What Causes A Car To Go Out Of Alignment?


Your vehicle’s alignment keeps it going down the road in a straight line. Improper alignment can cause several issues, from uneven tire wear to premature failure of suspension components. This can cost you hundreds of dollars in repair bills and replacement parts if you’re not careful.

If you’ve asked yourself, “What causes a car to go out of alignment?” you’re not alone.

There are many reasons a car might go out of alignment, including basic use of the vehicle to improper installation of several different components.

Tracking down the source of your car’s alignment issue can be tedious, but it’s a great way to prevent further issues if you find it quickly enough.

The first step to complete before looking further into your alignment is to have one done. You can have a tire or suspension shop look at your car’s alignment to ensure it needs an adjustment.

Sometimes that’s all the car needs to keep going down the road in a straight line. However, if the mechanics find you need an alignment, there could be more going on than you thought.

Normal wear and tear

As vehicles age and the components that keep them moving forward deteriorate, features like alignment tend to bear the weight of failures.

Rather than having components that are new, supple, and restricting, old components tend to grind, crack, and bend where they’re not supposed to.

Most drivers experience the wear and tear of their vehicles as the mileage continues to build. Most suspension components should last at least until you get to about 100,000 miles, depending on where and how you drive.

If you are purchasing a used car, check out the suspension before you purchase the vehicle to determine if the alignment will be an issue or not down the road.

Hitting a pothole or curb

Life comes with a few bumps in the road. If your car hits a few minor bumps here and there, the potholes are not likely to affect your vehicle’s suspension. In fact, those bumps are more of a test of your suspension to ensure it’s working properly. It’s hard to imagine that with how annoying those potholes can be, but it’s true.

However, if you hit a pothole or curb at speed, you can potentially throw off the vehicle’s entire alignment.

Most normal forces acting on the suspension come from below, but deep potholes can trap some components while others flex and squish. This lack of certain movement can stress components to the point where they fail.

Curbs are a direct side force that can do a number on your suspension components. If you hit a curb, for example, during the winter, it’s best to have your vehicle’s alignment looked at before too long.

Collision or accident

Most collisions or accidents have several components of damage involved, from potential personal injury to lingering suspension issues. If you were recently involved in an accident, your vehicle may need to undergo inspection for alignment issues. These issues can arise from almost any type of collision or accident, no matter the speed.

The good news is that most automotive body and repair shops check the alignment of your vehicle before they release it to you.

Should you need an alignment as part of the repair, they typically follow the instructions of the insurance company, whether you or the other driver are at fault.

Worn or damaged parts

Even if your car doesn’t go out of alignment after hitting a particularly deep pothole, it can do damage to suspension components beneath your vehicle.

Enough of these bumps can cause worn or damaged parts to finally break and give way. In most cases, you’ll see some sort of component drop from underneath the car or feel a shift in how the car’s sitting.

As are likely self-explanatory, most worn or damaged parts just need a new replacement. However, you should check the components surrounding the failure to ensure that there’s not something else going on. If you can catch the real issue before you break more components, you could save a lot of money.

Uneven tire wear

Uneven rubber all the way around can greatly affect your vehicle’s alignment. There are many reasons you could have uneven tire wear, from improperly replacing tires in the right way to failure to rotate them routinely.

Tire wear depends on your vehicle’s configuration, namely which wheels do the pushing or pulling. Front- and rear-wheel drive cars will wear tires down differently than all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles. That’s why the tire rotation process differs among these various drive types.

Should you get a flat tire and need a new one, it’s best to replace at least one more tire to make a pair. This helps your vehicle to wear down those new tires at a consistent, equal rate so that you’re not faced with an alignment cost on top of new tires.

Even if you get new tires and align them properly on the car, your alignment can still suffer if you don’t rotate the tires correctly and in the right order. Mix up the order of rotation and you could be wearing down those treads unevenly and prematurely.

Improper installation

Installing anything improperly on your vehicle is certain to cause issues. Your car’s suspension is no exception.

If you find that you think a suspension component or something beneath the vehicle hasn’t been installed properly, it’s best to go back to the source and have the experts who installed those components take a second look.

If you installed those parts yourself, however, it might be time to take another look at a YouTube video or call in the experts. Troubleshooting your issue now could save you hundreds down the road in repairs, replacement costs, and ego. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to learn something new and make the best of a bad situation.

Modifications or upgrades

Some automotive aftermarket companies make a living from suspension components you can bolt onto your stock vehicle. These modifications and upgrades can help you achieve the stance you’re looking for, but they can also create issues with your alignment.

One of the more popular modifications is to purchase new tires and wheels that you can then camber out at an odd angle to gain attention. While these stances certainly make an impression, they can leave your suspension components and alignment suffering.

Before you make any kind of upgrade or modification to your suspension components, it can be best to consult with a mechanic. They should be able to tell you if you’re tempting fate or won’t face any suspension/alignment issues.

Overdue re-alignment

It’s often recommended that you check your car’s alignment every year or every time you put new tires on it. This can help to ensure you’re getting the most out of your new tires and prevent any further issues if your alignment needs readjusting.

Many people remember to rotate their tires or check their vehicle’s alignment with every oil change, depending on how often their cars need that maintenance interval.

If anything, you should have your car’s alignment checked frequently. Don’t wait until the last second to worry about aligning your vehicle if you’re experiencing issues. The longer you wait, the more damage you could be doing to the other suspension components responsible for keeping your vehicle light on its feet.

Zooming over speed bumps

There’s a lot of temptation that faces you when you meet a speed bump head-on. While it can be incredibly thrilling to jump a speed bump, it’s the landing that will cost you money. That is, as long as you can clear the jump first.

If you zoom over speed bumps, you can be sure that something in your suspension or undercarriage will contact the ground at some point. While this can be a harmless scrape down the length of the car beneath it, other times the damage can be much more serious. Suspension components can bottom out, including shafts that poke through the hood after bottoming out from a jump.

The amount of damage you can do by zooming over speed bumps is ridiculous. You could end up with an entirely new suspension (and the bill) because you jumped a single bump. Think about the consequences before you zoom over speed bumps because it’ll be your ride that pays the price.