Alignment and Tire Rotation Services
Another one of the most important services to to perform on your car is tire alignment. Adjusting the wheels to ensure proper alignment helps to prevent unnecessary wear on the tires and steering mechanism, as well as improve gas mileage, and ensures that the vehicle is driving safely and efficiently overall. Like most maintenance services, regularly scheduled tire alignment saves money in the long run by keeping the wheels turning smoothly and functioning as intended, preventing the degradation and damage that often occurs when ignored.
Prolonged driving on wheels that are out of alignment can cause excess strain on the vehicle’s suspension, damage some of the vehicle’s major mechanical systems, and accelerate tire wear, which can all be avoided with basic examination. Checking tire tread is one primary method of assessing whether or not an alignment is required, based upon how even the tread wear is. The three major measurement for alignment are camber, caster, and toe.
Camber refers to the angle of the wheels along the vehicle’s roll axis measured in degrees, with an outward angle being a positive reading, and inward being a negative one. Any significant positive or negative camber will cause accelerated wear on one side of the tire tread, depending on which side it falls on. Also important to note, if the vehicle is pulling to one side or the other while driving, this is often an indication that the positive or negative camber may differ from one side of the vehicle to the other.
Caster, like camber, is also measured in degrees, and is the angle of which the steering pivot axis is tilted forward (negative) or backward (positive) from the vertical position, as viewed from the side. The caster can cause problems with steering the vehicle and shouldn’t go ignored, but doesn’t usually tend to contribute to uneven tread wear.
The third major measurement in alignment is the toe. A toe-in or toe-out refers to the difference between the rear and the front of the tires. When the leading edges of a pair of wheels are slightly pointed toward each other, it is referred to as toe-in. If the leading edge of the wheels faces outward from each other, this is known as toe-out. The toe is measured in fractions of an inch and is normally set to 0.
These fundamental measurements are what correct all alignment issues if set properly. A visual inspection of the tires can usually determine if an auto alignment is necessary, however, sometimes little or no physical symptoms are visibly observable, and are instead felt in the form of difficult or unusual steering and handling behavior. If your vehicle has begun to show signs of improper alignment, have your steering system and alignment checked as soon as possible to avoid damage and unsafe driving conditions.
One question you may be asking is why exactly the vehicle becomes misaligned in the first place. This is due to many factors, with rough road conditions, and mechanical wear and tear being the primary culprits of misalignment. Everything wears out over time and, therefore, everything must be tuned and maintained. If a vehicle remains without proper alignment it can cause serious damage, and hazardous driving conditions for everyone in the vehicle. Drivers may experience a greater difficulty in the the steering and handling of the vehicle, leading to less reliability and unsafe situations. Being as little as an eighth of an inch unaligned, your wheels can have devastating wear effects on your tires, and significantly reduce the safety and handling of your vehicle.
You might also be asking yourself just how often you should be getting your wheels aligned. As a safe average, after 10,000 miles is generally a good time for completing each alignment service, providing no noticeable cues are seen or felt beforehand. However, If you happen to feel your vehicle pulling to one side before the 10k miles mark, or if you notice that your vehicle is awkwardly shimmying, it is in your best interest to have the vehicle checked out as soon as possible. The 10,000 mile recommendation is also not entirely applicable for everyone’s situation. For example, if you live in an area with large amounts of bumps or potholes, such as places with heavy road wear after the winter months, you will want to be getting the alignment checked more frequently. Excessive potholes and other road hazards tend to force the wheels out of alignment from the strong and sudden impacts, and these conditions should be taken into account when planning your next service.
Regardless of the size and type of vehicle you drive, the tires are designed to roll smoothly while also provide good traction in all kinds of weather conditions. Having them aligned properly by a professional wheel alignment service provider ensures the suspension is functioning correctly, and that the tires are providing proper traction. Tires not properly aligned end up wearing out unevenly, which is often visibly noticeable by comparing the outer, inner and middle tread to determine if one side is more worn than the other. When you have a professional wheel alignment service performed on your car, the specialists ensure that the entire tread area is contacting the road, giving your vehicle the maximum traction and even wear.
The cost savings are another important factor, and something to not be ignored when thinking about tire alignment service. Because misaligned wheels wear faster, you’ll end up having to replace the tires sooner. On top of that, it’s harder on the suspension and other drivetrain parts, which means they will also have to be repaired or replaced much more frequently, not to mention the excess fuel consumption caused by inefficient rotation of the wheels while in motion which, as expensive as gasoline is today, is likely the greatest cost of all.
Take a look at your own tires and pay close attention for any signs of uneven wear. If they’re not wearing evenly across the tire, it’s advised to contact a wheel alignment service provider as soon as possible. The cost savings in gasoline is important, as well as the cost of tires and auto repairs, but most important of all is to ensure your vehicle is safe, stable, and reliable.
A lingering question you may now have is what the process entails, and how does it work. Overall, the process generally takes under an hour. A skilled technician loads your car onto a platform that will allow the wheels to spin freely. As the wheels spin, a computer programmed with the specific details of your vehicle’s year, make, and model, test the rotation and orientation of each wheel. If the wheels are found to be misaligned, they will be adjusted and fitted to the correct position. In most cases, your vehicle would be taken for a test drive by the technician before and after the alignment process to ensure the proper adjustments have been made, and that the vehicle handles exactly as it should. Tire alignment is another fast, affordable, and painless procedure that goes a long way in maintaining the safety and dependability of your vehicle, and should be on your radar the next time you’re ready to bring it in for a tune-up.