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Align steering wheel: 6 warning signs to be aware of

Using your car creates wear over time — which is normal. The pressure and everyday driving change your vehicle’s wheels’ angles.

Just as you’d balance your tires and replace your windshield wipers (and other components), you also need to align your steering wheel — and all to prevent your vehicle from veering off course and even causing an accident.

The primary purpose of steering alignment is for the driver’s and passenger’s safety. But it’s also vital to ensure the car’s longevity. So it’s essential that you understand why you should align the steering wheel, plus the benefits of doing so, and the 6 warning signs that tell you it’s time to do it.

Person driving on a straight road while holding the steering wheel

Why it’s so important to align the steering wheel

Before you understand its importance, you should know what wheel steering alignment is: it’s when you adjust the wheels to parallel each other perpendicular to the ground.

Ignoring the need to do this causes mechanical problems in your car. So it’s time to focus on its benefits — that is, on how to avoid serious vehicle issues.

4 advantages of aligning the steering wheel

These benefits work as a precaution. Learn about the main ones.

1. Less tire wear

If the tires are misaligned, too much pressure creates wear on only one side of the car.

2. Less fuel consumption

When the steering wheel’s off center, there’s no longer such pressure on one side of the car, which improves consumption.

3. Driving ease

When you drive, you no longer feel the car deviate to one side of the lane, using less force on the wheel.

4. Increased component life

If there’s no longer too much pressure on the suspension, the components’ longevity — which was suffering from it — increases.

Close and careful maintenance avoids unnecessary expenses. To avoid reaching this point, you must identify the signs indicating you should align your steering as soon as possible.

Person turning the steering wheel of a car to change direction

Aligning the steering wheel: 6 signs to look out for

You should align your car’s steering wheel once a year or every 20,000 kilometers — we’re speaking of essential vehicle maintenance. If you don’t do it in time, these are the 6 signs to look out for.

1. Heavy steering

If you feel the steering wheel stiff when turning it, the steering isn’t aligned. This means too much pressure is exerted, creating more wear and tear on the suspension components.

2. Odd fuel consumption

When there’s an increase in fuel consumption — while maintaining the driving style — it’s a sign that something is not right. One of the indicators, besides flat tires, is a lack of steering alignment.

3. Drifting off course

Want to test if the steering wheel’s off center? Drive on a straight road at a controlled speed and carefully take your hands off the wheel. If the car veers off course, you should align the steering as soon as possible.

4. The car shakes when braking

Ensure the braking system is in perfect condition, and you don’t need to change the brake pads. You should schedule a steering wheel alignment if everything’s fine and the car still shakes when braking.

5. Too much weight in the car

If you drive with more than the recommended loads, extra pressure on the steering and suspension changes the steering alignment.

6. Car too close to the ground

If you modify your car contrary to the measures set by the car’s manufacturer — such as lowering the body — you could damage the steering alignment and put your safety at risk.

So if you’ve spotted any of these signs, visit the mechanic you trust to avoid accidents and unnecessary expenses.