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Wheel Alignments

What do they do?

At Alignment Center and Alaska Car & Truck in Anchorage, AK, we do a lot of wheel alignments…it’s right there in our name, after all.
Wheel alignments are very important to your vehicle’s road manners, handling and overall drivability. Your vehicle leaves the factory with the wheels set at very specific angles relative to an imaginary straight line down the center of the frame. Those angles are specified by the vehicle’s engineers for the best ride quality, road manners, steering response and overall handling properties.

Wheel Alignments in Anchorage, AKThe steering assemblies that determine alignment angles are pretty strong and will usually hold their positions for a long time. A hard impact on a curb or pothole, however, can be enough to jar a vehicle’s front end out of alignment. The four angles that are important to proper wheel alignment are:
  • Toe-in: the angle of the front wheels inward (as seen from above)
  • Toe-out: the angle of the front wheels outward
  • Camber: the tilt of the front wheels inward at the top (as seen from the side)
  • Caster: the wheel’s fore-and-aft orientation as opposed to an imaginary straight line behind the wheel
A change in any of these angles can have a negative effect on handling and drivability. If a wheel is toed-in or toed-out or the camber angle is wrong, it will constantly try to steer the car in a different direction. That’s what accounts for the persistent pull to one side that a poorly-aligned car has, requiring you to hold the steering wheel off-center to stay pointed in a straight line.

When things are that seriously out of whack on a vehicle, the tire is being dragged along by the others as the vehicle goes down the road, scrubbing tread off that tire in an uneven pattern. Uneven wear at the inside or outside edge of the tire will usually indicate a toe-in or toe-out problem. A wheel with camber problems will wear the tire all the way across in a sawtooth pattern, easily felt by running your hand along the tread surface. That added drag and rolling resistance also affects fuel economy as it takes more effort to get the vehicle down the road.

Four Wheel Alignments

Newer vehicles are designed with fully adjustable rear suspensions. On these vehicles, it’s important to measure the rear wheels’ thrust angle, or their position relative to the centerline down the frame. The front wheels are then indexed into alignment relative to the rear wheels. Neglecting to examine the thrust angle can mean a vehicle that “dog tracks” down the highway, with the rear end always going slightly sideways compared to the front. Four-wheel alignments are important even on older vehicles with fixed rear ends, live axles and non-adjustable suspensions.

Just to give you an idea of how minute the adjustments are for wheel alignment…

If your vehicle has a wheel that’s out of alignment by only 1/8” off of factory spec and it was left to its own over the course of a mile, with no steering input from the driver, it would end up 28 feet off of a straight line at the end of that mile!

Driving a vehicle that consistently tries to pull to one side on a straight highway is more than just tiring and annoying. It’s costing you money in terms of premature tire wear and fuel consumption. Why put up with that? Make an appointment with us at Alignment Center and Alaska Car & Truck and let our alignment techs get your car straightened out again.