Wheel alignment issues: What causes misalignment?
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Do you find your car pulling to the left or right on a straight road? If so, your wheel alignment is off. Here are some of the causes.

Category: Car Maintenance Advice

You're happily cruising along on a straight road and listening to your favourite tunes, when you suddenly notice that your car is pulling to one side.

Perhaps it's just the road, you think. So, you make a steering correction and think nothing more of it.

But then, no matter how straight and flat the road is, your car keeps drifting to that particular side and the next thing you know, the steering wheel has to be at an angle to keep the car pointed straight.

That is a sure sign that your wheel alignment is off and you need to head to your workshop to get it fixed.

Here are five factors that could have led to this issue.

1. Repeated kerb strikes

These kerbs are the bane of drivers - not even an SUV with large wheels like this one would escape damage if contact were to occur
Mounting a kerb during your driving test results in immediate failure. But what the driving instructors may not have mentioned is that doing this also throws your wheel alignment off.

To be specific, striking kerbs causes the tie rod arm, which maintains front wheel alignment, to become bent. Sending your car for re-alignment can fix this - unless the bending is too severe.

Sometimes, even the if the tie rods are not bent, the adjustments can 'run'. If this happens, another realignment becomes necessary.

Obviously, mounting a kerb at higher speeds can lead to worse issues. Your car's suspension strut or lower arm could also become distorted. These components will then have to be replaced.

2. Driving through potholes

These may look like mere puddles, but they sometimes hide a deeper and potentially more damaging pothole
Potholes don't just upset the ride - they can eventually cause your wheels to become misaligned.

Like hitting kerbs, driving through potholes causes unnecessary wear on the suspension components, and yes, can lead to the tie rod arm bending.

Larger and/or deeper potholes will only make the problem worse. If you drive through an especially bad one, it could even damage your wheels or tyres. At worse, you may even end up with a puncture.

It pays to drive slower and watch for other cars taking evasive action or suddenly bouncing.

3. Fitting a spare or new tyre

Getting a replacement tyre that's the same brand, model and size as the ones on your vehicle is a good move, but the 'different' wear pattern could lead to the wheel alignment being off
If you've recently replaced a flat tyre with the spare one, or bought a used tyre of the same brand as the other three on your car, your wheel alignment could be thrown off as well.

Most car owners had their wheel alignment last checked and adjusted when they replaced their tyres. So, the alignment is now 'correct' for the current set of tyres.

Replacing one of the tyres with a new one can put the alignment off. The reason is that the wear pattern for that tyre in question is 'different' because it hasn't been running with the other three.

If the self-steering or pulling isn't too bad, you can wait till you change all the tyres again before getting your wheel alignment sorted.

4. Worn suspension and steering components

Constantly driving over speed bumps with reckless abandon will cause premature suspension wear and eventually, misaligned wheels
Misaligned wheels can also be caused by worn suspension and steering components.

Weakened springs, for instance, can lead to incorrect camber, while worn ball joints, which help connect the steering knuckles to the control arms, can both result in misaligned wheels.

Worn or deformed bushings are also the cause of wheel alignment being off. So, older or high-mileage cars can be prone to this.

5. Incorrect tyre pressures

Correctly inflated tyres also enable a car to perform at its best with regard to power transfer, grip and, more importantly, braking
If one tyre's pressure is lower than the rest, it will cause the car to pull to that side, especially if it's a front tyre. Those who have driven with a flat tyre will know the feeling.

Low air pressure itself won't immediately cause a mechanical misalignment. However, if left unchecked, the imbalance can eventually lead to increased wear on suspension components, which are not designed to function in this manner.

That would then result in a mechanical misalignment. So, apart from providing safety and helping lower you fuel consumption, properly inflated tyres keep your wheel alignment in check as well.

Want to learn more about car maintenance? Check out these stories

Wheel alignment - why it’s the best $50 you can spend on your car

Wobbling wheels - what's causing them?

Need to get your wheels aligned? Here’s a list of services

What happens behind the scenes when you service your car?

Keep these parts maintained to avoid breakdowns

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