While it is often referred to simply as an alignment or wheel alignment. It is really complex suspension angles that are being measured and a variety of suspension components that are being adjusted. This makes an alignment an important suspension tuning tool that greatly influences the operation of the vehicle’s tires. Out-of-alignment conditions occur when the suspension and steering systems are not operating at their desired angles. Poor alignment conditions are most often caused by spring sag or suspension wear on an older vehicle. They can also be the result of an impact with a pothole or curb, or a change in vehicle ride height on any vehicle regardless of age. Incorrect alignment settings will usually result in more rapid tire wear. Therefore, alignment should be checked whenever new tires or suspension components are installed, and any time unusual tire wear patterns appear. Alignment should also be checked after the vehicle has encountered a major road hazard or curb.
An Alignment is Needed for All Four Tires
The different types of alignments offered today are front-end, thrust angle, and four-wheel. During a front-end alignment, only the front axle’s angles are measured and adjusted. Front-end alignments are fine for some vehicles featuring a solid rear axle, but confirming that the front tires are positioned directly in front of the rear tires is also important. On all vehicles with four-wheel independent suspensions, or front-wheel drive vehicles with adjustable rear suspensions, the appropriate alignment is a four-wheel alignment. This procedure squares the vehicle like a thrust angle alignment, and also includes measuring and adjusting the rear axle angles as well as the front.
The Camber is Important
The camber angle identifies how far the tire slants away from vertical when viewed directly from the front or back of the vehicle. Camber is expressed in degrees, and is said to be negative when the top of the tire tilts inward toward the center of the vehicle and positive when the top leans away from the center of the vehicle. Appropriate camber settings that take into account the vehicle and driver’s aggressiveness will help balance tread wear with cornering performance.
The Caster should be Inspected
The caster angle identifies the forward or backward slope of a line drawn through the upper and lower steering pivot points when viewed directly from the side of the vehicle. Caster angle settings allow the vehicle manufacturer to balance steering effort, high speed stability and front end cornering effectiveness. Increasing the amount of positive caster will increase steering effort and straight line tracking, as well as improve high speed stability and cornering effectiveness.
Recommendations for an Alignment
An accurate wheel alignment is critical to balance the tread wear and performance a vehicle’s tires deliver. Regular wheel alignments will usually save you as much in tire wear as they cost, and should be considered routine, preventative maintenance. Since there are acceptable ranges provided in the manufacturer’s recommendations, we can recommend the correct alignment for your vehicle.