Line Up: Signs of Misalignment in Your Car's Front Tires

One of the most common issues that can occur with your car's front end after a mild collision is the wheels being knocked out of alignment. If you've been in an accident where the front end of your car was struck or hit something, even if it didn't cause any visible damage, it may have affected your wheel alignment. Here's a look at what you need to know about front-end alignment issues, whether caused by an accident or something else, to spot the signs before they cause serious tire damage.

What Is Front-End Alignment?

Front-end alignment refers to the angle and position of your front tires in relation to the suspension. The alignment of your car's front tires is determined by the manufacturer as the angle at which your car's tires are most effective. When the tires are properly aligned, it keeps your car traveling straight down the road when the steering wheel is straight.

What Are the Signs of Alignment Issues?

  • Tire Indicators—If your tires are wearing unevenly, it may be an indication of misalignment. When the front wheels aren't properly aligned, the tires won't contact the road surface evenly. That means that some parts of the tire are going to contact the road more heavily and wear more quickly than others. If you're seeing thin tread on one edge and not the other, it may mean that your front end needs an alignment. If you've purchased new tires recently, you should have the alignment checked. It's always a good idea to have the front end aligned every time you put tires on the front of the car, because any variance in the tire could cause a slight misalignment. In addition, the miles your car travels between tire replacements can lead to gradual alignment shifts that you might not otherwise notice until they progress much further. Save the wear and tear on your car and your new tires by having an alignment done whenever you buy new tires.
  • Handling Issues—Any time your car's front tires are out of alignment, it's going to cause some handling issues. If the car is pulling hard to one side or the other, that's a sign that you've got an alignment problem that needs to be corrected. You may even notice that the front end shakes a little bit. If so, that's a warning that your car's alignment issues are causing uneven wear on the tires.
  • Mechanical Changes—Any time your car is involved in an accident or hits a pothole, that causes jarring on the front suspension. This can shift your front wheels out of alignment, even if the pothole is small or the impact was minimal. It's always best to consult a collision repair specialist after anything like this, because they can evaluate the alignment as well as the condition of the frame and body panels. In addition to damage, changing any suspension parts, including upgrading the entire suspension, can also shift the alignment of the wheels. If you install a new suspension or change any suspension components, make sure to schedule an alignment afterward.

What Are the Steps to Fix an Alignment Problem?

Properly aligning your car's front wheels will require the use of calibrated equipment. It's not something most people can do at home. You'll want to reach out to your local collision repair shop or mechanic to schedule a front wheel alignment if your car needs it.

The mechanic will start by attaching a clamp to the wheel. Then, he or she will affix a camera to that clamp. The camera sends information back to a computer to calculate the current alignment of the wheels. The computer uses that input to calculate what changes are required to get the car to its proper alignment. It can take an hour or two to complete, so make sure you have time.

Proper tire alignment is a serious consideration. Not only does the alignment help you to regulate tire wear, but it also saves you on other added repair costs. Now that you understand the warning signs of poor alignment as well as what it can do to your car, you'll be better able to address the issue early. If you've been in an accident or you're seeing signs of alignment issues, call your mechanic right away or find one through a website like