There are a few key signs to let you know that you may need a 4 wheel alignment without even getting out of the car. The easiest way to determine if you need a wheel alignment is to relax your grip on the steering wheel while driving straight on smooth pavement and see where the car drives. Does it pull to the left or right or does it continue to go straight? If the vehicle does anything other than drive straight, you should get your wheel alignment specifications checked. Visible uneven tire wear is also an indication that you might need a 4 wheel alignment.
The three measurements that manufactures use to set alignment are: caster, camber, and toe.
- Caster refers to the contact patch (where the tire touches the ground) of the tire in relation to the axis of rotation. Positive caster helps re-center the wheels after they have been turned but makes turning efforts higher because the tires will want to stay straight. Matching the caster to the manufacturer’s wheel alignment specifications can make the car easier and safer to drive.
- Camber is the angle of the tire in relation to the road. Zero camber is when the tire is straight up and down. Positive camber is when the top of the tires lean to the outside of the car, while negative camber is when the top of the tires lean into the car. This effects handling greatly and is commonly used for autocross and other driving competitions to increase grip while turning. Too much camber, however, can drastically reduce tire life.
- Toe refers to where the front of the tires point. If they point in towards one another, that is called toe in. Toe out is when the tires are pointing away from each other. Common toe in and toe out settings are measured in 1/16th of an inch increments.
At Palo Alto Shell, we use high-tech computerized alignment equipment to guarantee quality results, with a printout of your caster, camber and toe readings after each 4 wheel alignment. We can return your car to the manufacturer’s wheel alignment specifications or perform a custom setup. Stop bytoday and avoid wasting money on prematurely worn tires.