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Home / Wheel Alignment- Basics All Drivers Should Know
Many vehicle owners overlook the significance of having a wheel alignment. Unfortunately in car maintenance world, ignorance is not bliss. Improperly balanced and or aligned wheels can cost you in more ways than one.
Tires, they are not cheap! Unresponsive steering, can cause all sorts of issues as well. Putting off a necessary wheel alignment can turn a simple inexpensive fix, into quite a hefty price tag. That’s why it’s incredibly important for drivers to be aware of the symptoms that suggest a wheel alignment or balance may be needed.
Have you ever let go of your steering wheel and observed your car steering towards one side? If so, chances are high that your car is in need of a wheel alignment. If you have ever driven on a smooth road but felt as if your car was vibrating, from the suspension, then its highly possible your tires need to be balanced.
Of course, as with many other car issues, these scenarios may not have been the result of negligence. Regular wear and tear is likely the culprit.
As briefly mentioned before, a sign that a tire needs balancing is a vibration being sent through the suspension to a vehicle’s steering wheel. Additionally, when a tire is unbalanced it will undergo premature wear; a symptom of a misaligned wheel as well. A tire that is properly balanced will provide optimal traction and life expectancy.
An individual can balance a tire themselves, but it is a complicated task that takes precision to do correctly. Many shops have machines that accelerate the process and make it simple. The machines, that a shop has, balances each wheel individually and rotates the wheel to detect any possible imbalances; the machine has sensors that detect these imbalances. Using the detected imbalances on the wheel, a technician can make adjustments to the weights inside of the tires; this redistributes the weight. The process is repeated as needed to make sure that you get the most evenly distributed set of tires as possible.
Wheel alignments are a commonly neglected maintenance task. Due to the fact that there are four separate wheels on most cars, many people often do not realize when their wheels are out of alignment. Correct wheel alignment is the key to maintaining responsive steering. A misaligned wheel can easily lead to premature wear on tires. This is because the tire’s angle of contact with the ground will be far different than the angle that the tire was designed for.
The wheel alignment process is much more involved than that of tire balancing; this is because numerous parts work together to keep your car wheel alignment correct. There are many several techniques to achieve proper wheel alignment. However, the most accurate method involves placing all four wheels onto a machine and making adjustments to each wheel based on numbers given by the machine. Manufacturers recommend a certain alignment. However, your vehicle’s use or wheel setup may require adjustment accordingly. A lot of racers, for example, prefer to run with camber on their cars due to vehicle dynamics during a track race. There are three things that will be adjusted during a wheel alignment: camber, caster, and toe.
The angle of a wheel relative to the ground. If you look at your vehicle from either the rear or front, camber will be how much a wheel “tilts”. There are two types of camber; negative and positive. Negative camber is when a wheel tilts inwards, with the top pointing towards the cabin of the car. Positive camber is when a wheel tilts outwards, with the top of the wheel pointing away from the cabin of the car.
Cannot be seen by just looking at a wheel. Caster has everything to do with the suspension components and the angle of a vehicle’s steering axis. A steering axis should be centered perfectly, but an axis that points towards the steering wheel is said to have a positive caster angle. A steering axis that points towards the front bumper of the vehicle is said to have negative caster angle. Caster does not play as much into tire wear as camber and toe, but it does have a huge factor on the steering feel of a car.
Is comparable to the feet of any animal. It is the measurement of how much two wheels point outwards or inwards. Like an animal looking down at its feet, toe is described from the top of a car. When a car is said to be aligned toe-out, then the two wheels are pointing outwards from the car. With a car that is aligned toe-in, the two wheels are pointing inwards.
A well balanced and aligned suspension setup should allow a driver to drive comfortably and safely. Not only does having a wheel alignment keep drivers safe, but also allows for their vehicle’s tires to last and perform as designed.