A car on a balancer getting balanced.

Most car owners only consult the manual for when they discover a button they hadn’t noticed before, and need to know its function. Many car owners have the recommended interval for oil changes memorized. However, it is critical not to ignore other scheduled maintenance, and to understand why wheel alignment is essential.

What Is Wheel Alignment

Wheel alignment ensures that your car’s wheels are parallel to the other wheels and perfectly perpendicular to the ground. Rough driving, bumps, potholes, and the accumulation of mileage can knock or wiggle wheels out of alignment.

Proper alignment means that the wheel’s camber, toe, and caster are all correct. Pros are specially trained and certified to ensure that all three measurements are appropriate for your car, whether you drive on 2015 Toyota Corolla rims or wheels made for a big SUV.

The Effects of Misaligned Wheels

Poorly aligned wheels cause uneven wear on tires and can negatively affect steering. Bad alignment also affects gas mileage because poorly aligned wheels experience greater friction against the road surface—this causes the engine to work harder and consume more fuel. Driving on misaligned wheels causes the steering to feel wrong; the car may pull to one side or create excessive vibration. Misaligned wheels also wear on the car’s suspension.

What’s the Difference Between Alignment and Balancing

Alignment deals with the positioning of the wheel, whereas balancing involves the proper, balanced weight of each individual tire. Tires can go out of balance due to uneven wear, imperfections in the rubber, or even damaged wheels. Technicians will install tire weights to ensure that a tire is balanced on the wheel assembly. Alignment and balancing are often performed together, but they are two separate procedures. If damaged wheels are the problem, the wheel should be repaired or replaced.

So many parts of a car work together; this means that wear on certain parts affects many other parts. This is especially true of wheels, which affect suspension, brakes, differentials, and hubs; this illustrates just one of the many reasons why wheel alignment is essential.