red car on an alignment rack

When your car, truck or SUV begins to shake, vibrate or pull to either side while driving it typically means it's time to bring it into our shop here at Performance Auto Repair in Montgomery, for an alignment!  Doing so early will save serious wear and tear on tires and it is an easy fix when we catch it early.  But what exactly is a tire alignment and why is it important?

We look at our customer's vehicles each time they come in and set up a vehicle maintenance plan for them, alignments are part of your vehicle maintenance and checked typically every 6,000 miles on average.  Wheel alignments ensure optimal vehicle driving and help your tires last longer, your vehicle will drive better.  

Alignments can also be necessary after a shock to your front wheels like running through a pothole or hitting a curb on our local streets here in Montgomery. The suspension and front end assembly of your vehicle you drive are comprised of many different components, which keep your tires centered and resting flat on the pavement. When things wear out or move over a fairly long period of time, it’s necessary to reset your front end components to get your car, truck, or SUV driving straight again. Avoid driving too much if you believe your tires need an alignment; investing in a repair at Performance Auto Repair as soon as you notice any of the symptoms listed as the more you drive, the worse the damage is. 

What is a Wheel Alignment?

Wheel alignment is making sure the wheels of the vehicle are perpendicular to the road and making sure the wheels are parallel to each other. Wheel alignment involves adjusting the wheels to specifications set by the vehicle manufacturer so they track in a straight line. Mechanics often talk of a front-end alignment since the front wheels are more often the ones that become misaligned.

How are Wheels Aligned

Alignment involves adjusting all the angles of the wheels so they have the proper caster, camber, and toe.

Camber

Camber is the angle of the wheel when viewed from the front of the vehicle. If the wheel leans too far to one side or the other it will cause the tires to wear unevenly.

- Positive camber is when the top of the wheel is leaning “away” from the car. To much positive camber wears the tires on the outside.
- Negative camber is when the top of the wheel is leaning “in” toward the car. To much negative camber will wear the tires on the inside.

The camber angle is designed and adjusted for each vehicle to keep the tread of the tires flat on the ground while the wheels are turning. If there is to much difference between the camber settings on the front wheels, the vehicle tends to pull sharply to one side.

Caster

The caster refers to the forward or rearward tilt of the steering axis which is measured from the top of the tire when viewed from the side. The axis is formed by extending an imaginary line through the upper and lower steering knuckles. The line extends through the upper and lower ball joints on vehicles with front control arms, and through the lower ball joint to the center of the strut mount on vehicles with struts.

- Positive caster occurs when the angle is toward the “rear” of the vehicle. Positive caster makes your front wheels act as if your car was being pulled from the front so the tires line up behind the point of pull.
- A negative caster occurs when the angle is to the “front” of the vehicle.

Caster is set so your vehicle tends to go straight ahead. Caster affects your vehicle’s low-speed steering and high-speed stability, as well as, how well your vehicle drives in a straight line. Negative caster will cause your vehicle to “wander” and make it feel unstable at high speeds. Positive caster causes hard steering and can also result in excessive road shock and shimmy. Caster does not affect tire wear.

Toe

Toe is the difference in the distance between the front of the tires and the back of the tires. Toe settings affect the handling characteristics of the vehicle when turning.

-Toe-in is when the front of the tires are closer together. Toe-in introduces understeer going into a curve. If the tires are “toed-in”, the tire tread will be “worn off” starting from the outside edge of the tire.
-Toe-out is when the rear of the tires are closer together. Toe-out can introduce oversteer in a curve and makes the vehicle feel like it is “diving” sharply into the turn. If the tires are “toed-out”, the wear will start on the inside or the side of the tire towards the underside of the vehicle. This type of wear is called “feathering” and can be felt by running your hands across the tread of the tire.

When Do I Need to Check My Wheel Alignment?

Each vehicle has factory specifications for camber, caster, and toe which should be followed precisely. Improper wheel alignment not only causes poor handling and premature tread wear, it also reduces fuel efficiency. The wheel alignment of your vehicle can be knocked out of adjustment from simple daily impacts such as potholes and railroad crossings. You would want to have your vehicle’s wheel alignment checked by Performance Auto Repair if:

- You know you have hit something with your wheel
- You see distinct wear on the shoulders of the tires
- You see uneven wear only on one side of the tire
- You see one tire is worn more than the others
- You notice a change in the way your vehicle handles, such as vibration, wandering or the vehicle pulls to one side or the other

When your steering wheel is pointing straight forward and the car veers to the left or right is a definite indicator of faulty wheel alignment. If your vehicle has gotten to the point of pulling to one side the tires are under extreme distress and the longer it is before a wheel alignment the more damage will be done to the tires.

Most manufacturers recommend the wheels be aligned once every 6 months or 6,000 miles. If you have hit something it is recommended to have the alignment checked immediately to ensure proper alignment prior to any tire damage.

When your Performance Auto Repair technician does your wheel alignment, several measurements are checked and adjusted if necessary. These measurements include camber, caster, and toe. This is all done with computerized, laser leveled, alignment machines.

Important Tips: To save you hundreds on repairs with new tires, suspensions & steering parts, make sure to look at your tires for uneven tread wear.

Signs of Off Alignment Checklist:

- Your car or truck pulling to one side or the other is a great sign that you need an alignment.  Simply get on a straight road like an interstate and release the wheel for a few seconds and see if it pulls.  When you come into the shop let us know which side it pulls towards.
- If the steering wheel is crooked! Your alignment is off!  Sounds odd but it is true, looking at your steering wheel when you are going straight if it isn't properly lined up you DO have a problem.  
- When you are driving on a smooth road and your steering wheel is vibrating or shaking we have a problem which could be an alignment or it could be a tire balance problem.
- Your tires are starting to wear unevenly or rapidly is a sign of needing an alignment.

Causes of Misalignment Include:

- Aggressive cornering
- Hard braking
- Road Hazards
- Hitting or bumping a curb
- A minor car accident or fender bender

Benefits of Having Proper Wheel Alignment

Save Fuel

When the wheels of the vehicle are not properly aligned there is uneven pressure on the tires. This will lead to them pushing against each other which will cause uneven friction and much more resistance from the road surface. This means that your vehicle will have to work much harder to move forward. This extra work will require your vehicle to burn more fuel to compensate for the extra power needed.

When you align the wheels properly there is less friction and much less resistance from the road surface. Proper wheel alignment results in a much smoother drive which will help your vehicle to run properly, therefore, eliminating the additional work on the tires which caused the vehicle to burn an increased amount of fuel.

Extends the Life of Tires

The importance of proper wheel alignment cannot be emphasized enough when referring to wear and tear on your tires. More resistance to the road surface means more pressure on the rubber of the tire. This will lead to uneven wear of the tires. Uneven wear means the tires are worn or “bald” on one side. When the tires wear unevenly they will have to be replaced a lot sooner than normal. Making sure your vehicle has proper alignment will help extend the life of the tires.

Safety

When the tires are worn on one side they will hit the road unevenly. Driving a vehicle that pulls to one side or the other creates a safety issue. Driving with faulty wheel alignment will increase the amount of time required when braking. Faulty alignment also increases the difficulty of driving on wet or iced road conditions.

Less Strain on the Vehicle

When the vehicle is driven with improper alignment it will cause extreme stress and strain on other systems of the automobile. Having a proper wheel alignment will help reduce this negative impact and damage that could be caused to your vehicle. Driving with faulty alignment will cause damage to other systems and components of the vehicle and lead to major repairs.

Negative Effects of Improper Wheel Alignment

Having a vehicle with faulty wheel alignment will lead to other connection problems for your automobile. The brake shaft does not work at optimal levels and will cause difficulty in braking. The vehicle pulling to one side will cause problems in the steering system. Improper alignment will also cause problems with the suspension system of your automobile. The suspension system of your vehicle is made up of complicated and delicately balanced parts. These parts must remain in perfect balance. When the vehicle pulls to one side it will through off the balance of the suspension system parts.

Wheel alignment is not the same as wheel balance; however, both are extremely important in the life of the tire and proper functioning of your vehicle. Wheel balance should be maintained more often than wheel alignment, in order to keep tires from shaking or vibrating. If you are experiencing either wheel alignment or wheel balance issues, it is important to contact an ASE certified technician for vehicle services. Vehicle maintenance is a crucial part of owning a vehicle.

Expert Vehicle Service and Wheel Alignment

At Performance Auto Repair our Advanced Level ASE Certified Technicians will explain the difference between proper wheel balance and wheel alignment. Our highly trained, expert technicians will not only inspect your vehicle to make sure it is in proper running condition, but they will make sure your tires are properly balanced and aligned. Performance Auto offers the vehicle service and wheel alignment Montgomery, AL residents trust

When a vehicle that is out of alignment is driven, the tires will wear unevenly, usually on an outer or inner edge on just one side. To avoid damaging your tires, and to make sure the wheel alignment problem doesn’t get worse, it’s important to correct the situation as soon as possible.

Trust our team of highly trained mechanics at Performance Auto Repair, to diagnose your vehicle issues and get you safely on the road.  An alignment when you first notice the issue will save you the costs of replacement tires and suspension parts plus the dramatically improve the drive quality of your vehicle. Our mechanics will align your wheels and front end quickly, and do it right. Come by Performance Auto Repair in Montgomery and get your alignment troubles taken care of today!

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