ATC Blog

How to Diagnose Car Alignment Issues: Tips for Drivers from Technicians

caralignmentThink your car may have an issue with its alignment? Automotive Training Center’s (ATC) technicians and students put together a list of telltale signs that your vehicle is out of alignment. Get a closer look at what to watch out for below.

Road Test Symptoms

If you think your car may have an alignment issue, it’s likely because you noticed its drive feel and overall handling have changed. Driving on a flat surface when the road is dry with an alignment problem, you may notice:

  • The car pull to one side or the other
  • A squealing noise when making slow turns
  • A steering wheel that’s set off-center
  • Vibrating in the car or steering wheel

Uneven Tire Wear

tirepressureBecause your car’s alignment dictates the specific angles at which its wheels meet the road, uneven tire tread patterns are often seen in a vehicle with an alignment issue. For example, worn or loose wheel bearings can cause a tire to lean in or out, evident in more wear to the inside or outside of the affected tires.

Keeping tires filled to their proper cold pressure levels and ensuring that the correct tire size and type is used for your vehicle will help your steer clear of alignment problems later on.

Know When to Get Your Alignment Checked

Although different manufacturers may call for alignment checks more or less often, it’s important that owners have their car alignment checked by a trained technician at least once a year.

Many service centers evaluate the suspension and alignment when tires are rotated. Make sure that you have your alignment checked when you buy new tires so they don’t wear unevenly from the start.

How Auto Technicians Assess Vehicle Alignment

A trained auto technician listens carefully to the customer’s report of what they’ve seen and heard while in the driver’s seat and from there uses a piece of machinery called a four-wheel alignment system to test the vehicle’s current performance.

A four-wheel alignment system is made up of a large platform rack and corresponding diagnostic equipment. To test the vehicle’s alignment, the vehicle is driven onto the alignment rack and secured to the platform. After conducting a visual inspection of the vehicle’s tires, suspension, and steering components, it’s time to “drive” the vehicle on the testing platform.

During its test run, the four-wheel alignment system records exact measurements of the angles of the wheels and tires and places them side by side with the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper alignment. Based on this information, the technician moves forward by making adjustments one by one to realign the vehicle.

Learn More About How Auto Shops Operate

The inspections and replacements that auto technicians make during routine service visits ensure that your vehicle performs its best. If you’re interested in learning more about how auto technicians handle routine maintenance procedures such as oil changes, tire rotations, and more, check out ATC’s free technician’s guide to routine maintenance for an inside look!
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