Suppose you are driving along and all of a sudden, your car begins to pull to one side. What do you do? Your car may be telling you that you need a wheel alignment. A wheel alignment is the process that sets the wheels at the correct angles that allows for maximum control of the car. When you drive over railroad crossings, potholes, and other irregularities in the road, it can knock your suspension out of alignment and make your wheels tilt in angles that they were not meant to sustain. The easiest way to do this is to pay attention to your driving. Once you get accustomed to doing that, you will be able to notice the little things your car is trying to tell you and you can act accordingly.
What is a Wheel Alignment?
The wheels are installed on the car at very specific angles. Those angles allow the tire to wear evenly and help to keep the car straight on the road. When your tires become misaligned, you will notice because the car will pull to one side while you are driving. An alignment puts your suspension and tires back into the angles they are supposed to be in. Your tires should be perpendicular to the road and parallel to each other. On modern cars, the McPherson strut in the suspension system handles some of the adjustments to the alignment, which are the camber and caster. The camber denotes the angle of tilt of the wheels in relation to the road. If the tire tilts outward from the top, it is a positive camber while an inward tilt is a negative camber. The caster is the angle of tilt of the uppermost part of the steering axis. A frontward tilt denotes a negative caster and a backward tilt denotes a positive caster. The toe, which is the tilt of the wheels from a straight-on position, serves to offset any small changes to the wheel support system while the car is in motion.
How To Tell When One is Needed
You will be able to tell if you need a wheel alignment while you are driving. If you notice that your car drifts to one side or the other while you are in motion, then you probably need an alignment done. You will also be able to tell if your steering wheel vibrates while you are driving. If your steering wheel is not centered even though you are driving in a straight line, then this may be another indication that some adjustment needs to be done. You may also need an alignment if you notice more wear on the outside of your tires than on the inside. If it has been a long time since the last alignment, it may be wise to have one done even if you do not notice any of the warning signs. You can check your owner’s manual to determine the timeframe recommended by the manufacturer.
Benefits of the Alignment
The most important benefit of having a wheel alignment done is to keep you safe on the road. When your wheels and suspension system are properly aligned, you will be able to control your car better. Your parts will last longer and your wheels will wear evenly, which means that you will save money on auto repair. You should always check your tire wear during general car maintenance sessions to keep track of the wear pattern. If you notice anything amiss, be sure that you correct the problems as soon as possible.