Everything You Want To Know About Wheel Alignments

November 2nd, 2015
Wheel Alignment in Lafayette, LAAt Chabill’s Tire & Auto Service in Lafayette, LA, wheel alignments are a big part of the services that we offer. Not surprisingly, we do get questions about wheel alignments from time to time, and we’d like to hopefully clear a few of them up. 

What exactly is wheel alignment? 

When your car leaves the factory, the wheels are set at very specific angles in relation to each other and to the car’s frame. Engineers set these angles for optimum ride quality, handling and steering response. In time, with enough wear and tear, your steering and suspension components will drift away from those alignment specs, and your car will begin to show premature tire wear and handling/drivability problems.

I’m noticing a vibration from my car’s front end. Do I need a wheel alignment? 

Vibrations are hardly ever due to an alignment issue. More often than not, it’s a wheel balancing problem that sets up a vibration. As tires wear down, their weight distribution changes, which is one of the things that can cause a wheel balancing issue…but that vibration is most likely not due to alignment. 
My car has gradually been pulling to the right. It seems like I always have to hold the steering wheel off-center to maintain a straight line on the highway. Does this mean I need a wheel alignment
A pull to the right or left can also be caused by an underinflated tire on that side, or a crowned pavement surface can make it seem as though a car is pulling to the right. Often, though, it’s a tire that’s skewed to one side, a condition called “toe-out” or “toe-in.” That tire is being dragged along by the other tires and is constantly trying to force the car in another direction. Quick answer: yes, that could be an alignment problem. 

What are some other signs of an alignment problem? 

Get a look at the front tires. Are they worn unevenly along an inside or outside edge? That’s a sure sign of an alignment problem. The out-of-spec alignment angle means that the tread is being “scrubbed” off unevenly as the other wheels drag that tire along. Other signs include: 
  • A steering wheel that doesn’t center itself quickly after rounding a corner
  • Steering that feels “heavy” or clumsy
  • Tires squealing even when turning slowly on smooth pavement

What problems can poor alignment cause?

Well…constantly having to fight the steering wheel of a car that tries to pull to the right or left is pretty exhausting. Other than that, the added friction means poorer fuel economy and, of course, tires that are worn out before their time. Remember also that this type of tire wear will invalidate a tread wear warranty. 
What’s a four wheel alignment?
Newer cars with adjustable rear suspensions often require four-wheel alignments, to make sure that the front wheels are at the appropriate angles in relation to the rear wheels. This is known as “thrust angle.” Four-wheel alignments are more expensive and complex, but they have a definite payoff in terms of overall handling and road manners. 
If you’ve been noticing any signs that might indicate a need for an alignment on your car, don’t put it off – it’s not going to get better on its own, and you’re just going to wear out your tires needlessly. Give us a call at Chabill’s Tire & Auto Service in Lafayette, LA  or schedule an appointment online and let our technicians get your alignment issues “straightened out" or any other tune-ups you might need. 
  Posted in: Auto Repair 101