Your car will drive at its best when the wheels are properly aligned. Unfortunately, Ottawa roads can be particularly rough. The greatest enemy of a perfectly aligned car is a nasty pothole. And, as we all know, Ottawa’s got tons of them.
Over time, you may notice the following things when you drive your car:
- Your tires are wearing out unevenly.
- When driving straight, your steering wheel is crooked.
- Your car is pulling to the side.
If your car is doing any of these things, it most likely needs a wheel alignment.
Tip: Before booking an alignment, check your tire pressure first. Low tire pressure can also cause your car to pull and your tires to wear unevenly.
What Affects Wheel Alignment?
Your wheel alignment is correct when your tires and axles make a rectangle. It involves the following 3 sections of your wheel:
This is the inward or outward angle of your tires when viewed from the top (think a bird’s eye view of your car). If the tire is pointed too far outward or too far inward, it needs a re-alignment.
This is a little different from toe alignment because it’s the inward or outward angle of your tire when you look at it from the front. (In this case, think of looking at the Tower of Pisa!) If the tire leans too much in either direction, it could be caused by worn bearings, ball-joints, or suspension vehicle parts.
Caster alignment is what balances your steering and stability. When you look at your car’s front tires from the side, that’s where you would find your steering axis. Again, too much to the left or right means there is a misalignment. This is measured with proper alignment tools.
Now that we’ve gone over what goes into wheel alignment, let’s talk about what affects it.
The Dreaded Ottawa Potholes
In January 2019, the City of Ottawa had already filled 9,200 potholes, but the worse the weather is, the more potholes we get. The freeze/thaw cycle expands the ground beneath the asphalt, cracks the road and creates potholes ranging from miniscule to mammoth-sized.
When you hit one (often with a load BANG!), there’s a roller coaster of emotions: dread, anticipation, then relief when your car continues to run normally.
But in many cases, that pothole will affect your alignment/suspension angles. A pothole can even cause serious damage to your rims or other parts of your car. In those cases, we’re afraid you won’t get to experience the feeling of relief until your car is at the repair shop.
Hitting a Curb
Many of us have hit a curb at least once since getting our license. Whether it happens when making a tight turn or you misjudged the distance when parallel parking, a hard bump can throw off your alignment.
Ignoring a Speed Bump
Speed bumps are annoying, but extremely necessary to overall driver and pedestrian safety – as long as you take them at the right speed.
When you don’t slow down for a speed bump, you’ll experience a jarring sensation similar to a pothole. The faster you hit the speed bump, the more likely it is that your wheel alignment has been altered – and the more likely it is you’ll sustain damage to your wheels or suspension.
How Can I Keep My Car in Shape?
The best way to keep your car aligned correctly is pretty simple – do your best to avoid potholes, curbs, and adjust your driving speed accordingly. We have an article of winter driving tips that will help you drive safely >
By taking care of your car’s alignment, you’ll also be taking care of your tires, your steering, and your suspension. That’s why proper wheel alignment is so important.
When You Need an Alignment, Bring It to Bemac
In general, it’s a good idea to have your alignment checked every time you have your wheels switched for the appropriate season.
We offer full-service vehicle maintenance and alignments that will keep your car in good condition and make your drives safe and more enjoyable.