Car wheels are subject to more road contact than any other car compartments and hence, have a major say in deciding the driving’s quality. Yet, for unknown reasons, many either take it for granted or, worse, have no idea what the car alignment meaning even is!
This beginner guide will lead you through all the most basic concepts and maintenance tips regarding truck wheel alignment. Keep scrolling.
What Is Wheel Alignment?
Wheel alignment involves a mechanic adjusting the suspension parts so that the wheels return to their original angles, thereby facilitating your handling.
1. How does misalignment affect tires and steering?
Misalignment issues occur when the car wheels point towards different directions, causing uneven tread wear and surging acceleration. It wrecks the hell out of my old Jeep, pulling it violently across both sides
Thankfully, the problem is easily fixed: any average service department/local dealership can straighten the tires for you, aligning the tires properly for a smoother run.
Like tire rotation, wheel alignment must be done regularly; one-time aligning cannot last your car forever, even for brand-new tires purchased freshly from the manufacturers.
After all, how can you guarantee they do not fall off alignment right after installment? I had to drive back to the shop only 30 minutes after leaving, as it accidentally hit the pole/curb on my way home.
2. Types of Tire Alignment
As its name suggests, the technicians will upgrade and adjust the car’s front axle. Since it’s pretty basic, I mostly recommend front-end alignments for middle-range or old cars (like my old Jeep). Modern vehicles with more upgraded designs do not need that often.
Quite similar to front-end alignment – except there is a thrust to guarantee all the car wheels are properly squared against each other. Cars with solid rear axles (again, my old Jeep) will benefit a lot from such alignment methods.
The most inclusive option on the list, four-wheel alignments, are a high-quality hybrid of thrust-angle and front-end alignments positioned at rear axle angles.
Owners of FWD (front-wheel drives) or AWD (all-wheel drive) vehicles with independent/adjustable rear suspensions are the major demographics of this technique.
What Are The Benefits of Wheel Alignment?
- Fuel efficiency: Dragging misaligned tires wasted me more gas bills than aligned ones. Proper alignment, on the other hand, increases my gas efficiency by 10%!
- Smoother ride: Say goodbye to bumpy, vibration-filled, jarring ride. All of my trips are much smoother and more hassle-free than ever.
- Improved steering: Most road-surface accidents stem from awkward steering angles due to misalignment issues. That’s no longer the case for me; proper aligning services did that!
- Cost-saving: Untreated misaligned tires lead to other worsening issues as time goes by. Having them fixed on time saves me from other more costly repairs, lifting huge financial burdens off my shoulders.
What Are The Signs That Your Car Needs Wheel Alignment?
1. The Steering Wheel Cannot Stay Straight
Under normal situations, the steering wheel should stay straight/center regardless of your driving habits. Sure, sometimes mine DO curve downwards the right or left for drainage, but overall, I rarely experience any awkward angles.
A steering wheel veering harshly to the right or left clearly screams trouble!
2. Abnormal/Excessive Tire Wear
Guaranteed frequent tire rotation, typical treads should be worn down at similar rates starting from the center.
That’s not the case with misaligned tires, though. Since they aren’t poised straight, you will find certain parts or positions wearing down much faster than others.
This is my case when I noticed balding outer edges on the tires. Neither did I use my Jeep to transport heavy loads nor frequently overinflate my tires. How could this happen? A visit to the nearest auto shop had revealed that my wheels were out of alignment.
3. Noticeable Vibration
That’s quite self-explanatory. How can a misaligned car give you a smooth ride with all those uneven wear and heavily angled steering?
Violent vibrations are only to be expected. Take the car for a quick diagnosis before they get worse!
What Do Mechanics Pay Attention to During Wheel Alignment?
Whenever I drop by an auto shop for wheel alignments, whoever takes charge of my car often pays most attention to the following:
Camber: The tire’s outward or inward angle viewed from my Jeep’s front.
Too much outward tilt (positive camber) or inward tilt (negative camber) indicates misalignment that needs immediate adjusting.
Ball joints, worn bearings, and other suspension components might also contribute to the problem.
Toe: the extent the tires turn outward or inward (viewed from the above).
I used to find such concepts quite confusing; to grasp them better, I stood up to look at my own feet.
- I angled my feet toward my body’s center; a tire arranged similar to my feet is called “toe-in.”
- Likewise, my feet pointing outward is “toe-out.”
Both require fixes, by the way.
Caster: the steering axis’ angle when viewed at my car’s side.
- Positive caster: the axis points toward me on my driver’s seat
- Negative caster: the axis tilts to the Jeep’s front
Again, technicians will have to intervene in both scenarios.
How Often Must Car Wheels Be Aligned? How Much Does That Cost?
The usual interval is about 2 to 3 years. Personally, I think that’s a bit too long; who knows what accidents might occur during those three years?
That’s why I decided to make my alignment schedule coincide with the Jeeps’ oil change – every 5,000 miles. Not that it’s expensive, anyways – only from $50 to $168.
Where To Do Wheel Alignment Near Me
Almost any local shop covers wheel alignment; you don’t have to worry too much about not finding one. Nevertheless, here are some of my favorite names, with an affordable price range (even under $40) and awesome customer support:
- Jiffy Lube
- Elite Tire
- Mercedes North Olmsted
- LowCountry Equipment
- Les Schwab
Can You Check Your Own Alignment?
Yes, why not? Although the alignment needs professional help, you can still diagnose it at home using my above symptom list.
How Long Does An Alignment Take?
One hour if nothing else needs replacing. Otherwise, it might take longer.
This guide has explained and debunked all common myths surrounding wheel alignment. Maintain a regular alignment schedule to ensure fun and comfortable driving trips all year round, and write to me if you still need more advice on bad alignment.