If you perform a lot of commuting and cover many miles each day, your automobile may eventually need realignment. You can test the timing for realignment by driving slowly, such as a roll-up to a stop sign, and slightly easing your grip on the steering wheel. If the car seems to instinctively pull one direction or another, then realignment may be in order. You may also note this tendency when making a turn, and the car wants to go strongly in a certain direction as you pull the wheel. Other things to note while driving include knocking sounds from the vehicle. Turn off the radio and listen for any noises as you roll along. If there is a clattering or knocking noise, there may be a bolt loose in the undercarriage.
Alignment work will include inspection of items related to the issue. This could include a review of struts bearings and ball joints, bushings and sway bar links. Catching issues early on can help save you costly repairs down the road, as suspension or alignment problems can become complex if left in disrepair. Simple issues such driving through road construction zones day after day may actually lead to problems with suspension. These rough roads, where paving has been stripped, can put excessive strain on shocks and struts. Over time, even bolts near the tires may rattle loose. If you have not had your car examined lately, then even simple rumble strips on the side of the road might lead to problems with a car that needs work.
Things that a mechanic may look for is leaky or cracked shocks, amount of unnecessary vehicle motion such as bouncing or swaying, and tire wear that is not even. The tire issue, in particular, can mean that shocks and struts need replacement. Excessive bounce experienced in a vehicle can affect overall control of the car, comfort during riding, and even ability to brake in a timely manner.
Over time, a bounce that starts out subtle can grow worse, so it is best to get the automobile inspected for quick repairs. One quick way to occasionally test the shocks is to park the car, then go around to one side and lean on it. Step away, and if the car bounces more than once, the shocks or struts may need to be examined.
Another instance when you may want to have the undercarriage and alignment examined is after an accident. When a car is damaged, you may be focused on having the physical damage repaired. Remember that when a car is hit, the vehicle's alignment also absorbs the impact. Momentum from the crash can bend metal on the underside that you may not see, which might cause suspension and alignment issues. This problem eventually can lead to hidden wear and tear or obvious issues such as knocking or rattling noises within the nuts and bolts. A mechanic trained to spot alignment issues after an accident can ensure adequate repairs. It is important not to overlook this aspect when going for repairs after an accident.
You also may choose to have a used vehicle inspected if you are considering buying it. A full-vehicle inspection can be worthwhile to see whether there is any damage or issues, or even possibly whether the car has been in an accident. An inspection can alert you to any damage or previous repairs that may have been made. This type of knowledge is something you would want to know before buying the vehicle, and could become information for negotiating a purchase price. On the other hand, you may decide to walk away from the car and not buy based on inspection information.
Most cars are designed to withstand the rigors of the road and provide you with many years of good performance. As the miles add up on an automobile's odometer, though, it can soon be time to have your car suspension inspected. Do not neglect this important part of auto maintenance. Regular checkups can ensure that you enjoy a smooth ride and that the parts are all in good working order. This attention to detail not only can add life to the tires, but may extend the years of service from a vehicle.