After off-roading, a lot of things can happen to your vehicle. Common things include your vehicle getting muddy and the tires losing some of their treads. However, can your wheels also get misaligned after an off-road trip?
Off-roading does mess up wheel alignment due to hitting rocks, bumps, and ruts. Mild off-roading, however, will not usually cause a problem. Wheel misalignment can be dangerous and prevent you from driving straight, so it is important to have them realigned.
This article will talk about wheel misalignment after off-roading and what you can do about it. We will also talk about other problems that can happen after off-roading, which you should keep an eye out for.
Wheel Misalignment After Off-Roading: What to Know
Why Does It Happen?
Wheel misalignment is one of the most common problems you will experience with your vehicle after off-roading. It happens for a simple reason: You are putting your wheels through a lot of stress when off-roading. You might be going over rocks and bumps. You might be hitting stones, sticks, and logs. When you go over a rut or a ditch, your wheels can take a beating. All of these can throw your wheel alignment out of whack.
For an introduction on wheel misalignment, watch this short YouTube video:
How Often Does It Happen?
Wheel misalignment will not necessarily happen after every off-road trip. It might not happen at all. It usually depends on how tough your trip was. On simple off-road trips, where you are just going over the grass and not hitting any rocks or going over bumps or ditches, your wheels might not be affected at all. Or, they may be affected only slightly, and you may not notice any misalignment.
However, if you are going on a rigorous off-road trip, you may experience some wheel misalignment. Wheel misalignment can also happen gradually, over many trips, so you may not notice it at first until it causes obvious problems.
How Can You Check for Wheel Misalignment?
As mentioned, misaligned wheels might not be noticeable right away. However, there may be some obvious signs that you can’t ignore. For example, you might be trying to go in a straight line, with your steering wheel straight, but find your truck or car veering to the right or left.
However, there may be less obvious signs. For example, you might feel like your wheels are wobbling or vibrating, even if you are not going completely into the other lane.
If you are worried that your wheels are misaligned, but you are not sure, go to a service shop and ask them to check for you. A professional will be able to see if your wheels are misaligned, especially if you recently went to the same shop to get your wheels realigned after going on an earlier off-road trip. Special alignment machines are sometimes used to check wheel alignment.
Is Wheel Misalignment Dangerous?
Yes, wheel misalignment is very dangerous and can cause accidents. It must be fixed as soon as possible. Not all trucks that have misaligned wheels are very dangerous, as you may still be able to stay in your lane. However, if you find yourself veering to the right or the left all the time, stop driving immediately. Any case of wheel misalignment, regardless of how severe, should be fixed as soon as possible.
Wheel misalignment can also cause your tires to wear out quicker, as they will have to work harder. Since some tires may be misaligned, those tires may wear out quicker or slower than others.
Does Off-Roading Cause All Misalignments?
No. Your wheels may be misaligned even if you do not do any off-roading. For this reason, it is important to check for misalignment, even if you do mild off-roading. For example, your truck can hit a large pothole or stone on the road, which can cause your wheels to get out of whack.
Installing a lift kit is another common cause of wheel misalignment. When you are playing around with your suspension or installing a lift kit, make sure your wheels are still aligned properly after that.
Finally, another common cause of wheel misalignment is if your suspension is old and parts are getting loose. Loose springs and other parts can cause your wheels to get misaligned, so if your truck is old, make sure to upgrade the suspension when it is time to do so.
What to Do If Your Wheels Are Misaligned
If your wheels are misaligned, or if you suspect that they are, take your truck or car to a service shop immediately. It is also important to have your vehicle regularly inspected, regardless of whether you suspect misalignment or not. You may be able to set up a plan with a service shop that allows you to take your vehicle in for realignment whenever the wheels get misaligned – this would be useful if you make many off-road trips.
Other Problems Caused By Off-Roading
Although wheel misalignment is a common problem, there are also other problems that you should keep an eye out for after off-roading. Here are the main ones to look out for.
The tread in your tires is what gives them their grip on the ground. Over time, the tires will get worn out and lose their tread. Many treads are important for off-roading, as it will give your tires traction and allow them to grip onto the wet grass, mud, dirt, and other unstable terrains.
The more tread, the more traction you have, and the more traction you can spend on braking or accelerating. Without any traction, accidents can happen. Check your tires’ tread regularly and replace them as needed.
Another thing to look for is tire air pressure. Your tires can lose air pressure over time, especially if they get punctured. Flat tires are common after rigorous off-roading. Some vehicles have a tire pressure monitoring system that will tell you if there is a leak in your tires. Leaks may not always be obvious unless you look for them, but they can always cause problems down the road.
Dirt, Scratches, and Dents
Damage to the body of your vehicle is also very common. The most common visual damage, which is mud, can simply be washed off. However, if you hit any rocks or stones or drive through bushes or trees, you may also see scratches and even dents. These are simply cosmetic and can be fixed easily and affordably. Not only is cosmetic damage not dangerous, some people feel it shows how courageous they are.
Cosmetic damage is not a problem if you don’t care about it, but other types of damage should be concerning. For example, your transmission can get damaged due to switching gears a lot and driving in low gear too much.
You may also experience damage to the underbelly of your vehicle – you may hear rattling noises if the damage is severe. That is why it is important to get skid plates, which help protect your engine and other parts of your vehicle in your underbelly from damage.
Wheel misalignment is common after off-roading, especially after rigorous trips. It is important to look for signs of wheel misalignment and fix the problem as soon as possible. Consider finding out if you can get a service maintenance plan for your vehicle so you can get your wheels realigned whenever you need to. Failing to do so can lead to some pretty bad situations, so don’t cut corners on this.
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