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Do I need an Alignment?


Do you find your steering wheel doesn’t track as straight as it used to? Is there a wobble or shimmy at highway speeds you don’t remember experiencing in the past? Or maybe you find yourself adjusting the steering wheel a little too much for your own liking while commuting?

While your problem could be as simple as your wheels coming out of balance, these are all signs that you may need an alignment. An alignment is a regular maintenance procedure on all cars and trucks, and it’s important to keep up to date with them to ensure the safest driving experience.

1. Balancing vs. Alignment

Wheels need to be rebalanced periodically as your tires wear. Wheels that are out of balance sometimes feel like an alignment issue. Balancing wheels is easy and inexpensive, so it’s one of the first things you should do if you notice a change in your car or truck’s handling. If balancing the wheels makes the problem go away, that’s a good thing. You can wait a little while longer before having an alignment performed.

If the problem persists after having your wheels rebalanced, it’s time to take a closer look at the rest of your ride’s chassis. You may also need replacement suspension components before it’s even possible to have the alignment procedure performed.

2. Sudden Impacts

Although an accident is guaranteed to throw your car’s chassis out of alignment, lesser impacts may damage suspension components as well.

When suspension components become damaged, your chassis may become misaligned. Unfortunately, the damaged suspension components will need to be replaced before the alignment procedure can be performed.

3. Worn Out Parts

Suspension components wear out and sometimes break down completely under normal operating conditions. These suspension parts that eventually need to be replaced include:
Automotive technicians often look for wear on these parts whenever they can, such as when your car is up on the lift for other work. They do this in hopes of noticing worn out parts before they turn into broken parts that cause bigger issues.

Before performing an alignment, your Pep Boys technician will visually inspect and test your car’s suspension components to ensure that the chassis is ready to be aligned. If you try to align a chassis with worn out components, the chassis will come out of alignment the second the car or truck is driven down the road.

4. Check Your Chassis Out

You can check your own suspension components if you have a jack, jack stands, a lug wrench to remove the lug nuts, and a long pry bar. Once you have your car or truck in the air and supported by jack stands, remove the wheels and use the pry bar to check for movement in the suspension.

To check your ball joints, fit the pry bar between the ball joint and the control arm. You shouldn’t feel any wobbling at all. If there’s any movement in the ball joints, tie rod ends, or control arm bushings, those components will need to be replaced before an alignment can be performed.

Taking Your Car or Truck In For an Alignment

Many drivers are surprised to find out that they need more than just an alignment. If you suspect your car or truck needs an alignment, you should also plan to have some of your suspension components replaced as well. That way there won’t be any surprises when you bring it in to have the work performed.

You can get full-service alignment and chassis services at your local Pep Boys. If your car or truck has started handling out of the ordinary, bring it down to it to your local Pep Boys to get it checked out before a small problem becomes a much bigger one.