Did you know that an alignment is recommended every year for general maintenance? There are some repairs that require alignments, such as tie rod or strut/shock replacement, and it’s also done when a car has hit a curb or been in a collision. Most often, alignments are performed when a new set of tires is put on.

While it’s intuitive to have an alignment done at these times, we forget that normal wear and tear of components, as well as every day driving, will cause our car to be out of alignment. Your car handles a lot of stress while on the roadthink of the different types of driving conditions that we put them through. Poor alignment affects braking, cornering, handling, and tires (to name a few). It’ll also increase your fuel consumption.

During alignments, the angles that we adjust are usually out within a fraction of few degrees. Dust off your old high school protractoryou can see that one or two degrees is not a big difference from zero. It’s also very difficult to visually see those few degrees of variation on our car. I certainly can’t visually tell if a tire is skewed by one degree. The only way to know for certain is to use the alignment machine, which can detect even the slightest discrepancy. By the way, one degree is a lot of variation for a car.

So, what’s the big deal? It’s only a few degrees, right? As my lead tech would explain, imagine trying to go down a ski hill straight, with your skiis pointed outwards or inwards, even just a bit. How much strain would be put on your ankles, knees, etc? In terms of your car, you may not feel anything different, but components will wear prematurely, because the car is out of alignment.

A yearly alignment isn’t a hard and fast rule, but is recommended as part of your car’s optimal preventative maintenance service. There’s still more to covernext post is about the different types of alignments offered, and their cost.

Image via Hunter Engineering Company.