What is a wheel alignment?

airdrie wheel alignment
Gone are the days of the levels and tape measures! Today we mount special targets on your wheels, which allow a sophisticated machine to calculate suspension angles using cameras.

Wheel alignments are one service we provide that seem to a bit misunderstood by many new customers. What is a “wheel alignment”? Even the name itself is a little tricky, because a wheel alignment is a series of adjustments that we make to your vehicle (not your wheels) that keep your wheels and tires pointed correctly down the road.

When your vehicle’s alignment (or suspension angles) are adjusted properly, this helps your car track straightly, without pulling to one side. Proper alignment also improves fuel economy and prevents premature or uneven tire wear.

What’s involved in performing a wheel alignment?

airdrie alignmentsEvery vehicle has a suspension: a whole system of moving parts that connect your wheels to the vehicle frame or body. Without a suspension, your vehicle would ride extremely rough, as there would be nothing to absorb bumps in the road! Your suspension components do a pretty good job of soaking up all that roughness, while keeping your tires pointed down the road at the correct angles. The suspension includes quite a few adjustable parts, to allow for correction of these angles over time. While your vehicle likely left the factory with near-perfect alignment, years of suspension wear, bumps and impacts eventually take their toll, and your alignment needs adjusting again. That’s where we come in!

When we adjust the alignment of your suspension, we are adjusting three different angles:

  • Camber angle adjusts how much your tires lean inward or outward at the top.
  • Toe angle adjusts where your tires are being pointed, or steered.
  • Caster angleis a little harder to describe. It’s best to think about caster as the angle which your suspension components attach to the vehicle, and how far forward/backward your tire sits in the wheel well. Have you noticed how a shopping cart wheel always flips around to face forward as it rolls? That’s an example of caster angle at work.

At My Garage, we’re very proud of the quality alignments that leave our shop. Our caring technicians take the time to get everything perfect – not just close enough – and we adjust all of your suspension angles, not just the easy ones. If you want the best wheel alignment possible in Airdrie, come see us!

Do I need a wheel alignment?

When a customer asks us to perform a wheel alignment, we’re always careful to ask why. This is because we want to make sure the procedure will actually fix their problem!

Here are some valid reasons why you should perform a wheel alignment:

  • Your vehicle consistently pulls to one side, or handles strangely.
  • Your steering wheel is not straight.
  • Your tires are wearing quickly, or unevenly.
  • You have just installed new suspension parts, and the alignment needs to be adjusted as a result.
  • You have just installed new tires, and want to make sure they will last as long as possible.
  • You have not had your alignment checked for 2+ years.

Here are some issues that likely will not be repaired by performing a wheel alignment:

  • Your vehicle has a vibration at highway speeds.
    (Inspect tires and check tire balance instead.)
  • Your vehicle shakes while braking.
    (Inspect for warped brake rotor, or other brake issue.)
  • Your vehicle shakes while accelerating.
    (Inspect for worn out universal joint, axle or other driveline problem.)
  • Your steering wheel wobbles side-to-side at slower speeds.
    (Inspect for out-of-round or damaged tire, or bent wheel.)
  • Your vehicle pulls to one side, but only under acceleration or braking.
    (Inspect for worn bushings and other suspension parts.)

Abnormal tire wear:

alignment tires
This tire is bald on the inside edge, but the rest of the tread is normal; common when the vehicle’s toe angle needs to be adjusted.

One of the most common reasons that we perform a wheel alignment is to prevent – or correct – uneven tire wear. To the trained eye, your tire tread reads like a story of what is wrong with your vehicle. Tires that aren’t wearing correctly can alert us of worn out shocks & struts; tire pressure/inflation issues; alignment problems; and much more.

Next time you inspect your tire tread, take the time to crawl underneath your vehicle and examine the inside edge of the tread. This is where we usually see the first signs of an alignment issue, when the inside edge wears more quickly than the rest of the tread.

We’re proud of the fact that our customers’ tires last longer than average, because we make such an effort to keep the rest of their vehicle in good condition; including alerting you as to when a wheel alignment should be performed.