Why is wheel alignment important?
Wheel alignment ensures that a vehicle’s tires are pointing in the right direction. There are many different causes for vehicles losing their wheel alignment. Some of these causes include driving over pot holes, driving over objects, hitting the curb, and tire wear. Misaligned tires can inhibit your control over your vehicle by affecting steering and car suspension. Most importantly, it can affect your safety, and cause your tires to wear faster.
How often should I get my wheels aligned?
The general rule of thumb for scheduling a wheel alignment is every 6,000 miles. If you wait too long, your tires will lose their elasticity and the ball and socket joints can loosen. Tire alignment can be affected if the tires shift even a tenth of a degree or hundredth of an inch. As time goes on, this misalignment can cause premature and uneven wear.
How can I tell if my tires need alignment?
To the naked eye, it is nearly impossible to tell if your tires need alignment. Simply put, even a fraction of a degree can affect your tires alignment and technology is needed to diagnose your tire’s alignment situation. It’s better not to wait until your tires are prematurely worn down to get your alignment fixed, but tackle the problem early and secure a longer tire life and save yourself some money down the road.
Camber, Toe and Caster
Wheel alignment can be simplified into three main elements: Camber, Toe, and Caster. Camber angle can be described as the angle in degrees that the tire is tilted along a vertical axis. A camber angle of zero degrees would be the wheel aligned vertically perpendicular to the surface, meaning the tire is aligned perfectly straight up and down. This is ideal for even tire wear and longer tire life.
Toe angle is the angle that the tires are pointing inward or outward when you look top-down at your vehicle. It is easy to visualize toe angle if you picture yourself walking with your toes pointing out or pointing inward (pigeon toed). Maintaining correct toe angle is important to reduce wear on tire edges, due to scrubbing against the surface of the road.
Caster is the hardest to visualize, and is the angle created by the steerings pivot point from the front to the back of the vehicle. Car racers will often adjust their caster angle to optimize performance in certain driving situations.