Have you been told that your vehicle should get a wheel alignment, but you're not sure if it is necessary? If so, it will help to know the common signs that a wheel alignment can benefit your vehicle.
Uneven Tread Wear
When a vehicle's wheels are properly aligned, it is going to result in the tire tread wearing down evenly across all four tires. You should be concerned if you notice an uneven tread pattern, especially when one tire has more tread on one side than the other. This is clearly due to wheels that are not aligned, and the problem is not going to fix itself. The next set of tires you get are going to wear down the exact same way if you don't get a wheel alignment to fix it.
A good test is to find a road that is very flat and empty. Then, drive your car down the road and take your hands off the steering wheel momentarily. Does the car drift to one side when you are not controlling the steering wheel? This is due to the wheels not being in proper alignment. If the wheels are not straight, the vehicle is naturally going to pull to one side or the other.
Vibrations and Noises
Do you feel vibrations through the steering wheel? This is not normal, as the vibrations are caused by the wheels wanting to pull the vehicle in different directions. Imagine that the two front wheels are shifted slightly so that the front end is pointed toward the side. The vehicle may not drift, but it is going to vibrate because it physically cannot go in two directions at once.
In addition, that vibration is going to cause the car to be noisy. If you do not notice it as it gradually gets worse, someone that is in your car for the first time may notice that they hear an odd sound that you have not picked up on. Unless you hit a pothole and cause the misalignment to happen suddenly, these issues will gradually get worse.
Steering Wheel Issues
Pay attention to the position of the steering wheel when you are driving straight. The car should have the steering wheel centered to align with the directions of the wheels. It is a reason to be concerned if driving straight means that the steering wheel needs to be slightly turned to the left or the right.