When your car is aligned properly, it should drive comfortably and doesn’t pull in either direction. Yet, after some time and unpredictable driving conditions, your car may become misaligned. While certain road conditions are unpredictable, and potholes cannot always be avoided, there are ways that you can help prevent your vehicle from falling out of alignment.
What is Car Alignment?
Alignment represents the geometry of the suspension system. The suspension system is made up of several components that work together to turn the wheels and support the vehicle. Each vehicle’s suspension system contains control arms, steering components, and mounting points that are intended to fit into a certain area. Wheels must be properly aligned for all tires to work together in order to rotate in the same speed and direction. Even small variances of the geometry can affect the vehicle’s suspension. Driving a vehicle with poor alignment can result in premature tire wear and damage.
Technicians performing alignments will check the three different angles camber, caster, and toe of the vehicle’s alignment to ensure wheels are aligned properly. The vehicle is connected to a machine that is able to measure the position of each wheel and report the current alignment of the vehicle, as well as what adjustments may be necessary so that the vehicle adheres to the specifications of suspension outlined by the vehicle manufacturer.
Camber – Vertical slope or angle of the wheels. If wheels are positioned at an incorrect angle on the road, the camber is off.
Toe – All four wheels must roll in the same direction at the same time. Toe measures the direction for which the wheels are rolling.
Caster – Balancing angle related to the vehicle’s steering and weight. Too much or too little caster makes handling the vehicle more difficult and may result in drifting or wandering. Think of a bicycle’s front wheel and how it is kicked forward at the bottom, that’s positive castor. The more you have, the more stable your vehicle will drive. Too much caster, however, makes it much harder to steer.
What Causes Bad Alignment?
Misalignment happens for many reasons and can be caused by environmental conditions, driver error, and wear and tear of suspension components. Because of their delicate nature, the metal components of the suspension system are susceptible to damage from the impact of hitting a curb or pothole. Even at low speeds, the impact can change the shape, which pushes the alignment out of place. Additionally, other components of the suspension system such as joints and bushings may weaken over time making them ineffective in keeping the wheels aligned. Lastly, vehicle modifications such as the use of a lift or lowering kits can affect the alignment of your vehicle. Manufacturers set parameters on suspension based on the vehicle’s height. If modified, the suspension must be adjusted to make up for the increased height.
Signs of Bad Alignment and How to Prevent It
Front end or four-wheel alignments should be performed when new tires are installed on your vehicle to prevent premature wear of the tires. It may be time for an alignment if you notice that tire treads are uneven, or you notice:
- Car pulling to the right or left
- Fighting the steering wheel
- Car tracks depressions in the road
- Shaking steering wheel
Avoiding a pothole in the road is sometimes a difficult task, however, going around them or slowing down as you pass over them can certainly help. Likewise, watching for curbs as you turn, or park is equally as important to keep your alignment in shape. Finally, ensuring your tires are properly maintained will help prevent your vehicle from misalignment. Be sure to check and adjust your tire pressure often, inspect tires for wear and tread depth, ensuring even wear across all four tires, and finally be sure your tires are rotated every 5,000 miles.
Poor air pressure can also cause the vehicle to pull to one side or another. If the pressure varies from one tire to another, it changes the height causing the alignment to change. Underinflated tires also experience more resistance when rolling, making a pull more obvious.
Align Your Wheels with Us
Tires that are not properly aligned begin to wear out faster than usual, which can cause some potentially dangerous situations on the road. Poor tire tread hinders your vehicle’s ability to stop, especially on wet or icy roads. Check the appearance of your tires to make sure they are wearing evenly, have enough pressure, and do not look rough or torn. Have a technician perform an alignment on your car when your vehicle begins to show any signs of misalignment.
Each vehicle manufacturer sets their own specifications for how your vehicle should be aligned. These measurements and movements are used to establish the ideal alignment for your vehicle. Sun Auto Service has state-of-the-art alignment equipment to ensure your vehicle meets these recommended specifications. Our friendly technicians will check your vehicle’s alignment and adjust if necessary. Alignments can be performed in as little as an hour, which means you’ll be in and out, so you can get back to what matters most to you. Take the time to invest in the life of your tires by ensuring your vehicle is aligned the right way with Sun Auto Service.