Wheel Alignments – Why Are They So Important?
January 4th, 2016
If you’ve been driving for very many years, chances are you’ve probably driven a car that constantly tries to pull to the right or left. That pull to one side is more than just annoying and tiring…it’s also wearing your front tires unevenly.
Your car leaves the factory with the wheels set at very specific angles relative to the center line of the frame and to each other. Engineers design those angles for optimum handling, ride quality, steering response and road manners. The angles for the front wheels are:
· Toe-in, referring to the inward angle of the wheels
· Toe-out, referring to the outward skew of the wheels
· Camber, meaning the inward or outward tilt of the top of a wheel
· Caster, referring to the wheel’s orientation relative to an imaginary vertical line behind the wheel
A hard hit on a curb, pothole or railroad tracks can be enough to jolt one or both wheels out of spec, possibly even damaging steering linkages and components at the same time. When a wheel is skewed to one side, it constantly tries to force the vehicle in that direction. The added friction that’s created as that wheel is dragged along by the others also means compromised fuel economy. Worse still, that drag will scrub the tread off of the tire unevenly, resulting a tire that’s ruined within 10,000 miles.
Alignments are performed on a sophisticated piece of equipment called an alignment rack. The technician takes measurements using camera units or lasers, making minute adjustments to bring the wheels back into spec again. On older vehicles with steering adjustment hardware that’s rusted, frozen, worn or damaged, replacement of parts might be necessary to achieve and keep a proper wheel alignment.
Four Wheel Alignment
Newer vehicles with adjustable rear suspensions require a full four-wheel alignment. The four-wheel alignment is designed to ensure that the rear wheels and front wheels are all at the best possible angles in relation to each other. Four-wheel alignment is more complicated and often more expensive, but it has definite payoffs in terms of handling and road manners.
Signs Your Vehicle Needs Alignment Work
These are all trouble signs:
· Constant pull to one side while driving on straight, un-crowned pavement with no crosswind
· Wheel won’t center itself readily after rounding a corner
· Steering feels “heavy” and clumsy
· Tires are worn at inside or outside edge, or in a sawtooth pattern across all tread grooves (can be felt while running your hand along tread)
Still think that wheel alignment isn’t a big deal? Consider this. If your car has a wheel that’s only 1/8” out of alignment and it went for a mile with no steering input from the driver, it would end up 28 feet off of a straight line at the end of that mile.
Don’t just put up with a steering wheel that pulls to the right or left, and don’t replace your tires before their time due to uneven wear. Make an appointment with us at JBC Tire Complete Auto Carein Springfield, MO and let our alignment techs check your steering angles.