When most people visit auto repair shops for services like an oil change, the auto mechanic will usually ask if you'd like additional services. A common special is a wheel alignment. Auto mechanics generally recommend 4-wheel alignments on a regular basis. That's because no matter how well wheel alignment is performed, it's never permanent. As you drive your car, vibrations from the road and obstructions like potholes cause your wheels to go out of alignment.
When an auto mechanic at a certified auto repair center performs an alignment, they make adjustments to the vehicle's suspension to align the angles of the tires. This affects how they make contact with the road. There are 3 suspension angles an auto mechanic will inspect and adjust:
Toe: This is the extent to which your tires turn inward or outward when viewed from above your vehicle. The similar to looking at the toes on your feet. They should be perfectly parallel to each other. If turned inward or outward, you need a wheel alignment to correct them.
Camber: This is the inward or outward angle of your tire when you look at them from the front of your vehicle. Too much tilt inward or outward indicates improper alignment and will need adjustment.
Caster: This is the angle of your steering axis when viewed from the side of your vehicle. This axis should point up and down. If it tilts towards the driver or front of the vehicle a wheel alignment will angle them properly.
But why is proper tire alignment so important? There are many good reasons why an auto mechanic should perform a front end alignment service. Here are few reasons why it's important to perform a wheel alignment on a regular basis:
A Wheel Alignment Gives a Smoother Ride
When your alignment is off, the car tends to vibrate or shake. By having a certified auto mechanic perform an alignment, they can adjust the angle of the wheels. That way, your wheels are vertical and parallel to each other. This gives they car a much smoother ride, and stops vibrations caused by misaligned wheels.
A Wheel Alignment Increases Gas Mileage
Poor alignment causes decreased gas mileage. Cars that need an alignment tend to pull to one side. That pulling to the side causes cars to travel farther than if the tires traveled straight. Over time, this can add up to several additional miles, especially on long trips. When gas prices go up rapidly, every mile you don't drive counts.
A Wheel Alignment Gives You Better Handling
Tires with proper alignment have better traction. Better contact with the road decreases the turning radius. More traction allows cars to stop quicker and in less distance. Both of these mean that a wheel alignment makes it safer for you and other drivers on the road.
A Wheel Alignment Increases Tire Life
Poor alignment causes your new tires to wear out faster than they should. Extra wear decreases tire life and costs you money. If you notice your tires are not wearing evenly, visit a certified auto repair center to have your wheel alignment checked.
A Wheel Alignment Is Necessary for Switching Tires
If you switch from regular tires to snow tires or all-terrain tires, an alignment is required. Because different tires have different sizes and treads, an auto mechanic should align them properly when installed. This allows them to make proper contact with the road.
A Wheel Alignment Is Fast and Inexpensive
As you can see, there are several excellent reasons why you should have an alignment performed regularly. A wheel alignment is inexpensive, and only take a few minutes to perform. So the next time you take your car for an oil change, and they ask about a 4-wheel alignment, it might be a good idea to consider it. Those few minutes and dollars can save you money and keep you safe in the long run.