often self-diagnose basic alignment issues easily: if your car stays on the road without an excessive amount of steering and does not drift to one side or the other your alignment is probably doing ok.  Additionally, take a look at your tires.  When a vehicle’s wheels are out of alignment, you’ll usually notice uneven wear on the thread and/or edges of the tires. Here is a list of a few other things that may lead you to suspect you need your wheels aligned:

• Having to keep both hands on the steering wheel to keep the car going straight ahead

• Shake and play in the steering wheel

• Your car “tracks” the grooves that are in the road

• The vehicle “pulls” to the left or right whether the brakes are applied or not

• You experience a bumpy ride, even when you’re on a smooth surface

Even though it may seem like a minor issue, improper alignment comes with big safety concerns. When tires do not wear evenly – as the case when a vehicle is out of alignment – the car’s ability to stop or turn may be affected.

Each vehicle make and model has its own specifications that must be maintained for proper alignment. A qualified service center will be able to adjust to manufacturer’s recommendations.

There are three major ways that your vehicle’s wheels can become misaligned: 

1. Heavy impact caused by hitting something like a curb, a pothole, speed bumps or another vehicle when in an accident can cause an alignment issue. This can also cause bent parts that may need replacing first.

2. Misalignment can be caused when suspension components like shocks or struts or control arm bushings become worn. Again, these parts would need replacement prior to the alignment.

3. Modifications to your vehicle’s suspension, like when you install a lift, might also cause wheel alignment issues because it changes the angles in which the tires come in contact with the road’s surface.

So now we hope you see that it is important that your wheels are – and stay - aligned. It is recommended that you get a tire alignment whenever you purchase a new tire(s) and at least every couple of years after that.  If you drive a lot or travel over unsmooth surfaces, it is better to make a wheel alignment an annual routine maintenance item, but should you make hard, unexpected contact with that “bump in the road,” make sure your wheels are still in proper alignment by either being mindful of the symptoms of misalignment or by stopping into a service center and having them check it out. Oh, and one more thing; the size of the pothole or curb doesn’t matter. If you hit a low curb, or small hole or crack in the pavement fast enough or hard enough, chances are you’ll be needing an alignment, at the minimum. It’s well worth the money to perform an alignment immediately after the collision before a misalignment has a chance to cause other more expensive problems. Call or schedule an appointment online with Pickering’s Auto Service today!


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