Why do you need an Alignment Check?
When your driving, potholes, curb checks and normal road forces are always trying to pull your vehicle out of alignment. Many times there are no noticable signs that you alignment is out of manufacturer specification until its too late, and you have tire wear! This can cost you money by having to replace your tires prematurely, and can be down right dangerous. The only way to know for sure that your alignment and steering and suspension parts are good and safe, is to have them checked by a certified and professional technician, using the most advanced alignment machine.
What is a proper alignment check?
The first step of any alignment check is a test drive. This is the only way for a technician to know if your steering wheel is off, whether the vehicle is pulling or drifting, and gives them a chance to determine if they feel or hear any possible problems with your steering or suspension. Each one of these areas could indicate your alignment being out of specification. An alignment check isnt an alignment check unless it starts with a test drive.
Check Suspension & Steering Systems:
The most commonly missed step in a proper alignment is checking Steering and Suspension Systems. This is critically important for one reason, a vehicle can not hold a good alignment if there are any bent or worn parts in these systems. Its these are the parts that are actually responsible for holding a good and tight alignment! These parts include ball joints, bushings, wheel bearings, struts and shocks, tie rod ends and steering gears. On top of tire wear these parts can also be a major safety issue if left unrepaired, so they should be checked with every alignemnt, every time. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THESE PARTS AND THE HIDDEN DANGERS THEY POSE.
Check the Alignment:
Only after the vehicle has been test driven and given a thourough steering and suspension check, can the alignment be finally checked. At this point we perform a laser guided alignment check which will give us a digital read out of the angles of alignment of your tires. With this readout we will be able to check the alignment of your tires against manufacurer specifications, for the camber caster and toe measurements, and be able to give a reccomendation if a realignment of the tires should be performed.
Camber, Toe, and Caster measurements, and why they are important.
When we talk about alignments we are really talking about is the angles of your wheels and suspension parts. These angles have names, there are many but the 3 most important and most likely to be out are Camber, Caster and Toe.
Camber is the angle of wether your tires are leaning in, leaning out or standing straight up and down. This is important because if they are leaning in or out, you will get inside or outside tire wear(also known as Shoulder Wear).
Toe is the measurement of wether your tires are pointed in, pointed out or pointed straight forward. This is important because if the wheels are both pointed right, your vehicles steering wheel will be off, and you can have a pull or drift when driving. But if both tires are pointed out, your steering wheel will be straight, but you will get inside tire wear. If both tires are pointed in, your steering wheel will but straight, but you will get outside tire wear.
Caster is the angle of wether your tires are sitting too far forward or backwards in the wheel well. This can cast a drift or a pull when driving, but caster can not wear your tires.
The only way to know if your alignment is good or not is to have it checked by a professional.
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The ball joint are a part of you suspension. They ultimately connect the wheel to the rest of your vehicle. They are a ball and socket type of joint, similar to your hip socket. When they wear out they begin to have play or movment in them, which can not only lead to a bad alignment, but if in a bad enough condition, may seperate and lead to the tire seperating from the vehicle possibly while driving. As a safety concern the health of your ball joints cannot be stressed enough.
Wheel bearings are a bearing that connect your wheel and brakes to the rest of the vehicle. They are what allows your wheel to spin. They should be tight at all times to ensure safety and correct alignment while driving. When they wear out they become loose which lets your alignment move out of manufacturer specification. They will eventually break, which means your tire will seperate from your car.
Tie Rod Ends
Tie rod ends are a mechanical linkage that links the steering gear to your wheel. When you turn the steering wheel left or right, they pull or push the tire in and out. They are critical to a good alignment. They control the "Toe" measurement. When they wear out, it allows the tire alignment measurment to move, which will cause tire wear. If they break you will have no control of the steering creating a very dangerous situation.
Struts, Shocks and Springs
Struts and Shocks are part of the suspension system, their job is to reduce the amount of bouncing when driving. When worn out, the vehicle will bounce more and longer after bumps and uneven pavement. This bouncing can cause a tire wear condition called "cupping" which will make the tires rougher and reduce the lifespan of the tires. Springs are also part of the suspension system, they help support the weight of the vehicle and help to maintain the proper ride height. A worn out spring will let the vehicle height drop, which will cause camber measurements to be out, this will cause "shoulder wear" which will wear out your tires. Shocks, Struts and Springs work together to give your vehicle a smooth ride and maximum traction.
Rack & Pinion / Steering Gear
The Steering Gear Box or Rack and Pinion(also known as Steering Gear) is part or your steering system. When you turn, the steering column goes from your steering wheel and inserts into the Steering Gear. This is the part of the steering system that allows you to turn your wheel left and right and have power steering. The Steering Gear pushes and pulls steering linkage that is connected to your wheels, which is how you steering your vehicle. When a Steering Gear fails, it can leak fluid, have looseness or play in your steering wheel and make your alignment out of specification. If the steering gear is worn out, there is no way to properly align your vehicle.
Control Arms & Bushings
Control Arms & Bushings are part of your suspension system. They are responsible for hold the steering knuckle in place, as well as allowing your wheel to move properly over bumps. They are critical to the structure of your suspension and alignment. When they are worn out the alignment will come out of specification, and if they totally fail they can seperate from the vehicle causing a loss of control of the vehicle.