If you let your hands off the wheel of your vehicle and it starts to pull in either direction, you may have a car alignment problem. A vehicle that maintains the correct alignment will track straight on its own without any need for the driver to correct the input. At times, the steering wheel itself may be off-balance because the weighted-balance in it is not pointing downward when the vehicle tracks straight. In some cases, it may even be the tires or bent rims. A variety of issues can affect your car alignment.
Car Alignment - Technicians use precise laser alignment equipment to align all four wheels of the vehicle. This ensures that the wheels are all pointing in the right direction and tracking straight in unison. The camber and caster of the vehicle, rake, toe, and other factors may all come into play. Although there are other kinds of car alignments that only check the front wheels when the rear parts are not adjustable, requesting a four-wheel alignment may be necessary if you have modified your vehicle in any manner, or you are concerned about the squareness of the back end.
The camber is the verticle angle of your wheel in relation to its drive axle. Technicians measure in negative and positive degrees based upon the tilt of the wheel inward or outward from the vertical axis. The exact camber of the vehicle can be measured with laser equipment and is adjustable on some vehicles. For others, like vehicles with aftermarket rims, a camber kit may be necessary to allow for adjustments.
Camber is important because it helps vehicles track straight even during hard cornering.
A high negative camber will wear out the inside edges of a tire. If the camber is too far on the positive side, the opposite will happen. A moderate level of negative camber is good for cornering. The technicians have to strike a delicate balance between performance and tire wear. This is done by distributing the weight evenly across the tread of the tire. If you do otherwise, the vehicle will start to feel edgy like it is on stilts and retain far less traction for braking and acceleration launches.
Car Alignment - Caster is another key element of the alignment. For instance, imagine drawing a vertical line downward through the pivot points, typically the ball joints, of the steering assembly. This is how technicians measure the caster of your car or truck. The caster will tilt forwards in a negative caster and backwards if the caster is positive. A slightly positive caster angle is desirable to improve the high-speed handling and cornering abilities of a vehicle. Because the driver can steer into the turn easier when the wheel is at an angle and tilted back. Too much positive caster, however, will make it hard to steer the vehicle.
Fine tweaking elements of an alignment are cross-camber and cross-caster. These measurements help your vehicle compensate for crowned roads. Cross-camber and cross-caster methods will tweak the camber and caster to more aggressive angles on one side of the vehicle to compensate for the slope of the crowned roads. While this is a benefit on highways and long-distance trips, it can cause the vehicle to track slightly to one side on flat even roads. This, therefore, requires a delicate balancing between highway versatility and perfectly straight and even tire wear. Rotating your tires regularly can help to avoid any premature wear from this compensation trick.
It is easy to think of toe in anthropomorphic metaphors. If a person's toes point outward, they are said to be duck-footed. In contrast, if ones toes are point inward, they may be described as pigeon-toed. The toe looks at your vehicle from above. It uses degrees or fractions-of-an-inch to describe the divergence of the wheel angle inward or outward from the central straight reference line running through the length of the vehicle.
Furthermore, toe is more important in rear-wheel drive vehicles to help the vehicle compensate for rolling resistance. As well as in situations where a vehicle has performance bushings in the steering and suspension. Duck-footed toe will help in cornering and reduce understeer, pigeon-toed toe will help to improve high-speed stability and reduce oversteer.
Toe is of paramount importance in all vehicles because it has the greatest effect on premature tire wear. If you are running with an aggressive toe, the sides of your tires will wear at an exorbitant rate.
Technicians use precise, calibrated laser equipment to measure the camber, caster, cross camber & cross caster, as well as the toe of your vehicle. Each vehicle has specific manufacturer recommended specs for the above described measurements. The goal is to get your car or truck's measurements as close to exact as possible to the manufacturer recommended specs.
Do you love flushing hundreds of dollars down the toilet? If not, keep your vehicle properly aligned. Your tire's life depends on it! Maintaining your car or truck's proper alignment is paramount in more ways than a few. We hope this article on Car Alignment has helped you!