We've all got a mental list of 'things to do' and some of us might even take the time to write them down, knowing that there's a very good chance we'll forget them later... Or, some of us may have wives who leave post-it notes on the refrigerator.

But nothing's easier to forget about than the 'optional' car maintenance things you might have planned for the weekend. Especially if the fish are biting.

Wheel alignments sometimes fall into that category. We either forget to get it done, or even worse, we don't recognize the need for one. Here's how to tell if your car needs a wheel alignment...

If you're not sure, first look at your tires. Uneven tire wear -- often, more wear on the outside of some tires -- is a prime indicator that your car is likely out of alignment. Here are a few more indicators, courtesy of Howstuffworks.com:

•your car seems to be drifting to one side, even when you think you're driving straight
•your steering wheel vibrates
•you are driving straight, but your steering wheel isn't centered

If none of these indicators occurs but it's been a while since your last alignment, check your owner's manual to see how often the manufacturer recommends having this service.

An out-of-alignment car is a common result of everyday driving. But the term 'alignment' doesn't really refer to your car's wheels but rather to the suspension. As part of normal driving, parts of your car's suspension may become worn, and springs can be stretched out. Even a small accident or bumping a curb can disrupt your suspension, knocking some of the highly calibrated components off-kilter, making your wheels sit at improper angles. An alignment restores these angles to their correct measurements, making sure that your wheels sit straight.

The most visible benefit of an alignment is less tire wear. And when tires do wear down, they'll do so evenly on a properly aligned suspension. Tires can be quite expensive -- easily $100 or more per tire -- whereas an alignment often costs $50 to $100, making it a cost-effective procedure that should be part of regular car maintenance, according to Consumer Reports.

Most importantly, an alignment will ensure that your car drives straight and handles properly, making your ride safer. You'll also get better gas mileage because your tires will be properly aligned with the road, decreasing resistance.

Remember, some preventive maintenance now will save you from much more expensive headaches later!