Frost-heaves and spring potholes a recipe for misalignment

That curb you bumped while negotiating an icy corner last winter might not
appear to have done any damage, but chances are your vehicle is a candidate
for an alignment check.

If you hit it – or that frost-heave or spring thaw pothole – hard enough,
you might notice your vehicle no longer tracks straight and tends to pull to
one side, particularly while braking. In a severe case your steering wheel might
even be askew. But in most cases wheel misalignment is more subtle and often
goes unnoticed until it becomes obvious through unusual tire wear patterns.

When a vehicle leaves the factory its wheels are aligned in a geometric relationship
with the actions of the suspension and steering. The main settings, known as
camber, caster and toe-in and ride height, determine how it will react during
acceleration, braking, turning, hitting bumps or just rolling down the highway.

Tire tread wear patterns are a clear visual clue to bad alignment and are easy
to detect, but only after they’ve become established, by which time you’ve
usually ruined an expensive set of tires.

A simple check can be conducted using a coin measure tread depth on the
inside, centre and outside of the tire. If the tread is deeper on the edges
than the centre, the tire has been running over-inflated. If the tread is deeper
in the centre than the edges, it’s been running under-inflated. Simply
inflating them to the correct pressure can solve these problems. If the tread
is deeper on one side than the other, however, you have a camber problem. Another
check involves running your hand over the tire. If you find the surface is smooth
in one direction and jagged in the other, you’ve likely discovered the
saw-tooth wear pattern related to a toe-in problem. In both case professional
attention is required.

Car Care Canada recommends having an annual alignment and suspension components
check-over. It could save you the cost of replacing prematurely worn tires,
and will ensure your vehicle operates safely in an emergency.

For additional information on vehicle maintenance visit the
Car Care Canada website at