Tire maintenance & safety

Tire Alignment | Vehicle Safety Measures

A lot of things go into maintaining your vehicle so it performs safely and at its best. Proper wheel alignment is one thing that plays an important role. Wheel alignment involves adjusting the angles of a vehicle's wheels so that they are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. These adjustments will ensure maximum tire performance and balanced vehicle movement.

Misalignment of your wheels can lead to irregular tire wear and will have a major effect on the safety of your vehicle. The wheels on your vehicle need to be realigned because of the wear and tear caused by rough driving, steering, and bumps in the road. It's important to have your wheels aligned according to the specific requirements of your vehicle in order to gain optimal performance. You can find the automaker-recommended alignment schedule in your vehicle owner's manual or by contacting your local auto dealership.

Wheel alignment affects fuel efficiency, tire wear, tire performance, vehicle handling, and maneuverability. Wheel alignment is a big factor in a vehicle's steering response. This leads many to the most frequently asked question about tire alignment, "When should I get an alignment?" There is no absolute answer to the question since all vehicles have different service requirements. A service technician at your local dealership will be able to do a quick test to determine if alignment if necessary. He or she can also give you advice about how often you need to have alignments done.

What Is Wheel Alignment?

Vehicles rely on precision in order to function safely. Tires and wheels can easily become misaligned due to anything from road conditions and driving habits to hitting a big bump or getting into a minor accident. Most often, the front wheels are more susceptible to losing proper alignment, though rear wheels can also experience issues with displacement and proper alignment in many of today's vehicles.

Wheel alignment-sometimes referred to as tracking-is the process of correcting the direction and angle of wheels according to the auto manufacturer's specifications. The different kinds of alignments are known as toe in, toe out, positive caster, negative caster, positive camber, and negative camber. Toe indicates the distance between the front of the tires as compared to the distance between the rear of the tires.

In short, toe in means the fronts of the tires are angled toward each other. Toe out means that the fronts of the tires are angled away from each other. Caster is the angle of the steering pivot, measured in degrees, when viewed from the side of the vehicle. Put another way, the caster is the angle of the axis around which a tire rotates as it turns. Camber is the inward or outward tilt of a tire.

The exact specifications and process for these components of wheel alignment can vary by vehicle and are determined by auto manufacturers. Passenger cars with a modern four-wheel suspension receive a different alignment process when compared to a wishbone suspension, or the wheels and tires on a 24-foot box truck that is used to haul heavy loads. That's why tire alignment is something that should be performed by service technicians employed by an associated auto dealership. These technicians are certified by the automaker and possess the expertise and equipment necessary to properly align tires to the exact specifications of specific vehicle makes and models.

The Importance of Wheel Alignment

When tires and wheels are out of alignment, a number of problems can develop within a vehicle's various systems. When alignment is really bad, it's easy to tell as you drive. The vehicle will pull one way or the other. In other words, if you let go of the steering wheel and the vehicle immediately steers to the left or right, there's a good chance that there's an issue with your wheel alignment. Misalignment may also cause vibration that you'll feel especially in the steering wheel.

Simply put, proper wheel alignments allow for safer driving. Wheel alignment will also extend the life of your tires. The alignment of wheels affects the durability and functionality of tires. Wheels that are badly aligned will put extra stress on tires, making them wear out at a faster rate or cause uneven wear on a tire. Uneven tread wear will decrease the safe driving life of a tire, or in a worst-case scenario may damage a tire beyond repair, requiring premature replacement.

Tire alignment also influences gas mileage. When driving a vehicle, the contact between the pavement and the car results in friction that puts added strain on the engine of the car. Wheels that are not aligned properly will lead to a higher degree of friction between the surface of the road and the car tires. In other words, if your wheels are misaligned, your engine has to work harder, which makes it less fuel efficient.

Getting a Wheel Alignment

Known as everything from an alignment job to wheel alignment or tire alignment, this service is one that must be performed by a professional technician. Because wheels and tires are a part of the intricate suspension system, it's helpful to rely on a specialist at a credible automotive dealership. These technicians are trained and certified by your vehicle's manufacturer to service your vehicle. They're qualified to install tires and wheels, repair them, and perform alignment tests and four-wheel alignments.

Aligning car wheels is part of the regular maintenance process. If carried out correctly, alignment will significantly benefit your vehicle's performance in the long run. Your car tires will last longer and remain in good shape. It is also important to maintain correct alignment of wheels to avoid any sort of accidents or other risky situations on the road. It's recommended to have a tire alignment any time you have a new set of tires installed on your vehicle.

SimpleTire.com and your automaker also recommend regular alignments according to your automaker's specifications for your particular model. Check your vehicle owner's manual for more information about your service schedule or contact your local auto dealership. Automaker-certified service professionals can quickly test to see if there are wear patterns that suggest an alignment issue. They can also perform more in-depth diagnostic tests to ensure that your wheel alignment and the rest of your vehicle meet all safety and performance specifications.

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