Tires are some of the most important parts of a car. Up-to-date tires that receive regular maintenance can extend the lifetime of a vehicle and decrease the chance of an accident. A major part of ensuring your tires are in good condition is visiting your local auto repair shop regularly for vehicle maintenance and check-ups. Two of the essential tire services a mechanic can provide are rotating your tires and making sure they are properly aligned. Read on for more about the difference between tire alignment and tire rotation and why they are both important.
WHAT IS TIRE ALIGNMENT?
Tire alignment refers to an adjustment of a vehicle’s suspension, which is the system that connects the vehicle to its wheels. This adjustment is intended to make sure all of the tires are parallel to one another. Proper alignment ensures the angles of tires are adjusted to make optimal contact with the road. Alignment needs generally vary from car to car, so it is important to work with an auto repair technician in order to determine your vehicle’s specific needs.
When evaluating your car’s tire alignment, a mechanic will examine the following:
- Camber – Camber is the inward or outward angle of the tire. Too much tilt in either direction usually indicates improper alignment. Worn ball joints, bearings, or other wheel suspension parts can cause camber misalignment.
- Toe – Toe alignment is the extent to which your tires turn inward or outward.
- Caster – Caster is the angle of your steering axis when viewed from the side of the vehicle. It works to balance steering, stability, and cornering.
SIGNS THAT YOUR CAR NEEDS A TIRE ALIGNMENT
Oftentimes, you will notice some abnormalities in your car’s function when it’s time for a tire alignment, such as the following:
- Uneven Wear – Check your front and back tires to ensure the wear patterns are the same. If they appear uneven, you may be in need of a tire alignment.
- Sharp Pulling in One Direction – While this could be caused by underinflated tires, sharp pulling in a certain direction can indicate the need for an alignment.
- Crooked Steering Wheel – A crooked steering wheel might mean that your vehicle is misaligned, and your steering wheel is off-center.
- Steering Wheel Vibration – Often caused by unbalanced tires, steering wheel vibration can sometimes be a sign that you need a tire alignment. In this case, the vibration is caused by the tires pulling in opposite directions of one another.
WHAT IS TIRE ROTATION?
Tire rotation is a critical part of vehicle maintenance and health. The term tire rotation refers to the process of switching out the placement of your tires in order to maintain even tread and prolong their lifespans. An auto mechanic needs to routinely rotate the position of your tires on your vehicle. This may be front to back, left to right, diagonally, or otherwise.
Tire rotation should be a part of your regular car maintenance routine, much like having your oil changed. Tires tend to wear differently, especially based on location on the car. For example, front tires usually carry over 60% of a vehicle’s weight. Accordingly, they tend tow ear down faster than rear tires. Rotating their positions will prevent certain tires from wearing out faster than other and preserve them overall, promoting a longer lifespan.
SIGNS THAT YOUR CAR NEEDS A TIRE ROTATION
Every car is different, but generally, it is good to have your tires rotated every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. However, if you notice any of the symptoms listed below, you should consult with an auto mechanic as soon as possible.
- Tread Wear Abnormalities – Front tires tend to wear down more rapidly than back tires. When front tires show more wear than rear tires, it is most likely time to rotate them.
- Vehicle Vibrations – Vibration is often a sign that your tires may be wearing unevenly. If you notice unusual shaking while driving, it is best to take your car to an auto repair shop for a tire rotation.
- Air Pressure Loss – If one of your tires is losing air pressure quickly for no obvious reason, it could indicate uneven wear. The tire losing pressure is not necessarily the one that has uneven wear in this case, so all of them need to be checked.
COMMON SIGNS OF TIRE ALIGNMENT ISSUES
If you begin noticing symptoms of tire alignment issues, it is critical that you take your car to an auto repair garage as soon as possible. Some common signs that your tires need alignment services include:
- Poor Fuel Economy – The harder your car needs to work to maintain speed, the more fuel you are wasting. Proper wheel alignment has an impact on overall fuel economy and vehicle performance.
- Steering Issues – When wheels become misaligned, it is likely that they are not facing the right directions for optimal handling. The more misaligned the tires become, the less reliable your steering will become. This can be very dangerous, especially for those driving on narrow streets or in inclement weather.
PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH FAILING TO ROTATE TIRES
Without regular tire rotations, tire treads will wear down unevenly. This can create a rough and unstable driving surface. Ultimately, this tread wear will decrease your safety and cause major risks while operating the vehicle, including the following:
- Punctures and Blowouts – If you do not have your tires rotated by a local auto mechanic regularly, the areas on your tires that are experiencing excessive strain may begin to wear thin. The thinner the tire material gets, the higher the chance that a nail or other debris could puncture the tire.
- Hydroplaning – The grooves in healthy tread are meant to help channel water away from the driving surface. This helps the tire maintain a strong grip on the road. Without appropriate tread depth, tires may slide across the top of the water. This can be extremely risky and may compromise steering, handling, and control.
- Heat Buildup – When your car is operating, the friction between the road and tires generates heat. Tires are designed to withstand heat, but without space for cooling airflow created by treads, temperatures can reach unsafe levels quickly. Too much heat can cause tread separation and blowouts.
- Poor Traction – Snow tires are designed to improve traction by gripping packed snow. Driving in wet, wintery conditions with insufficient tread depth can increase the risk of spinning out or sliding.
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