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The Importance of Vehicle Alignment

Posted on Jan 10, 2022

Why You Should Get a Wheel Alignment for Your Vehicle. 

When it comes to vehicle care, it's tempting to start with what you can see rather than what's underneath. Vehicle alignment, though easily overlooked, is one of the best things you can do for your automobile's health. These alignment checks aren't just for show, but are actually quite useful when it comes to keeping your car running smoothly. We'll answer some of the most common questions about wheel alignment/tire balancing to help you learn what you can expect from this process.

What is Wheel Alignment?

Wheel alignment (also known as tire alignment) means adjusting the suspension so that the tires roll smoothly without wobbling or bouncing. It usually involves loosening bolts at each wheel assembly, turning them by hand until they're parallel to the ground, then tightening them back up again. A poorly aligned car can inhibit safe driving, so maintaining it is an important part of keeping your car in prime condition.  

What is the Difference Between a Wheel Alignment vs Wheel Balancing?

Tire Balance

A tire balancing corrects any imbalances between different tires and wheels. If uneven tire wear or vibration occurs in any part of your vehicle, check for loose bolts, worn out bushings, broken suspension components, etc. Balancing properly can help prevent premature tire wear, which could result in better handling and performance.

Wheel/Tire Alignment

Alignment ensures that the wheels are at exactly the right angle when contacting the ground. Rapid tire wear, squealing wheels, or crooked steering wheel may indicate an issue with the alignment of your vehicle’s suspension system. Alignment ensures a smooth ride and precise steering for you and a longer life for your tires.

Getting a four-wheel alignment or front-end alignment regularly (yearly or after the vehicle starts drifting) will extend the life of your tires. Three different kinds of tire alignment options exist – front end, thrust, and four wheel. The kind of alignment you get is determined by what type of suspension your vehicle has.

Front-end alignment

A front-end alignment adjusts the front axle. In general, this is the least expensive way to align an older vehicle. However, if your car has been sitting for some time, then using this method may be less effective than others.

Thrust alignment

Combining a front end alignment with a thrust alignment ensures all four wheels are aligned with each other. Usually, this kind of alignment is suggested when driving vehicles with a solid rear wheel assembly.

 Four-wheel alignment

Combining both the front end and back end alignments, this comprehensive alignment places the rear axles at an angle for better traction. It's typically used when referring to four wheel and all wheel drive vehicles and front wheel drive cars with independent suspension systems.

What Are the Signs That Your Car Needs an Alignment?

Your alignment can be thrown off after a collision, driving over a particularly bad pothole, or even just with the passage of time. Here are a few things to look for when it comes to getting your vehicle aligned:

  • Your car pulls to one side of the road
  • The tread of your tires are unevenly or prematurely wearing out
  • You hear squealing from your tires
  • Your steering wheel tilts off-center
  • If your car is in the shop for other reasons, it doesn't hurt to go through the alignment process as well.
  • Getting your tires rotated? Why not have the alignment checked while you're in?
  • Replacing a tire (or two or three or four)? An alignment is integral to making sure that your new tires wear evenly.

How Do Balancing and Alignment Benefit Your Car?

One of the biggest benefits of having balanced tires is that they help avoid early tire tread wear, which can lead to better fuel efficiency and responsiveness. If ignored, alignment issues will gradually decrease your tires' lifespan, and can even lead to dangerous safety failures (tire blowouts, brake strain, etc.) When properly aligned, you'll save money by avoiding premature tire replacement costs and helping prevent other issues related to the steering or suspension system. After all, no one wants the off-center steering wheel that bad alignment can bring!

How Often Do I Need a Wheel Alignment?

Get your car’s alignment checked at least once per year or after 6,000 miles, depending on which one happens sooner.

You should also consider getting a wheel alignment after

  • installing a new set of tires
  • hitting a problematic pothole or curb
  • being involved in a collision or accident

 

Conclusion

From premature tire wear to damaged suspension, poor vehicle alignment can cost you. That's why we are happy to provide outstanding auto repairs and maintenance on all other makes and models for our Santa Fe clients. Make sure your car has received proper alignment and enjoy some peace of mind by coming by Master Tech Auto Repair. Let us set things straight!

 

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