Wheel alignment is the process of adjusting the angles of the wheels on a vehicle so that they are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. Proper wheel alignment is essential for ensuring that your vehicle handles correctly, wears tires evenly, and gets good fuel economy. Here’s a technical rundown of how wheel alignment works:
- Types of Wheel Alignment: There are three main types of wheel alignment: front-end alignment, thrust alignment, and four-wheel alignment. Front-end alignment involves adjusting only the front wheels, while thrust alignment adjusts the front wheels and the rear wheels’ thrust angle. Four-wheel alignment adjusts all four wheels’ angles to ensure that they are parallel to each other.
- Alignment Angles: The three primary alignment angles are camber, caster, and toe. Camber is the angle at which the wheel tilts in or out from the vehicle’s centerline. A caster is an angle at which the steering axis tilts forward or backward from the vertical. The toe is the angle at which the wheels point inward or outward from the vehicle’s centerline.
- Alignment Machines: To perform a wheel alignment, a mechanic will use an alignment machine. This machine measures the angles of the wheels and compares them to the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. The machine then provides a readout indicating how much each wheel needs to be adjusted.
- Adjusting the Alignment: To adjust the alignment, the mechanic will use specialized tools to adjust the suspension components. For example, to adjust the camber, the mechanic will typically use shims or eccentric bolts to move the top of the wheel in or out. To adjust the toe, the mechanic will typically adjust the tie rods that connect the steering rack to the wheels.
- Test Drive: Once the alignment has been adjusted, the mechanic will typically take the vehicle for a test drive to ensure that it handles correctly and that the alignment angles are within specifications.
In summary, wheel alignment is a technical process that involves measuring and adjusting the angles of the wheels on a vehicle to ensure that they are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground. This process helps ensure that your vehicle handles correctly, wears tires evenly, and gets good fuel economy.