Many people fear potholes, expecting that if they hit one, it will throw off their vehicle alignment. Most often, however, it will not. The air and flexible rubber of the tires will take most of the assault. It would take a pretty hard hit to bend something or throw off the alignment.
If that happens, you will probably notice pretty quickly, if not right away. If you come out of the pothole with your steering wheel off-center, that would indicate you have bent something and will not only need a repair but an alignment as well.
Another situation where alignment is often done, but not necessarily needed, is after replacing shocks. Replacing the shocks does not impact the alignment. The shocks absorb some of the energy of the springs, when you hit a bump in the road.
A third situation many people may pay for an unnecessary alignment is when they feel a pull to one side, as they drive straight. Other than alignment, there are a few common things that could indicate. One is that the air is not even between the tires.
If one tire has less air than the other, the vehicle will seem to pull towards the low-pressure tire. Also, the road itself often leans to one side, making it feel like the car is pulling to the side. Finally, if you have a tire that has a structural problem, you won’t be able to know for sure, unless you swap the left tire with the right and see if the pull switches to the opposite direction.
So, if you are feeling a pull, it is important to check the air in your tires first. Then, drive on a completely flat road. If you still feel the pull, try swapping the tires and testing it again. If the pull stays on the side it was on before, you probably have an alignment problem.
Another way to check for an alignment problem is to examine the wear on your tires. If, and that is a big “IF,” you keep proper air pressure in your tires and rotate them regularly, the tire wear should be even. If it is not, you may need your alignment done.
Your Utah auto repair center will be able to tell you, when you replace certain suspension parts, if you need to follow up with an alignment. Also, if you are investing in a new set of tires, you may as well protect that investment with an alignment. It is a small price to pay to ensure that your new tires won’t be destroyed in a matter of months or weeks.