Alignment

Curbs, speed bumps, cracked pavement, construction zones and potholes encountered on our roadways can knock a vehicle out of alignment.

The result: Problems in steering and suspension systems.

"All drivers should have their alignment checked periodically to prevent small problems from becoming major repairs," said Tony Molla, vice president of the Automotive Service Association.

Running over the curb or hitting road debris at freeway speeds could bend parts in the steering and suspension systems. You may need to replace shock absorbers, sway bar, steering links and rods. Or you could damage wheel rims and throw tires out of balance.

"Steering-related problems can cause abnormal tread wear and make your vehicle pull to one side," Molla said. "They could reduce your vehicle's tire life by 50 percent and be a warning sign for other types of damage."

What are the signs that your vehicle may be overdue for an alignment inspection? Molla had the following suggestions:

-Look for uneven tire wear, especially along the tire edges. This is a classic sign of alignment problems or a lack of rotation.

-The vehicle pulls to the left or right.

-Does your vehicle bounce a few times when it goes over speed bumps? Maybe it's time to have your struts or shocks checked.

"Alignment adjusts the steering components so everything works together seamlessly," Molla said. "It restores original settings so the vehicle tracks true."

Anthony Belcher, Sensible Driver's Service & Parts Reporter, contributed to this writeup.