What Causes a Vehicle to Need a Wheel Alignment?
There are two reasons to get an alignment. The first, is to double check after you have new tires installed. The second? In a word: Potholes. Potholes are an enemy of your car or truck. They show up unexpectedly and cause damage to tires, steering, and suspension parts, shocks and struts and not least of which wheel alignments. If a pothole is large enough for the tire to drop into it you can expect damage to occur. Your only defense against the damage caused by potholes is avoid as many as possible and slow down for the ones you can not avoid. If you do hit a pothole with a jolt that jars your teeth it is best to have your vehicle looked at by your servicing mechanic. Even though there may not be visible damage there is the potential for problems.
Do I Need A Wheel Alignment?
Road surface such as potholes, hitting a curb, and just plain old driving time affect your wheel alignment and it is the alignment of the vehicle that maintains the tire’s proper contact with the road surface. If you notice that your vehicle is pulling left or right, or that your tire’s tread is wearing off on the inside or outside edge consult an alignment shop. However, pulling problems are not always related to wheel alignment. Problems with tires (especially unequal air pressure), brakes and power steering can also be responsible. It is up to a good wheel alignment technician to determine the cause. You will find that a properly aligned vehicle will save you money by increasing fuel economy by as much as 6% and providing extended tire life. Even if you don’t live in a pothole filled area, like Maine, a wheel alignment should still be performed annually as a preventative maintenance.
What’s Involved In A Wheel Alignment?
A proper wheel alignment should always start and end with a test drive. The front end and steering linkage will be checked for wear before performing an alignment. The tires should all be in good shape with even wear patterns from proper tire rotation, deep tread and sufficient tire pressure. A technician will determine, through a series of test and measurements how each tire needs to be balanced and aligned. However, if you find yourself discussing the specifics of an alignment you are really talking about toe, caster and camber measurements.
- The Toe measures the difference between the front of the tires and the back of the tires. This is determined by checking if the front of the tires are closer together than the rear of the tires your tires are toed in. This means your vehicle is going down road like a crab. If the toe isn’t corrected you can expect the tires to wear quickly.
- The Camber is the measurement that looks at how much a tire is leaning in or out. A camber problem will cause wear to the inside or outside edge of the tire.
- The Caster measures the relationship of the wheels to one another. Most vehicles today require a four wheel alignment. To have your vehicle properly aligned you need to find a shop that has the proper equipment and a qualified technician to perform the service.