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February 25, 2013

What Is Wheel Alignment?

By: Jennifer Hulbert

In case you are wondering what wheel alignment is, I would refer you to a basic definition from Wikipedia; which defines tire alignment as part of car maintenance that entails the adjustment of the angles of the wheels so that they match the manufacturer’s specifications just to ensure the vehicle moves straight ahead do it.

In case you hit a big pothole, you might have your suspension bumped out of their original locations and this might call for alignment.

Importance of wheel alignment

Tire alignment is vital when it comes to your car’s health. Here are just a few reasons:

1.    One of the advantages of aligning tires is that it improves gas mileage. Aligned tires reduce the resistance experienced as the car rolls, thus increasing your mileage.
2.    Reduce tire wear. In case your car tires wear out irregularly, it is an indication of misalignment. Before you realize this, you will spend your hard earned income of frequently replacing tires. Tire alignment prevents irregular tire wear and eventually saves you money.
3.    It enhances the handling of a car. An aligned car does not drift to the left or to the right while on the road. If your steering wheel is not centred when you are driving straight, or if it shimmies or vibrate. The vibration of a steering wheel can also be an indication of tire wear or improper inflation of tires. These can be corrected by an alignment, which will give you a smooth ride.
4.    Safety. Good wheel alignment will improve the safety of your car by reducing steering and tracking problems.

Tire alignment tips

Here are basic wheel alignment tips that will work for you:

1.    It is imperative to carry out a pre-alignment inspection. This reduces the chances of overlooking something and coming back later to have it fixed. The tire inflation is normally ignored during wheel alignment yet this is quite important.
2.    Carry out a complete alignment. Be careful not to skip anything such as check toe-out on turns, SAI, ride height, rear-wheel alignment (if it is nonadjustable), caster (if it is nonadjustable), suspension parts, condition of steering, etc. skipping something might have you doing the whole job all over again.

3.    Worn out parts should not be aligned. Worn out parts have lower ability to maintain accurate wheel alignment. Refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure that all the parts are in the recommended working conditions.
4.    If a car does not have factory adjustments for caster or camber, it is not advisable to only set the toe. Read all the angles. If there is any problem, only adjusting the toe won’t fix it.
5.    Do not use your “rule of thumb” specs when considering your tire alignment. It is important to note that a vehicle works best when it is maintained with reference to the manufacturer’s specs.
6.    When carrying out tire alignment, align all the four wheels, not just the front ones. The rear tires are equally important on where the vehicle goes, just as the front ones are.

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