What is a Wheel Alignment?
Sometimes just looking at your tires you may be able to see uneven tread wear or issues with your suspension that can cause uneven tire wear, but you may not always be able to see if your alignment is out of specs. HomeTowne uses state of the art equipment to measure your car, truck or van's wheel alignment to help ensure you get the longest life possible from your tires.
When Should I get my car or truck aligned?
As a general rule you should get your wheel alignment checked once a year, if you have has any front end parts replaced or have been driving where you may have hit some potholes or other road debris. You can also check your owners manual for the manufactures recommendation.
Caster is a bit tough to define. If you’re viewing the side of a vehicle, the caster angle identifies the forward or backward slope of a line drawn through the upper and lower steering pivot points. Think of a motorcycle and its front steering forks and front tire. Its angle is towards the rear of the motorcycle, so it has positive caster. Negative is just the opposite. Long story short, positive caster helps your vehicle go straight, much like the motorcycle.
Camber is the angle of the wheel, in degrees, when viewed from the front of the vehicle. Positive camber is when the top of the wheel is leaning out from the center of the car. Negative camber is when the top of the wheel is leaning into the car. If the wheel leans too far from the center, uneven wear will occur. (However, negative camber helps racing cars improve cornering.)
Toe is the difference in the distance between the front of the tires and the back of the tires. Usually, tires are set so that they are parallel with each other. If the fronts of the tires are closer, the wheels are toe-in. If the rears of the tires are closer, the wheels are toe-out.
What are some of the symptoms of a vehicle with a bad alignment?
You may be in need of an alignment if:
- The steering wheel is crooked or "not centered wiith the car going straight"
- You feel the car pull to the left or right
- the car feels like it is wandering
- there is excessive tire wear on the inside or outside edge
Some items that can act like a bad alignment are:
- The tire pressure is low on one or more tires
- the crown or ruts in the road
- normal wear and tear on ball joints and sockets
Since vehicles are more complicated today technicians have keep up with the latest tools and training to perform alignments on vehicles with rear steering, stability control, steering angle sensors, and can perform the reset procedures to make the alignment complete.
Why is an alignment important?
The main reason is you get reduced tire wear which can add thousands of miles of life to your tires. Better fuel economy, if all 4 wheels are set in a straight line rolling resistance decreases and with proper tire inflation this translates into better gas mileage. Better handling, having a vehicle properly aligned results in safer driving when road shock is transmitted to the car, when making turns and for an overall smoother feel.
Why should I NOT get a cheap alignment?
There is more to an alignment than just "setting the toe and letting it go" method deployed by many discounted alignments. Setting the toe is when you align the wheels to the centerline of the car and to each other. There are other adjustments to consider such as caster, camber, thrust angle, rear wheel alignment to the front, cross camber and cross caster. Some vehicles have all of these adjustments and some do not, many of the ones that do not have adjustments have kits that can be installed to bring the alignment specifications back to normal.