Wheel Alignment 101
When your trusted service expert says your vehicle needs a wheel alignment, you might be curious as to what that actually means—and you’re not alone. We’ve spoken to several drivers in Orange County, CA, who don’t know the first thing about wheel alignments, which is kind of expected considering that most people don’t have the equipment or the training needed to perform one.
At the Norm Reeves Volkswagen Superstore in Irvine, we’re giving you the 411 on Wheel Alignment 101 so you can feel more confident when talking with your service expert. We’ll also teach you about some warning signs that could indicate an alignment problem.
Wheel Alignment Basics
When your technician performs a wheel alignment, they’re actually adjusting the suspension system, not the wheels themselves. These adjustments include specific measurements known as caster, camber, and toe.
To avoid getting overly technical, let’s imagine that your feet are wheels on a car. If you’re standing with your upper body leaning forward, the wheels would be behind the load, giving it a negative caster. Lean backward and you’d get a positive caster.
Camber, on the other hand, has to do with the angle of the wheel in relation to the road. If your feet are together and you tilt them so the length of the side of your foot is against the ground and the arc of your foot is raised, you’d have an example of positive camber. Tilting the other way would represent negative camber.
Now point your toes together. This is representative of a positive toe. Point them away and you’ve got a negative toe. Make sense?
Every vehicle has specific caster, camber, and toe measurements set by the manufacturer to give the vehicle the proper alignment and handling. If any of these measurements get thrown off, say by hitting a pothole, it will need to be repositioned by a technician.
How Do You Know You Need a Wheel Alignment?
When your wheel alignment is off, it can cause a number of problems. Knowing the warning signs can help you diagnose a possible alignment problem so you know to make a service appointment at your certified service center. Here are a few things to look for:
- Pulling: If your vehicle tends to veer to the left, right, or back and forth without you steering in that direction, your alignment could be off.
- Uneven tire wear: When you look at your tires, the surface that touches the road should be evenly worn. If you notice one half of the tire is significantly more worn than the other half, your camber could need to be reset.
- Squealing: If you hear a loud squealing sound coming from the tires, particularly when turning, it should be a clear sign that something isn’t right. Call your local service center and schedule an appointment.
Where to Go for a Professional Wheel Alignment
To properly perform a wheel alignment, the technician must know what the proper measurements for your vehicle’s alignment are, measure which aspects are out of alignment, and use sophisticated equipment to make the necessary adjustments. Since precision is key in a proper alignment, you want to go to a service center that has state-of-the-art equipment and professional service technicians.
At the Norm Reeves Volkswagen Superstore in Irvine, we have the tools and the know-how to straighten out any alignment issues your vehicle might have. Our team of Volkswagen-certified technicians have years of experience serving the Orange County, CA, area and not to mention access to all of the latest automotive tools and diagnostic equipment.
If you think your car needs a wheel alignment, contact us today and schedule a service appointment.