WHEN SHOULD I GET AN ALIGNMENT CHECK?
Anytime you get new tires or work done on suspension components, or any time you notice unusual tire wear patterns. Also, any time in which the vehicle hits a curb or other road hazard is a good time to get the alignment checked.
TYPES OF ALIGNMENT
The types of alignments we offer are front-end alignment, thrust angle alignment and four-wheel alignment.
Only the front axles are involved during this type of alignment. They are measured and adjusted. For vehicles with a solid rear axle, front end alignments are fine, but it is also important to ensure that front tires are positioned to track directly.
A thrust angle alignment is done to ensure that the front and rear wheels are tracking correctly on a solid rear axle vehicle. It involves the technician confirming that all four wheels are "square" with each other and aligned properly. This type of alignment identifies vehicles that would "dog track" while driving, with the rear end offset from the front.
The four-wheel alignment is the most common type, and all types of vehicles, no matter the suspension type, should get a four wheel alignment. The four wheel alignment is similar to the thrust angle alignment in that it "squares" the vehicle. However, there is more work involved with this procedure, such as measuring and adjusting both rear and front axles.
WHAT DOES AN ALIGNMENT ADJUST?
An alignment measures and adjusts the caster, camber, toe and thrust angle.
The caster is the angle created by the steerings pivot point from the front to back of the vehicle. If the angle is forward, then the caster is positive, but if the angle is backward. the caster is negative. A positive caster will ensure that the vehicle will be more stable at a higher mph. Caster angles are different depending on the vehicle, so the manufacturer can achieve the correct balance of steering effort, high speed stability and front end cornering.
The camber is similar to the castor, in terms of angles. The camber is the angle that tells how far away the tires tilt when looking at them from directly in fthe front or back of the vehicle. If the top of the tires tilt towards the center of the vehicle, the camber is negative. On the other hand, when the top of the tires tilt away from the center, the camber is positive.
The toe is the suspension angle, which measures the exact direction the tires are pointed compared to the center of the vehicle when viewed from directly above. Positive toe, or toe in, refers to the front of the wheel pointing in, whereas negative toe, or toe out, is the front of the wheel pointing away from the center. In production automobiles, toe is always adjustable, even though caster angle and camber angle are often not adjustable. Toe can also be used to adjust the vehicle's handling.
WHY IS ADJUSTING TOE IMPORTANT?
In an alignment, the toe is one of the most highly important settings for the vehicle. It relates to tire wear, and a toe that is not on the correct setting can greatly affect the tire wear. For example, the smallest misadjustment in the toe setting, such as 1/16-inch off, each tire on that axle can scrub almost seven feet sideways for every mile it drives. So, correct toe adjustment is vital in ensuring tire life and handling.
The thrust angle is an imaginary line drawn perpendicular to the rear axle's centerline. It compares whether the rear axle is lined up with the centerline of the vehicle. It can also if the rear axle is parallel to the front axle and ensures that the wheelbase on both sides of the vehicle are identical.
The preferred angles for camber, caster and toe depend on the vehicle's manufacturer's alignment specifications. However, the correct thrust angle is always zero. The manufacturers also provide the correct minimum and maximum angles for these specifications. The minimum and maximum camber and caster specifications typically result in a range that remains within plus or minus 1-degree of the preferred angle.