Wheel Alignment Basics
Everything You Need to Know
What happens to your car during a wheel alignment? Here’s everything the technicians at Harry’s Auto Repair in Pleasanton, California do during this important maintenance service.
What is Wheel Alignment?
Wheel alignment refers to the standard geometry and configuration of the wheels, determined by the vehicle manufacturers. The wheels and tires aren’t just installed without care as to exactly how they line up with each other and the vehicle’s body. Precise alignment adjustments maximize vehicle safety by giving the driver optimal control.
Have you ever seen a car that looks like the wheels are crooked and about to fall off? They might be intentionally positioned with a negative camber to give the car a different style or handling experience.
Camber refers to how much the wheel leans toward or away from the car. If the top of the wheel sticks out over the bottom, that is a positive camber. Discrepancies in the camber angle from one side of the car to the other can cause issues with pulling, where the vehicle is hard to keep in a straight line. In most vehicles the camber isn’t adjustable, so a problem is likely the result of broken or worn components.
Ever wondered how it works that the wheels turn when you turn the steering wheel? A steering pivot on the suspension system makes it happen. The caster refers to the angle of this pivot, and whether it varies from being perpendicular with the car’s frame.
If the caster is out of adjustment, it may be difficult to drive in a straight line or the car may drift to the right or left. Positive caster alignments might cause a kickback in the steering wheel when the car travels over a bump. Like the camber, the caster is not adjustable on most vehicles, so something is likely worn or bent if the alignment is off.
If you measured from the front of the right tire to the front of the left, and from the back of the right tire to the back of the left, you would have an idea of the toe alignment. Toe-in means that the front of the tires are closer together than the back. Toe-out is the opposite.
While an extreme toe-in angle will cause rapid and uneven tire wear, a slight toe-in is typically used to give cars stability when traveling straight. Otherwise, the vehicle might feel squirrely and difficult to control.
Have questions about wheel alignment? Contact the experts at Harry’s Auto Repair!