How do you know if your suspension is out of alignment?

By Julia Freeman

Years of experience tell us that suspension alignment issues are some of the most complex to explain, and yet easy to recognise when there is a potential problem. This is because, while the suspension system itself is a complicated system with multiple, interrelating parts, the symptoms of issues are generally similar and simple to spot. Our tyre professionals will take you through some of the main things to look out for below, but our simple rule of thumb is that if something doesn't feel right, it is better to get it checked out than face expensive complications down the line.

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Signs of a potential suspension alignment issue

Your vehicle's suspension is the system of springs, shock absorbers, anti-sway bars, struts, ball joints, and spindles which keeps your driving experience smooth and level. This network of components counteracts the bouncing and swaying that will naturally affect your car when travelling over road surfaces at speed, as well as preventing the front or back from diving into the road when you start or stop suddenly. The best way to spot a potential suspension alignment problem is to notice how driving the car feels.

If you sense the vehicle pulling to one side, becoming more bouncy or jarring than you are used to, or appearing to "nose dive" when stopping sharply, there could be a problem with an element of the suspension. These issues are difficult to diagnose specifically due to the interrelated nature of the various parts of the suspension system, so in our experience, if you spot a problem like this, it is best to get it checked by a professional as soon as possible.

Difference between suspension and wheel alignment

Wheel alignment refers to one aspect of the suspension; the angles of the wheels and tyres in relation to the car's body. More specifically, this is made up of the toe, camber and caster. Toe is the angle at which the wheels point forward / backward in relation to the car. Camber is the tilt of the wheel in any direction, which should ideally be neutral or slightly off-vertical in some larger SUVs and pickups. Caster relates to the steering axis and determines handling.

In terms of how the car drives, problems that could indicate a wheel alignment issue are actually very similar to other suspension problems. These include the car pulling to one side, uneven wear on the tyre treads, or the steering wheel vibrating or resting off-centre when the vehicle is parked.

Since these problems can overlap and sometimes involve interconnected parts, including both wheel alignment and suspension, spotting any of these signs should be your signal to take your car to qualified fitters who can accurately diagnose the source of the problem.

When to check suspension alignment

Years of experience tell us that the golden rule to follow is: if something feels out of the ordinary or unusual about the feel of driving your vehicle, don't ignore it. While other factors could be involved in causing similar symptoms to the ones listed above, including under- or over-inflated tyres, the complicated nature of the suspension system means it can be hard to isolate and pinpoint the root cause of such a change without looking at these components in depth.

Our tyre professionals have a wealth of experience recognising and fixing such issues before they become a larger problem and are always happy to share expert advice on how to improve the performance of your vehicle overall. Tyre brands such as Pirelli and Bridgestone offer a huge variety of choices that may enhance your driving experience by offering adaptations more specifically suited to the conditions you normally drive in. Our qualified fitters can discuss these options with you with no obligation.

Get a Free Suspension Check

What's more, at Protyre, our nationwide network of garages offer free vehicle checks that can be booked online or over the phone at a location convenient for you. Our tyre professionals are qualified and experienced in both servicing and repairing suspension and wheel alignment issues and can help you get to the root of a potential problem quickly. If you have any concerns, please contact our professionals today who will be happy to share their knowledge and advice.

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About the author

Article Author Photo
By Julia Freeman
Julia is Head of Brand Marketing for Micheldever Group and loves engaging with customers and the business as a whole to deliver their automotive needs.
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