Everything You Need to Know About Your Car’s Alignment
Having properly alignment wheels is an essential part of your car’s maintenance. However, this is not a task that most people can do themselves. You need specialized tools to align your vehicle’s wheels properly. Therefore, if it is time for your next wheel alignment, you need to call in professionals like those at Ethan’s Honest Automotive.
But what is alignment? Why is it so important? And, most important of all, what are the signs that your car needs its wheels aligned?
Keep reading. We answer all of these questions and more in the rest of this article.
What is Wheel Alignment?
First, we need to define wheel alignment. It is the process of adjusting the angles of the wheels to ensure that they are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground. Each manufacturer will have slightly different angle recommendations for their wheels. Therefore, the wheels must be aligned to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Why Do You Need to Align Your Wheels?
Regular wear and tear on your vehicle can cause your wheels to get out of alignment. Proper alignment helps your car perform optimally, so it is important to have your wheel alignment checked regularly.
Here are a few more reasons why wheel alignment is so important.
- Improved handling: Correct alignment ensures that your vehicle drives straight and handles smoothly. It minimizes the need to adjust the steering wheel when driving in a straight line.
- Even tire wear: Proper alignment distributes the wear on your tires evenly, preventing premature wear and tear.
- Fuel efficiency: Misaligned wheels can cause your vehicle to work harder to move forward, resulting in decreased fuel efficiency. Proper alignment can help save you money on fuel costs.
- Safety: Proper alignment is crucial for your safety on the road, as misaligned wheels can affect your ability to control your vehicle.
How are Wheels Aligned?
When you take your vehicle to a professional to have the wheels aligned, they will not complete the take by hand. Instead, the mechanic will use an alignment machine. It measures the angles of your wheels and then compares those measurements with the original specifications for the tire manufacturer and vehicle.
After receiving that information, the mechanic will make the following alignments.
Toe alignment refers to the angle at which the tires point in or out when viewed from above and from front to back. When the front edges of the tires point in slightly, it is called to-in. Conversely, when the front edges of the tires point out, it is called toe-out. Whether your vehicle should have toe-in or toe-out alignment depends on the manufacturer’s specifications and how much directional stability the vehicle needs.
Camber alignment focuses on the vertical tilt of the wheels when viewed from the front of the vehicle. There are three types of camber, including:
- Positive camber: The top of the wheel tilts outward, away from the vehicle’s centerline.
- Negative camber: The top of the wheel tilts inward towards the vehicle’s centerline.
- Zero camber: The wheel is perfectly vertical and neither tilts inward nor outward.
Bear in mind that camber is usually set differently for front and rear wheels. Doing so optimizes tire contact with the road when you drive around a corner.
Caster alignment is specific to the front wheels of the car. It measures the angle of the steering axis. Most general cars are not super sensitive to the caster of the wheels. However, this is still a type of alignment the mechanic must do. The caster needs to be the same on both sides of the vehicle, or the vehicle could pull to one side.
Signs of a Wheel Alignment Problem
Understanding what alignment is and how it is done in a shop is important. However, it is even more crucial that you can recognize the signs of an alignment problem. This information will ensure you bring your car in to be aligned before your wheels are irreparably damaged.
Below, we have listed the most common signs that your vehicle may need wheel alignment.
- Off-center steering wheel: When driving on a straight road, your steering wheel should be perfectly centered. If you notice that your steering wheel is off-center, you may have a misalignment issue.
- Vehicle pulling: If your vehicle tends to pull to one side while you are driving on a straight road, your wheels are likely misaligned.
- Uneven tire wear: Inspect your tires regularly for signs of uneven wear. Misalignment often results in abnormal wear patterns.
- Vibrations: Misaligned wheels can cause vibrations in the steering wheel or even throughout the entire vehicle. These are often more pronounced at higher speeds.
- Squealing tires: Misalignment can cause your tires to squeal when you go around corners, even at moderate speeds.
- Reduced fuel efficiency: When your wheels are misaligned, your vehicle may have to work harder, reducing its fuel efficiency.
If you notice any of the above signs, it is time to bring your car in for a professional wheel alignment. These issues will not go away on their own. So, without the help of an alignment expert, the symptoms of an alignment issue will only get worse.
How Often to Get an Alignment?
Even if you do not notice the above signs, wheel alignment should be part of your scheduled maintenance. Most experts recommend having your wheels aligned at least every 2-3 years. However, you may choose to have the wheel alignment checked every time you bring your vehicle in for an oil change.
Why Choose Ethan’s For Your Car’s Wheel Alignment?
If you live in the Cache Valley and Southeast Idaho and need your wheels aligned, you should contact Ethan’s Honest Automotive. We are your source for the most honest and trustworthy mechanic services in the area. We will never provide a quote for services your vehicle does not need.
Our transparent communication and focus on customer service will ensure that you always understand our recommendations. We make our customers a part of the car repair process. Let us help you keep your wheels in perfect alignment. Contact Ethan’s Honest Automotive today!