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Wheel Alignment

Posted on September 27th, 2016

Wheel Alignment

Has your car started to pull to one side?
Is turning your car more difficult?
Has the handling of your car changed significantly?
It might be time for an alignment of your wheels, this is also known as breaking and tracking. Alignment is the adjustment of the angles of your wheels, usually to reset it back to the manufactures specifications. Some of the parts that are involved in alignment are the Camber, Caster, and Toe. To better understand the handling problem mechanics will use a machine much like the Ranger Alignment machine, or the Hunter Alignment Machine. This allows the mechanic to look at your Camber, Castor, and Toe. Depending on the purpose of your car, highway driving, performance or around town you might have different specifications for your vehicle in each area.

Camber

Auto Alignment BMWAs you can see in the graphic of the black BMW the wheels are turned outward, this is considered a negative camber, the main problem with a negative camber is it doesn’t allow for even wear on tires. A negative Camber causes wear on the inside of the tires, decreasing the life of the tires and the grip while driving at high speeds. This look is popular due to its visual look on cars, and for aggressive drivers they can expect to see benefits during heavy cornering or drifting their cars. The main issue with a negative camber is camber thrust, both tires at a negative angle continuously push against each other. As long as both tires maintain contact with the road this is not an issue, however once a tire has left the surface of the road and no longer has the thrust pushed towards the wheel with traction causing issues with performance and increases the cost in tires overall. This is great for cars that are racing and only have to make it to the next pit stop or to the end of the track. A Zero Camber is optimal for cars that drive on the freeway and your normal street cars. Cross Camber is set on front wheel drive cars to increase thrust on a tire, increasing grip of a tires and steering ability. Many cars have swing arms that aid in the control of steering, camber, and camber thrust.

In the picture depicted on the left we can see that the client has a slightly positive Camber on his wheel, this is called for because his vehicle is a front wheel drive increasing the grip while turning on city streets. The disadvantage to this is you can see the wear on the outside of the tires, this increases the need to rotate tires frequently. Certified Car Care suggests rotating tires with every other oil change or at about 10,000 miles, and having your wheel alignment checked when you start to notice your car pulling to one side.  There are many safety settings on your car, wheel alignment is one of them.  Most cars have a wheel alignment setting that allows for their car, if unmanned, to safely roll away from traffic to the right hand shoulder.

Wheel Alignment

Caster

The graphic on the right depicts the castor is the angel of the steering pivot point from the front to the back of the vehicle. The caster is positive if it is angled towards the front of the vehicle. In is picture the vehicle has a negative caster, the steering pivot point is pointed backwards toward the back of the vehicle

A positive caster makes the vehicle stable at higher speeds and allows for better cornering, this also increases the steering capabilities, making the driver feel like they have better control.

Toe

Wheel Alignment is the tires pointing inwards or outwards, look down at your feet point your toes towards one another and then out… this is much like your car!
Depending on your Toe alignment your tires could be wearing along the outsides.
Negative toe is seen mostly on front wheel drive vehicles. Positive toe is typically used on rear wheel drive vehicles. Each has it’s advantage in wheel alignments.
Negative Toe pulls the suspension arm in slightly, and tends to level out when driving at increased speeds. This increases cornering ability allowing the tire to be turned in slightly, causing outer tire to turn in the same direction and angle moving the car in the same direction as the inner wheel. Although any change in direction of the steering wheel the car will drift towards that course and decreases straight line ability.
Positive Toe is typically seen on rear wheel drive vehicles; this is when both wheels point towards one another. This increases the force that the wheels push on each other and reduces the ability to turn, but increases straighter driving characteristics. This can be seen on large box trucks and even diesel pushers, this increases their straight line driving capabilities and increases their safety on the road.