Carolina Auto Service takes providing the highest quality of automotive service very seriously. We know that you need to be able to trust in your vehicle and its ability to safely get you where you need to go. This is why we work so hard in everything we do, ensuring you receive the same customer care we provide for our own families. Toward the safety and reliability of your vehicle, one of the most important services we provide is wheel alignment.
Wheel alignment, sometimes called tire alignment, helps your tires perform at their best and last longer. The adjustments performed as part of this routine service also improves your vehicle’s handling and keeps it from pulling or vibrating as you drive.
What is Wheel Alignment?
Wheel alignment is adjustment of your suspension system. This system is where your wheels connect to the vehicle. Contrary to what many people think, alignment is not an adjustment of the wheels or tires. Instead, it corrects the angle at which the wheels and tires operate as they make contact on the roadway.
You can know you need alignment if your vehicle shows particular signs. These signs include:
- Pulling to one direction when you drive
- Uneven tread wear on your tires
- Off-center position of your steering wheel as you drive straight ahead
- Steering wheel vibration
Below, we look at some of the specifics of alignment and the important role it plays in safe, reliable vehicle transportation.
Why Alignment Is So Important
Improper alignment leads to uneven and premature tire wear. You can even experience a dangerous tire blowout or another type of accident if you do not maintain proper alignment.
Below are some types of tread wear that tires experience indicating misalignment:
Tire feathering exists when your tire tread is smooth on one side, but haphazard or sharp on the opposite side. Feathering typically indicates improper toe alignment.
Camber wear on the tread creates much more wear on one side of the tread than in its center. This wear occurs when the camber is positive or negative in relation to proper position.
Heel to Toe Wear
When viewing your tire from its side and running your hand over the tread, you may note what appears like “saw teeth” on the tread blocks. This typically indicates that tread is wearing unevenly from one position of the tread blocks to the circumferentially opposite side. It can also indicate tire underinflation or you have not kept up with routine tire rotations.
Unusual tire wear patterns like those above typically point to alignment problems. Misalignment can lead to many vehicle performance issues, such as flat or blown out tires or vehicle pulling to the right or the left when you drive. Erratic steering is another sign you need to have your alignment checked.
Camber, Toe and Caster As Part of Alignment
When your auto technician performs alignment service, he or she focuses on camber, toe and caster. But what are these three terms and what do they mean for your vehicle alignment?
Camber is the angle of your tire, either inward or outward, as viewed from the front of your vehicle. If a tire leans too much inward or outward, it is negatively or positively cambered. This indicates your vehicle is out of alignment and needs adjustment. Camber misalignment can occur on its own or because of worn ball joints, bearings or other suspension parts.
The toe alignment is the turn extent of your tires, inward or outward, when you look down on them from above. On a vehicle with tires misaligned either toe-in or toe-out, they need adjustment.
Caster angle balances your vehicle’s stability, steering and cornering. When viewed from the side of your vehicle, it is the angle of the steering axis. Positive caster refers to a tilt toward the driver. Negative caster refers to the steering axis tilting to the vehicle’s front.
These are all points your auto technician checks when conducting routine alignment. Where the vehicle’s suspension requires corrections in the camber, toe or caster, those adjustments take place. As you drive back home after successful alignment that corrects these issues, your ride will feel smoother and more stable.
What is Tire Balancing?
Tire balancing is not the same as alignment. But these services are often performed together. This service finds imbalances in your tire and wheel positioning to correct and compensate for those balance issues. If your tires and wheels are imbalanced, they fall under one of two categories requiring correction. These include static or dynamic imbalances.
Static balance refers to the balance of the wheel and tire on a single plane. In other words, the vertical movement that often leads to vibration when you drive. Dynamic balance is bi-plane balance of vertical and lateral movement of the wheel and tire. Both of these types necessitate use of a specially designed balancing machine.
As part of balancing service, your auto technician mounts your tires on the proper rims, if they are not already. He or she then adjusts the tire pressure to its ideal standard of inflation. They place the tire on the balancing machine and the machine spins it at high speed to find and measure an imbalance. The machine then indicates the amount of weight your auto technician must add to the tire to balance it, as well as where to add that weight.
This is a very important routine maintenance service for your tires. It is easiest
to schedule balancing and alignment for the same appointment to cover both services and ensure your vehicle does not experience rapid tread wear. Having both services performed every 5,000 to 6,000 miles can increase the lifespan of your tires and improve how they perform. It also ensures you have a smooth ride without your vehicle improperly pulling in one direction or the other.
Schedule Your Alignment Service in Winston-Salem, NC Today
If you need your routine alignment service or tire balancing, there is no time like the present to schedule your service. It is easy to forget these routine maintenance needs. But since they only take a short period of time, you can get them done quickly at Carolina Auto Service in Winston-Salem and get back in the driver’s seat.