When you drive your vehicle for a long time, the wheels start to become misaligned. All the bumps, potholes, and other obstacles on the road will slowly misalign your wheels the more you drive. That is why you need to get a wheel alignment done on your vehicle periodically.
If you fail to get a wheel alignment done in a timely manner, then it can have devastating effects on your vehicle and its components. The biggest symptom of wheel misalignment is tire wear. Your wheels need to be aligned at the appropriate angles that are recommended by the car manufacturer. Otherwise, the treads on your tires will wear down quickly.
Once you have worn out tires, you will experience shakiness and bumpiness as you drive. Your gas mileage will also suffer, which means you’ll pay more money at the gas pump. If the treads get bad enough, it will be difficult to steer and manage the operation of your vehicle. It will feel like your vehicle is pulling to one side, and you’ll have trouble steering it back straight.
Therefore, it is important that you get wheel alignments periodically as part of your normal vehicle maintenance. A lot of people like to get their wheels aligned at the same time as their oil change. That way, they don’t need to make multiple trips to the auto shop.
Of course, you can always perform your own wheel alignments if you’ve got the proper equipment in your personal garage to do so. The entire wheel alignment process should take you about 60 minutes. If you were to go to an auto shop, it would take even longer when you factor in the waiting time in addition to the 60 minutes.
8 Steps Basic Process
Below are the basic procedures of the wheel alignment process.
1) You’ll need a lifting mechanism to hoist your vehicle up into the air. An alignment machine is also needed because it clamps to down on the wheels and assists with the alignment process.
2) You need to decide which type of alignment you want to do. There are front-end alignments, thrust alignments, and four-wheel alignments. The front-end alignment coincides with the front axle. Most people with a two-wheel-drive vehicle will get the front-end alignment.
3) The thrust alignment aligns the front wheels but also squares off all four wheels too. If there is a solid rear axle on your vehicle, then a thrust alignment is the best.
4) The four-wheel alignment uses techniques from both the thrust alignment and front-end alignment. In addition, the angles of the rear wheels are focused on here. It is only necessary to have a four-wheel alignment if you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
5) Before you actually begin the alignment process, it is best to test drive the vehicle. A trained mechanic will immediately notice the symptoms if there is a misalignment present. The symptoms will signal to the mechanic what to do next.
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6) The vehicle is raised in the air. The mechanic goes underneath the vehicle to look at the suspension system components, including the wheels and tires. Any damaged or worn components will be replaced first. Tire pressure will be adjusted to the recommended PSI in all four tires.
7) Once that is all done, the vehicle is connected to the alignment machine. The mechanic adjusts the suspension angles so that they accommodate the specifications of the manufacturer. The four suspension areas that get adjusted are the toe, thrust, camber, and caster.
8) After the angles get adjusted, the mechanic will see if the steering wheel is now centered. If the alignment was done properly, then the steering wheel should be centered.
9) A final test drive of the vehicle is performed to see if the vehicle drives straight without any pulling or shakiness on the road.