How Do You Know if You Need an Alignment?

  • Does the steering wheel pull to the left or the right?
  • Are your tires wearing unevenly?
  • If you let go of the wheel on a straightaway, does your car steer straight? Or does it steer into oncoming traffic or the towards the shoulder?

If your vehicle is out of alignment, it can end up costing you hundreds in tires.  The tread on your tires will look off, and eventually, and preventabley, you will have to change one or more of your tires!  Especially with the potholes and uneven roads of Saint John in your way!

A little background about your alignment:

No matter how advanced, expensive or run-of-the-mill your ride is, the wheel alignment (not to be confused with wheel balance) is basically related to three settings:

Toe – front and rear wheels are never adjusted to track perfectly parallel paths. If they were, then you would constantly have to adjust the steering wheel to stay in a straight line. Instead, the front wheels are pointed slightly together or away from each other to provide a solid feel to the steering. The amount of this toe-in or toe-out varies from model to model and is set to tolerances of less than a half-inch.

Camber – this represents the vertical angle of the wheels; with most vehicles, the top of each tire is slanted inward. As with toe settings, this provides a more solid feel to the steering, while giving each tire maximum grip on the road.

Caster – this is commonly referred to as the crouch angle, and it relates to the position of each wheel within the wheel well, as in whether it’s “crouched” forward or rearward.

Of these three, only one – the toe setting – is truly adjustable on most vehicles. The others are factory set and if they’re severely out of tolerance, it means something is bent.

Many shops will recommend an alignment inspection based simply on a vehicle’s age. Few customers know that there is no difference in fee between an inspection and the actual alignment adjustments. The lion’s share of the work in a wheel alignment is setting up the vehicle on a specialized lift and connecting the measurement equipment to each wheel. After that, performing the adjustments is a matter of unlocking and rotating the metal sleeves that are attached to the steering linkage. So before you agree to an inspection, ask about the fee first.

 

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