Wheel alignment (also known as tire alignment) is a service that adjusts your vehicle’s suspension to ensure that all wheels are oriented correctly in relation to each other and to the road. In practical terms, wheel alignment ensures that every wheel points in the same direction and every tire maintains optimal contact with the road. It also helps maximize your tire investment by preventing some kinds of uneven tire wear.
The wheel alignment process involves measuring and restoring the factory settings of three angles in your vehicle’s suspension:
The Camber angle: The vertical tilt of the side of the wheel in relation to the side of the vehicle, viewed from the front or back of the vehicle.
The Caster angle: The tilt of the steering axis in relation to a theoretical vertical straight line, viewed from the side of the vehicle.
The Toe angle: The lateral tilt of the side of the wheel in relation to the center of the vehicle, viewed from above the vehicle.
Wheel alignment involves meticulous measurements on an alignment machine. It’s a job for a qualified mechanic using precision equipment. And that’s what you’ll find at your local Midas.
When your vehicle needs wheel alignment, you may notice these symptoms in your steering wheel and tires:
Rolling to the right or left: While pointing your steering wheel straight ahead on a level road.
Crooked steering wheel: You’re driving straight ahead, but your steering wheel looks as if you’re making a turn.
Tire noise: As the misaligned tires are dragged in a different direction than they’re pointed toward.
Uneven tire wear: You see one of these telltale tread patterns: Diagonal wipe, feathering, camber wear, or toe wear. Or, you notice a mismatch in tread wear between the two front tires or the two back tires.
A wheel alignment takes about an hour as a standalone task. Replacing any damaged components along the way would take extra time. Please allow more time for any other tire and wheel services commonly performed along with wheel alignment.
Most vehicle manufacturers do not include wheel alignment in the standard maintenance schedule, so we recommend wheel alignment every one to two years. We strongly recommend wheel alignment with any new tire purchase for even tread wear from day one. In the meantime, it’s a great idea to check your alignment any time you have tires rotated or balanced.
Whether you can adjust the alignment on just two wheels or all four wheels depends on your vehicle’s drivetrain and suspension type. However, all modern wheel alignment is designed to be performed as a four wheel system. Whether the rear wheels can be adjusted or not, the rear wheel alignment angles should be measured and the front wheels should be aligned to the rear wheels. Your Midas Technician can tell you which wheels on your vehicle can actually be adjusted.
Poor tire alignment can cause your vehicle to vibrate when the misaligned wheels point in different directions. The wheels and tires experience strain and friction as they push or pull against each other. Your ride gets even rougher as your tire treads wear down at the stress points.
Misaligned wheels are only one cause of vibrations in your car. If you’re feeling vibrations in your steering wheel -- at specific highway speeds -- you may need tire balancing. And vibrations in your wheels may lead you to suspension service as well as tire imbalance.