When Is It Time for an Alignment

 

When you’re driving, there is nothing more annoying than having to fight against a steering wheel that is pulling you out of your lane.  Alignment of your vehicle can take care of this problem, but how do you know when it is time for an adjustment before your issue gets dangerous or costs you money? Follow the guidelines in this article, and you will know when it is time for alignment and what an alignment does for you.

When Is It Time for an Alignment?

There are several times when you should consider alignment.  This includes when suspension parts are replaced, when excessive tire wear is noticed, new tires are installed, after you have driven over excessive rough conditions, after an accident or impact with a curb at speed and as part of an annual maintenance plan.

Why Should You Care About the Alignment of Your Car?

The proper alignment of the car does several things. First of all, it is easier to drive a vehicle that you are not struggling to steer and control. Steering can get so bad that driving a car out of alignment can even become dangerous.  A properly aligned vehicle can also save you money by prolonging the life of your tires and reduced fuel consumption.  Studies have shown up to a 10% reduction in fuel economy with a vehicle that is out of alignment.

Should I Get My Car Aligned Every Year?

The recommended timeframe to get tires aligned is once per year.  Owner’s manuals on most cars recommend at least aligning your vehicle every year.  However, there are times when you should align your vehicle regardless of if it has been a year or not since your last alignment. You might think about getting an alignment if you have been in an accident or if you are consistently driving in harsh or rough road conditions. You may also want to consider getting an alignment if you get new tires or suspension parts installed, or if you drive harshly (hit a curb, a pothole, or other severe road condition). The following sections of the article will give you details to use about when are smart times to align your car. We will also give you the reasons why you should think about aligning your vehicle and how to look for the signs that your vehicle might need an alignment.

Should You Align Your Tires After New Suspension Is Installed?

Yes, alignment is vital after getting new suspension parts installed on your car.  In the process of installing new suspension parts, your alignment can become outside of specification due to the removal of various components.  If you do not align your vehicle after a new part in your suspension is installed, it may cause quicker wear and tear on the newly replaced parts and your tires.

Should You Align Your Tires After New Tires Are Installed?

Although it is not necessarily required for you to have your car aligned when you install new tires, it is recommended. It is recommended after new tires are installed because it ensures that your vehicle is within manufacturers specifications to ensure the longest life possible on your new tires.  Tires are a significant investment in your vehicle and anything we can due to extend their life will keep more money in your pocket.

Irregular Tire Wear and Getting an Alignment

If you notice irregular tire wear, especially if you are seeing inner tire edge wear that may be an indication that your car is due for an alignment.  Irregular tire wear can be caused due to lack of tire rotations, improper tire pressure, out of balance tires, or worn suspension components.  It is usually best if you notice irregular wear to schedule a time where we can perform an alignment check and inspection.  This will help us determine the root cause of the tire wear and help you address it before you completely wear through your tires.

Should You Align Your Car After Driving in Rough Road Conditions?

Rough road conditions including washed-out roads, potholes, roads under construction, or other harsh and jarring conditions wreak havoc on your suspension. These conditions can result in the adjustment bolts to move over time and cause your vehicle to become out of alignment.  Consistent driving on poor road surfaces, such as gravel roads, can also put your vehicle out of alignment.  If you notice the steering wheel off-center or the vehicle pulling to one side or the other that is a good indication it is time to get your vehicle scheduled in for an alignment.

Should You Align Your Car After Being in An Accident?

Any car in an accident should consider an alignment. This is especially true if there is damage to the front end of the vehicle or any wheel impacts.  After an accident, come in to Matson Point S Tire & Auto Repair and we can do an alignment check for you.  At this time we would also inspect all of your suspension components to ensure that there is no damage that may make the vehicle unsafe to drive.  If you are not able to drive your car directly following the accident, we are more than happy to arrange a tow for you.

Wheel Alignment Terminology

When you go in for an alignment you might hear some different terms used to describe the direction that the wheels are pointing.  The primary terms to understand are camber, caster and toe.  There are variations of these terms that help your alignment technician describe what is going on with your car.

alignment terminology

Toe-In Vs. Toe-Out Alignment

When looking down the front of your tires, toe position determines how much the tire front is angled in or out. Toe-in means that the front of the tires when looking down the front of the car are facing each other. Toe-out means that the alignment of the tires when looking at them straight on is pointed away from each other.  Typically, when your steering wheel is off-center it is a result of the vehicle toe.

Negative Vs. Positive Camber

The tilt of the wheels can help with handling and speed around turns. Positive camber is when the wheels when looking at the car head-on are tilted out. Negative camber is when the tilt of the wheels when looking at the car head-on is titled in towards the body of the car.  The most common thing you will feel with a vehicle with out of spec camber is a pulling of the vehicle to one side or the other.

Negative Vs. Positive Caster

The caster angle and determines the wheels pivot point. Caster angle determines where the front of the wheel will come in contact with the road. Positive-caster means that the front of the tire is coming in contact with the road first. Negative-caster is further back on the wheel where contact with the road is made. A Neutral-caster is directly in the center of the wheel where the road meets the rubber.  An out of adjustment caster can make the car either feel too twitchy with too much negative caster and floaty with too much positive caster.

Conclusion

Alignment of your vehicle can not only save you from dangerous driving dynamics that make it more difficult to keep you in control of your car, but it can also save you money in the long run. Hopefully this article provided some information to help you understand what an alignment is, why you need one and when you should get one performed.  Our highly trained technicians at Matson Point S will be able to diagnose whether or not the vehicle is in need of alignment. If you suspect you may have an alignment issue don’t hesitate to contact us and schedule an appointment to have your car looked at.