Why is a wheel alignment important? Because if you ensure that your wheels are accurately aligned then you can actually improve the performance, and most importantly, the longevity of your tires. Even if your car may not be pulling noticeably and appears to steer straight, your wheels may be misaligned and can still get uneven wear  Wheels can become misaligned by hitting potholes or bumps, even driving on uneven surfaces or just general wear and tear over time.  Take a look at how your tires wear due to different misalignment:

There are two (2) distinct wear patterns from a misaligned wheel setup.  If you see that your tire is wearing more quickly on the edge of the tire that would indicate that the “toe” of your alignment is incorrect.  If there is exaggerated wear along the inner or outer part of the tire, then that could indicate a poor “camber” adjustment. Both of these patterns require a wheel alignement. Note – this primarily applies to the front tires. Some vehicles allow adjustment to the camber on the rear tires

What are “toe” and “camber”?

Toe represents the angle derived from pointing the tires inward or outward, when viewed from top-down view on the front wheel – much like looking down at your feet and angling them inward (toe-in) or outward (toe-out). Both require adjustment.

Camber is the inward or outward tilt of the front tires as viewed from the front of the vehicle. Too much inward (negative camber) or outward (positive camber) tilt, is an improper alignment and can cause the tire wear pattern above.

There is a third term used in wheel alignments, and that is “Caster”. Caster refers to the angle that is created by the steering pivot point in relation to the front and the back of the car. In simpler words – picture the side of a vehicle, now imagine a vertical ine that runs straight through the center of your front wheels.

In most cases, Caster is not adjustable as it is set at the factory.  Camber is generally not adjustable either, but if you replace the factory struts with new ones, sometimes the new struts have an adjustment for this dimension – so it is a good idea, if you have changed your front suspension, that you check your alignment.

Now, if you have read all the way down to here – you are about to find out why I titled this post “The Importance of Wheel Alignments”.  The answer is: MONEY.

We can go on and on about performance, straight steering, and tire wear, but in the end, it boils down to money.   This is why:

New tires today cost at a minimum $120 to up to $300 or more per tire.  Let’s say, conservatively that you just bought 4 new tires at $150 per tire and had them balanced and mounted for $20 per tire.  You just spent $680 on new tires for your car.  Now you drive off and take a road trip to B.C. and come back, and when you come back you take a look at your tires and you have a bald part along the edge.  Car drove fine, didn’t pull, steering wheel was straight but look at that tire.  Here is a picture of a tire that was brand new before the start of a trip and what it looked like after coming back. This happened in 5 days!

And yes – this happened to me.  Now, I didn’t own Auto Tech West when this happened and I thought my alignment was “good enough” and I didn’t want to pay to have it checked.  I had to replace 2 new front tires a week after I bought them because I couldn’t be bothered to spend $120 on a wheel alignment.  It cost me $400 because I wanted to save $120.

So why are Wheel Alignments Important?   Because Tires are expensive.  If your car is misaligned you will wear your tires out prematurely and end up spending money on new tires sooner than you should.  In Alberta, we have lots of potholes and not-so-great roads, and now that it is Spring, you should check your alignment because tires will and do wear faster on dry pavement.

Yes, we are doing a Free Alignment Check at Auto Tech West and we can tell you if need work, but we won’t sell you anything you don’t need and you are free to decide what to do.  We just want you to be aware of how to maintain your car and be an informed consumer.