As the tires are the only parts of a car that touch the road and thus support the load directly, they play a crucial role in the overall functioning of the vehicle. One of the most important factors in this regard is tire alignment – the tires must be perfectly straight.
Misalignment of the tires can lead to various problems for the car, besides drastically reducing the lifespan of the tires.
Poorly aligned tires will last nowhere as close as their expected lifespan, as they suffer heavy wear and tear. If your car has a misaligned tire and you do not get it fixed, you may have to replace it sooner than expected.
How long will tires last with bad alignment?
Depending on the condition of the tire, it might last anywhere between a few hundred and a few thousand miles if the alignment is bad.
Bad alignment can cause a great deal of wear and tear to car tires. This is because a poorly aligned tire scrapes against the surface of the road, as it doesn’t rotate perfectly straight.
Especially if there is a problem with camber alignment, i.e., the tilt of the tire, the edge bearing extra stress wears out very fast.
It is impossible to quote an exact estimate of how long a misaligned tire will last, as it depends on the condition of the tire before it got a bad alignment. However, we will use a couple of examples to give you an idea.
A new tire usually has an expected lifespan of 60,000 to 100,000 miles, provided that you take proper care of them and keep them aligned.
However, if you keep them in bad alignment, you may be able to drive on them only for a few thousand miles. In poor alignment, old tires can become unusable after just a few hundred miles of use.
As you might have realized by now, the effect of misalignment on tires is quite extreme. Even if you buy one of the best tires on the market, it will last only a fraction of its expected lifespan unless you align it properly.
Is it safe to drive with a bad alignment?
Driving with bad tire alignment is very unsafe, and can give rise to various hazards. Besides the damage suffered by the misaligned tires, this is another reason to get your tire alignment fixed immediately. Dangers that may arise from poor alignment of the tires include:
1. The car veers to a side
This is also a major warning sign that at least one of your tires isn’t in the right alignment. When a tire faces a different direction compared to the rest, it will keep making your car veer to a side.
This is because a misaligned tire will naturally drag the car in the direction it’s facing. This can prove a major safety hazard on busy roads, as your car may hit another vehicle by veering away from its path while you try to drive straight.
2. Steering wheel vibration
Besides making your vehicle veer to a side, misaligned tires will also make it harder to control by causing steering wheel vibration. A heavily vibrating steering wheel can disrupt your control over the car and make it hard to steer in the desired direction.
This too is very unsafe and can potentially result in an accident. The steering wheel might also be slow to respond while making turns if the tire alignment isn’t right.
3. Tire blowout
When poor alignment causes a specific area of your tire to wear out, it creates weak spots. This makes the tire highly prone to a blowout, as the air inside can rip a hole in the rubber once it becomes too thin. Even hitting a pothole with the worn-out area of the tire can cause it to blow out instantly.
4. Lack of grip
The increased wear and tear from misalignment will make your tires lose a lot of treads. If you don’t get it fixed, eventually the areas of the tire facing the highest stress will barely have any tread left.
As these areas are in contact with the road surface and are supporting your vehicle’s load, this will make your car lose traction. Especially when driving in less-than-ideal conditions, it can result in very poor handling and cause your car to skid.
5. Damaging other components
As misaligned tires prevent your car from running smoothly, they can damage various other components over time too. This is because the poor alignment causes a great deal of vibration, causing parts such as the suspension, steering wheel, and braking system to wear out. Eventually, this can result in expensive repairs for the damaged components.
Hence, you should certainly avoid driving on poorly aligned tires. Not only are they harmful to your vehicle, but they might also endanger your life.
Does bad alignment ruin tires?
Individuals often underestimate how much damage their tires can suffer due to poor alignment. Not your tires properly can wreak havoc on them. Depending on the extent of damage caused before you fix the alignment, it may even be beyond repair. Misalignment can damage your tires primarily in the following ways:
- If the issue is toe alignment (the tire’s direction facing), the tire doesn’t suffer friction in the same direction as the tread. The abnormal friction creates more rolling resistance for the misaligned tire, thus causing its tread to wear out.
- A problem with your tire’s camber alignment (the tire’s tilt angle) will usually result in uneven tread wear, with one edge of the tire wearing out very fast. This is because the wrong tilt angle will force one part of the tire to bear most of the load, rather than distributing the weight uniformly.
- Uneven tread and load distribution put significantly higher stress on the tires than usual. This can cause significant damage to the tire and may result in tire scalloping.
What happens if your tires are out of alignment?
Knowing the signs of poor tire alignment is crucial in identifying and fixing an alignment issue immediately. Thankfully, misaligned tires have several signs that should prompt you to check their alignment. Key symptoms of bad tire alignment are:
1. Uneven tread
Inspecting your tire tread once in a while is always a smart choice. The uneven tread is a major problem and may indicate a variety of underlying issues, including poor tire alignment. As described previously, driving with a badly aligned tire will cause one part of the tread to wear out faster. It doesn’t take long to check out the condition of your treads, and you can do it yourself.
2. Squealing sounds
Misaligned tires often squeal loudly while braking or when taking sharp turns. This is due to the high friction they face due to their poor alignment and the lack of adequate tread. If your tires keep making squealing noises, you should take it as a warning sign and get the alignment checked.
3. Vibrating steering wheel
Your steering wheel may vibrate for various reasons, and a misaligned tire is one of them. Bad tire alignment can make it significantly harder to steer your car, by causing the steering wheel to vibrate strongly.
In case you notice such steering wheel vibration and can’t see any other potential reasons behind it, we strongly suggest checking if the issue is due to misaligned tires.
4. Loose or tight steering wheel
Besides vibrating, the steering wheel may also feel unusually loose or heavy to turn. This is often a result of a problem with the caster alignment of the tires.
You may also notice delays in the time it takes for the car to respond when you turn the steering wheel. As it poses a major safety hazard, you should consider getting the alignment fixed immediately. Another sign of misaligned tires is an uneven steering wheel, i.e., when the emblem is off-center.
5. Difficulties in driving straight
As we pointed out earlier, one of the key problems caused by a misaligned tire is that it would keep causing your car to veer to a side. You will face difficulty driving straight and must be extremely attentive. Crossing to a different lane might be particularly difficult depending on how bad the misalignment is.
What are the Causes of Bad Alignment in a car?
Even if you got the alignment checked when installing the tires and it was fine at that time, you may end up with misaligned tires later on. Well, bad tire alignment can be a result of various factors, such as:
Driving over potholes at high speeds can damage your car in multiple ways, including misaligning the wheels or the tire. After all, it is the tires that are directly striking the hard edges of the potholes. The impact of hitting a pothole can easily mess up the wheel alignment. The same problem can also arise from hitting speed bumps or curbs at high speeds.
2. Worn-out suspension
While misaligned tires can damage your car’s suspension, it works both ways. A poor suspension can change the alignment of the wheels too. As the suspension remains connected to the wheels, worn-out shocks and struts can have a side effect on them. Caster alignment issues are often a result of the poor suspension.
3. Minor collisions
Often, minor fender benders and collisions cause damages that aren’t easy to notice. Misaligned tires are one of them. In the event of a collision, the impact can force the wheel or the tire off its usual position.
Modifying your vehicle can also mess up the tire alignment in the long run, in case you disturb the suspension by changing the vehicle’s shape.
Should you check alignment while changing tires?
It is a great idea to check the alignment while you’re changing tires. Not only is this very convenient and time-saving, but it will also help you ensure that the new tires won’t start wearing out fast due to poor alignment.
Dangers of driving with bad alignment
Driving on tires with faulty alignment can lead to the following dangers:
- Skidding due to worn-out tread
- Difficulties in steering the car
- Veering to a side while driving
- Damage to different components
If you ever realize your car has a bad tire alignment, you shouldn’t delay fixing it. Not getting the tired aligned immediately is a huge mistake, if you consider the issues it can lead to. While you should get your wheels aligned at least every two to three years, it is convenient enough to check the alignment while rotating the tires too.