If you’ve been in a fender-bender, hit a curb or even just rattled through a pothole or two, your vehicle’s wheel alignment may be a little worse for the wear. Proper alignment protects your investment in your tires, gives you a smoother ride and makes your car run more efficiently. It should be part of your regular maintenance, but it’s also something you may need to flag with your technician from time to time.
So what is tire alignment, and what are the signs that you may have a problem?
What is tire alignment?
When a technician makes adjustments to tire alignment, he or she is actually tweaking the vehicle’s suspension. By adjusting the angles of the tires, the technician ensures that the steering wheel is centered and the wheels are parallel and touching the ground.
Specifically, the technician will use a complex machine and computer to assess and measure the wheels from several different perspectives. Tire alignments check the following:
- Camber: Looking at the wheels from the front, the camber refers to their inward or outward tilt. Negative or positive camber may be adjusted.
- Toe: Looking at the wheels from above, like feet on the ground, the toe refers to the wheels’ inward or outward turn. Toe in and toe out may be adjusted so that the tires are parallel.
- Caster: Looking at the steering axis from the side, the caster refers to the steering axis tilt. A positive caster means the centerline is off in the direction of the driver. A negative caster means that the centerline is off toward the front of the car.
Four-wheel drive vehicles must have all four tires aligned. Other cars can have a front-end alignment.
Signs that it may be time for a tire alignment
Tire alignment should be part of your vehicle’s regular maintenance, but there are some signs that you may be due for a check sooner rather than later. If you notice the following, talk to your mechanic:
- Uneven tread wear: This is one of the most obvious signs of tire alignment problems. It’s also a great incentive to make proper alignment a priority, as you can extend the life of your tires.
- Vehicle pulls to the left or right: Many people may notice driving takes a little extra effort after a run-in with a surprise pothole or speed hump. Misaligned wheels may be the culprit.
- Steering wheel is off center: When you’re driving straight, the steering wheel should be centered. If it’s not, you may have an issue.
You’ll also always want to check your alignment when you get a new pair of tires. Consider it a regular part of your wheel and tire maintenance, alongside pressure checks and rotations.
Keep in mind, too, that some of the signs of misaligned tires can signify other issues. If your vehicle is pulling to one side, you may have a larger suspension issue that needs attention. A skilled technician will be able to check your alignment and look for any other potential problems as well.
If you believe your car may be out of alignment, contact Bavarian Body Works to schedule a check today
Our trained technicians can quickly realign your tires and examine your vehicle’s suspension. If we identify a problem, we’ll then evaluate the repair and replacement options with you, always with a focus on your safety. Contact us today for more information.