Car alignment.

Wheel alignments: when and why we recommend them

In Alignment by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

Our vehicles need different kinds of upkeep to continue performing the way they were designed.

Wheel alignments are one form of maintenance that should be performed on a regular basis.

This service might not sound crucial, but it offers various benefits that can be seen in the long run. Helping your tires last by preventing uneven and premature tire wear is one perk.

When to get wheel alignments

Wheel alignment measurements.Car alignments should be performed every 15,000 miles or once a year. They are also recommended whenever you purchase new tires, or after steering and suspension parts are replaced.

It’s a good idea to get an alignment if you notice certain symptoms. An uncentered or crooked steering wheel is one indicator that a tire alignment should be performed. You may also notice the car pulling to one side and tire wear on the inner or outer edges.

Different road conditions, such as potholes, construction zones, curbs and speed bumps can throw off alignments. 

Suspension wear could have an impact, too. Worn, bent or broken suspension parts may lead to a bad tire alignment. These components include lower control arms, ball joints, idler arms and tie rod ends.

How we perform tire alignments

There are two different types of wheel alignments. A four-wheel alignment is required for most vehicles, and a two-wheel alignment is used on most pickup trucks.

When conducting an alignment, the tires are checked before the car is taken for a test drive. Then, the vehicle is placed on a rack and targets are secured to the tires. 

Tire alignment targets on Toyota Sienna.The wheel angles measured by the targets are read by cameras. Our automotive technicians are able to use this information to make any needed adjustments.

We check different specifications – caster, camber, toe and thrust angle. 

Caster refers to how wheels are angled forward or backward, and camber is how they go in or out. Toe is the term used to explain how far to the left or right the wheels are from the car’s center. “Thrust angle” describes the rear axle’s position in comparison to the center and front axle.

On top of looking at these different parameters, our technicians confirm that there aren’t any problems with the suspension components. They also measure the ride height.

If the car uses driver assist, an Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS) system reset may be needed after the alignment is complete.

What aren’t wheel alignment problems

Some symptoms may seem like a wheel alignment problem but are actually connected with a different system or issue.

Drivers might feel their car pull and think it’s a bad wheel alignment when – in reality – a tire needs to be replaced.

Vibration is another concern that our customers have brought up. Normally, this has to do with tire balancing.

Meanwhile, a steering wheel that shudders as you step on the brake pedal could be rooted in a brake problem.

If you aren’t sure if a car alignment is needed, reach out to an auto repair shop or mechanic you trust. They should be able to track down the problem and get your vehicle driving the way it should be.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.