Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

5 Signs Your Car Needs An Alignment

Front corner of car

With all the advances in vehicle technology and performance, it can be difficult to keep up with all the required maintenance and repairs. Proper wheel alignment is one of the most important criterion to keeping your car driving safely and happily. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most overlooked. Many people deal with the signs and symptoms of poor wheel alignment, often unaware that it’s an easy fix. Here are five common signs your vehicle is in need of an alignment.

1. Your steering wheel is not centered

Hands on steering wheel

If you’re driving straight down a flat, level road, your steering wheel should be sitting close to perfectly straight. There’s usually a small amount of discrepancy allowed depending on the crown of the road, but overall the wheel should be sitting centered and straight, and your vehicle emblem in the center of the steering wheel should appear level to you. If the wheel is off center by more than a few degrees in either direction, it’s time to have an alignment performed. This will return your steering wheel to center, and may improve the overall drivability as well.

2. Your vehicle pulls to one side or the other

Similar to the first point, vehicle pull is most easily noticed while driving straight down a level road. There is a common misconception that the vehicle should drive perfectly straight with your hands off the steering wheel. In a perfect world, this would be true, but in reality this isn’t the case because all roads have some degree of crowning which causes a slight pull to one side. Completely removing your hands from the steering wheel is also very dangerous. Instead, the vehicle should drive straight ahead with very little effort on the steering wheel. If your car pulls to one side or the other, it’s time to have your alignment checked and corrected, which usually corrects the vehicle pull and improves overall drivability.

3. You notice abnormal tire wear in certain spots

Tire wear chart

Tire wear patterns can provide a lot of useful information about the condition of a car. A qualified technician can use tire wear patterns to make educated guesses about tire pressures, suspension condition, and alignment problems. Wear on only the inside or outside edges of tires can indicate a problem with the camber adjustment. Feathering or scalloping of the tires often indicates a problem with the toe adjustment. Tire wear is most often noticed by a mechanic while performing a tire rotation or an inspection performed during a service. Proper alignment greatly increases the life of your tires, so if you have any abnormal tire wear patterns, you should have an alignment performed on your vehicle.

4. The handling feels loose when driving

Car driving

If the steering in your car feels a little loose or unstable, one of the possible causes is poor wheel alignment. This can be felt as wandering across the road when driving, or the car may feel very loose and sloppy around corners. If you notice symptoms like this, you should have the alignment checked and corrected if necessary.

5. Your steering wheel doesn’t return to center

Both hands on steering wheel

After completing a turn, the steering wheel should naturally start to return to center on it’s own as you keep driving. Of course you need to keep your hands on the wheel to help it achieve this quicker and keep control of the car, but if your steering wheel doesn’t even attempt to move itself back to center, then it’s a good indication that your alignment is off. Have an alignment check done, and a full alignment performed if necessary.

Incorrect wheel alignment can create a host of drivability and premature wear problems, so it’s best to get the vehicle inspected as soon as it’s noticed. Even if it’s not a safety issue for your vehicle, the money saved by not prematurely wearing your tires will often exceed the cost of the alignment itself. Any time the alignment is checked, all the steering and suspension components should be checked as well, since worn components are a common cause of alignment going out of specification. After having the suspension checked and an alignment performed, you will likely be pleasantly surprised by how nice the car drives.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


Post a question and get free advice from our certified mechanics.


More related articles

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Flexible Clutch Hose
Common signs include difficulty shifting, low clutch fluid, and feeling no resistance at the clutch pedal.
P0052 OBD-II Trouble Code: HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1)
P0052 code definition HO2S Heater Control Circuit High (Bank 2 Sensor 1) What the P0052 code means This code is seen when the Engine Control Module (ECM) tries to control the...
P0240 OBD-II Trouble Code: Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance
P0240 code definition Turbocharger Boost Sensor B Circuit Range/Performance What the P0240 code means P0240 is an OBD-II generic code triggered when the Engine Control Module (ECM) detects the intake boost...

Related questions

Q: Car uneven

This comes up quite often on this vehicle. Most of the time it is caused by a bad front air spring. Over time the air springs rust out because they are made of rubber. Once the rubber cracks the air...

Q: Tires are wearing out from the inside

If you are under factory warranty then you may be able to have the dealer correct the problem for you. The camber is too negative and will need an alignment. If a camber kit is needed then the dealer may...

Q: What kind of maintenance should I perform on the battery?

Proper battery maintenance will ensure long battery life. A functioning battery is necessary to keep your vehicle running. But batteries can also be dangerous. Whenever you perform battery maintenance, make sure you take all of the necessary safety precautions. To...