When you invest in a new vehicle, a significant amount of your money goes out each month to keep it in good running condition. You change the oil regularly. You put new tires on periodically. You know that by doing a little maintenance work throughout the years, your vehicle will provide you with a reliable ride indefinitely.
Yet sometimes it can be difficult deciding what’s important, and what isn’t. Is a maintenance item more cosmetic by nature? Or should it be handled quickly to reduce the chances of a bigger problem arising in the future? That may be especially true this year, if you’re trying to find places to curb spending. Why not put off that maintenance task, or ignore the feeling you have that something isn’t quite right? If you do, you might end up with a bigger problem down the road.
Let’s talk about two major systems that are vital to how your car operates. Even if money is tight, regular wheel alignment and brake inspections will give you peace of mind that your vehicle will keep you and your family safe as you drive.
Is wheel alignment really necessary?
Let’s start with what a wheel alignment does for your car. When you get behind the wheel and drive down the street, you expect your vehicle to stay on track and drive straight with minimal effort. Your wheels were designed that way.
But driving can be hard on an alignment. Every pothole you hit, every sharp turn you make, every mile you drive has the potential to damage your wheels. It rarely is impacted all at once (although it can happen that quickly). Instead, it occurs over time, depending on the way you drive your car.
Sometimes you can see it, feel it. Take your hands off the wheel for a moment; does your car pull left or right? That’s a sure sign you’re in need of a wheel alignment. However, misaligned wheels aren’t always noticeable. In some cases, your vehicle can seemingly be going straight, but a misalignment can be affecting the accuracy of your vehicle’s response system. And that can be dangerous at best.
Misaligned wheels impact tire wear. Tires can wear out faster. Your fuel economy will suffer. And you may wind up in harm’s way as your vehicle takes longer to respond to the actions you make.
Can wheel alignment affect braking?
When you drive, you rely on your tires to turn you in the direction you choose to go. Sometimes it’s a split decision to move right or left, to avoid things in your lane. Without that ability, it puts you and your passengers at risk.
If your wheels aren’t able to turn and move quickly, it can also impact your braking. The brake pads might not be applied to the wheels at the same force, causing your car to spin out of control.
Your car has brakes on all four wheels. Each brake is operated by a hydraulic system, with either a disc or drum brake providing the force. The front brakes provide more stopping power because as you brake, it throws the weight of the car forward onto the front wheels.
As you push down on the brake pedal, it allows hydraulic fluid to travel through a pipe, to a cylinder at each wheel, forcing pistons out to apply the brakes. Hydraulic fluid ensures even distribution throughout the system, ensuring all brakes receive identical braking pressure at all times.
Anything that disrupts that connection puts you and your vehicle at risk.
What a braking inspection does
You already know that your braking system is one of the most important systems in your vehicle. That’s why it’s equally important to ensure they are working correctly at all times.
As brakes are used, the friction created as the pads press against the rotors can cause grooves. The deeper the groove, the more impact it can have on the way your vehicle stops. You’ll have to press down harder on the brake pedal to achieve the same results.
Worn brake pads can further damage the brake rotors. Time and wear can also reduce levels of brake fluid, meaning you won’t have as much pressure within the system to stop effectively. And all of that mag chloride, ice, and water we see throughout the year? Yep, it can wreak havoc on the braking system too, causing corrosion, breaking or leaks within the system.
Why you should schedule a maintenance visit today
Are you convinced wheel alignment and brake inspection are important? Here are even more reasons why you should pay attention to wheel alignment and schedule your check up today.
If your wheels aren’t aligned right, it can impact your tires. A wheel that’s not aligned correctly will point tires slightly off track. And if tires aren’t connecting with the road the way they were designed, it can wear them down quicker than their useful life.
Uneven wheels will decrease fuel efficiency. A car is designed to perfectly connect with the road. If anything disrupts that, it will reduce the way it moves down the road.
Driving a misaligned car can create more damage. If any object isn’t in perfect condition, it can cause uneven wear, and impact other parts or components.
Small problems become bigger problems when not well cared for. Brake pads are the most commonly replaced items on the braking system. But if the pads don’t wear properly, and aren’t replaced as they wear down, they can further impact other parts of the braking system.
A brake inspection is designed to evaluate the entire braking system. While you might be able to assess the condition of your brake pads, it’s more challenging to determine if the rotors are damaged, or if your vehicle is low on brake fluid.
While you might not have driven as much as normal this year, leaving your car set for periods of time can cause problems you might not usually see
Before you take that road trip, or head up in the mountains for a weekend getaway, be sure to put wheel alignment and brake inspection on your to-do list. It’s a great way to ensure your vehicle is in great shape, and will keep you on the road no matter what the future entails.