The sun pours its golden rays through the windshield, and the wind sweetly whispers as the vehicle cruises down the highway. After following the curves of a winding road, the wheels finally hit the straight and narrow. Two hands firmly grasp an off-center steering wheel. The vehicle responds with rough vibration through the steering wheel. Down a perfectly straight road, the driver must compensate for the vehicle pulling to the left. The wheels are not aligned.
What is a Wheel Alignment?
A wheel alignment involves working with suspension angles to ensure that the wheels have the correct angular relationship between the ground and the other wheels of the vehicle. Aligned wheels should be perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. However, over time, the wheels stray away from being perfectly perpendicular and parallel. When the wheel angles do not meet those criteria, then the vehicle needs a wheel alignment.
What are Some Terms Associated with a Wheel Alignment?
Camber: The angle at which the wheels are tilted from being perpendicular, or how far the wheel slants away from being perfectly vertical
Caster: The angle created by the steering pivot point from the front to the back of the vehicle
Toe: The angle of the tires pointed inward or outward from a top viewpoint
Click on the Tires & Alignment tab for more information.
Why Should I Have My Wheels Aligned?
1. A Smoother Ride
Wheels with varying angles relative to each other and the ground create a rough, uneven ride. Often times, the vehicle will vibrate when driving down the road in response to misaligned wheels. Aligned wheels all have the same angle relative to the ground and each other so that they can smoothly travel in the same direction.
2. More Control/ Better Steering
Misaligned wheels can cause the steering to suffer. A vehicle with misaligned wheels often pulls to the left or right when the vehicle drives straight. When the vehicle naturally pulls to the left or the right, the driver must compensate for the vehicle's directional tendency. A wheel alignment keeps the vehicle traveling straight so that the vehicle does not pull to the right or the left. After a wheel alignment, the driver has an overall better steering control of the vehicle.
3. The Tires Wear Unevenly.
Misaligned tires have different angles relative to the ground. When the wheel tilts one way or another, then the tire does not wear evenly against the road's surface. Instead, the tire may wear closer to the sides of the tire, in a diagonal pattern, or only on one side of the tire's tread. Uneven tire wear increases the wear rate and the risk of going flat.
4. Suspension Parts Wear Out Faster.
The alignment of the tires has a direct relationship with the vehicle's suspension system because wheel alignment involves working with suspension angles. Misaligned tires do not have the proper perpendicular and parallel angles. Due to misaligned tires, the shocks and/ or struts endure greater stress. A wheel alignment is fairly inexpensive in comparison to a shack and/or strut replacement.
When Should I Have My Wheels Aligned?
To avoid excessive wear on the tires and suspension system, the wheels should receive an alignment every 15,000 miles. The wheels should always be balanced and aligned together because balancing and aligning wheels relate directly. Balanced and aligned wheels prevent excessive tire wear and other potential damage as well as improve the overall fuel efficiency of the vehicle.
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