Wheel alignment is a straightforward process that becomes urgent if left unchecked. If you feel your car pulling to one side instead of tracking straight, it’s a safe bet that the alignment is off. Furthermore, neglecting proper wheel alignment in Downriver Michigan can drastically reduce the service life of your tires, leading to bigger costs down the road. And of course, a vehicle that handles improperly is a safety risk for you and your passengers. Let’s explore the intricacies of wheel alignment to help you better understand this critical piece of automotive maintenance.
The Straight and Narrow on Wheel Alignment in Downriver Michigan
Causes and Symptoms
A factory-fresh vehicle should have no alignment issues whatsoever. The wheels are properly calibrated from the factory. Unless the vehicle is the centerpiece of an automotive collection never to face the rigors of the road, the need for a wheel alignment is at some point likely.
In a perfect world, the streets would remain fresh, flat, and free of irregularities. Unfortunately, over time weather and traffic conditions begin to deteriorate pavement. Rough roads are typically the cause of misaligned wheels. Potholes, frost heaves, and large pieces of debris can quickly lead to poor alignment. Clipping a curb is another surefire way to throw off the alignment.
The symptoms may go unnoticed at first. However, even the slightest bit of misalignment will accelerate tire wear. Over time, the symptoms will become more pronounced. Neglected or heavily misaligned wheels will make the car start to veer to one side. Annoying at best, this sort of compromised handling puts safety in jeopardy. At highway speeds, misaligned wheels are often accompanied by vibration, which can range from moderate to severe.
Unfortunately, today’s cars do not feature warning lights indicating misaligned wheels; instead relying on regular service intervals to diagnose and correct them.
Four Wheel or Two Wheel?
Commonly referred to as a “front-end alignment”, during a two-wheel alignment your technician will perform the alignment service on only the two front wheels. The technician will check and adjust caster, camber, toe, and occasionally the thrust angle.
Cars featuring all-wheel drive usually require a four-wheel alignment, as all wheels have independent suspension and receive power from the engine. In this type of alignment, the technician will generally calibrate front toe and caster, along with rear toe and camber.
Fortunately, wheel alignments are fairly inexpensive and linger around $100 depending on the type of vehicle. Unsurprisingly, four-wheel alignments cost more than two, and it is not uncommon to rotate the tires during the alignment, which will carry a small fee as well.
When Should Alignment Be Checked?
If you notice any symptoms, have your alignment checked as soon as possible. If, however, there are no apparent symptoms of misalignment, you generally want to have alignment checked every two to three years. Over time, even small road irregularities can throw off the alignment and cause premature tire wear. If your driving conditions are generally poor or you travel a lot of loose gravel roads, an alignment check should come much sooner. Fortunately, it only takes about an hour for a qualified tech to inspect a car’s alignment.
It’s easy to cast off alignment as a frivolous service, especially if you don’t notice any apparent symptoms. Some motorists simply adjust their driving style to accommodate badly misaligned wheels. This is ill-advised, of course, as the alignment isn’t going to self-correct, and will only lead to increased wear and tear. Furthermore, over time delicate (read: expensive) suspension components will begin to suffer due to improperly aligned wheels and the increased vibrations that result.
The Benefits of Wheel Alignment
Hopefully, you now understand the benefits of driving a properly aligned car, but let’s revisit a few of the perks:
- Your car will handle like new;
- You can engage cruise control without frequently changing course;
- A better handling car is a safer car;
- The motor doesn’t have to work as hard, so you’ll save at the pump;
- You’ll enjoy a longer tire service life.
Due to the relative simplicity and low cost, a wheel alignment should be at the top of the list of every driver’s maintenance schedule.
Here at Good Care Auto, we utilize the latest state-of-the-art computerized alignment machines, operated by skilled ASE-certified technicians. If you’re unsure whether your car needs an alignment or just want the peace of mind from knowing everything is properly adjusted; our friendly, professional staff are standing by to assist you. Whether your car is front wheel, rear wheel, or all-wheel drive, we’re equipped to handle all makes and models in our clean, modern service bays. Give us a call today at (734) 285-1188 and let Good Care Auto set your car straight!