Get the 411: Wheel Alignment and How It Works

Why do I need an alignment?

Alignment is necessary to ensure that your vehicle’s suspension (the system connecting the wheels to the powertrain and the rest of the car) is angled properly. Harsh roads, bumps, and curbs can push your car out of alignment over time. The wearing of tire rubber and sagging of suspension components, like the springs, over time also contributes to changing wheel angles that affect alignment.

How does an alignment work?

During an alignment, vehicles are secured onto a lift that clamps on to each of the four wheels. These clamps connect to a computer that assists the technician’s adjustments to each of the wheels. Doing an alignment also gives the technician an opportunity to make sure that all components of the car’s suspension is functioning normally. If any part of the suspension or steering is broken or needs replacement, this needs to be done before alignment can take place for safety reasons.

An alignment squares away a vehicle’s suspension, checking the coil springs, joints and bearings, rods, and shock absorbers or struts. Adjusting the wheels involves checking the camber (the wheel angle viewed from the front), the caster (angle of the steering pivot), and the toe-in (distance between front tires and the back).

When do I need an alignment?

If your vehicle is out of alignment, it will likely show symptoms. Signs of misalignment include drifting to one side, uneven tread wear, or an off-center steering wheel. In other words, if your car is putting up a fight while you’re steering, it’s time to have it examined by a professional.

The frequency of alignment varies depending on brand and usage. Someone who puts thousands of miles on their car each year will need an alignment sooner than someone who doesn’t drive as far. The manual provided by your car’s manufacturer will provide a recommended maintenance schedule. However, it’s always best to schedule vehicle maintenance before the recommended time to prolong vehicle life, especially if you use it often. Staying ahead of the game always protects you in the long run! Make sure you’re bringing your vehicle in for regular checks even if its operating normally. Did you know Paul Campanella’s Auto & Tire Center provides free diagnostic checks? Schedule an appointment today.

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