Father and Son Auto Repair
1608 N Cliff Ave.
Sioux Falls, SD 57103
(605) 339-0040

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One of the most common issues faced when running a car without proper alignment specs is premature tire wear. Sometimes this wear can be as simple as your tires not lasting their full life, or it can be as dangerous as them failing on the road due to sudden loss of pressure.

When making changes small or large it is very important to take the steps necessary to get the car into alignment spec. Your car’s only grip with the road is through it’s tires, if you don’t allow them to do their job properly you open yourself up to a slew of potential issues. There are many ways to ensure your car is properly aligned. First and foremost you should have your alignment checked every time you make serious changes to your suspension.

When aligning a car the purpose is to make sure the tire has the largest contact patch possible on the road surface. This allows for maximum traction as well as safe and predictable handling at the limit. Many people choose to forgo alignments and typically will either be running too much negative camber or incorrect toe settings. Both of these can lead to premature tire wear and quicker loss of grip at the limit on the streets.

Not having an alignment done can significantly decreasing the life of your tires. The steering and suspension of your vehicle has wear points. They are bushings, ball & socket joints, and miscellaneous mechanical links. When the steering and suspension system is new and adjusted according to factory specs, the rate at which the tires wear is minimized and the vehicle corners and handles smoothly. Over time, the steering and suspension systems are jostled and hammered. This produces wear in the parts listed above, causing the alignment to go out from factory specs. This results in poor cornering and handling, and a significant increase in tire wear.

There are three alignment angles that must be in line for the vehicle to handle properly and for minimal tire wear. Carmakers have built adjustment points into the steering and suspension that allow for re-alignment of the front end.

Camber is the angle of wheel alignment that measures the tilting in or out in reference to the top of the tire. If a car’s camber angle on a tire is too positive then the top of the tire is tilting outward. If the camber angle is too negative then the top of the tire is tilting inward. This angle is adjusted mechanically. Conditions that cause excessive camber are worn ball joints, control arm bushings, strut bearings/mounts, or excessively worn wheel bearings. These parts must be ‘tight’ (not sloppy) to insure accurate alignment of the camber angle.

Toe: The best way to explain how this angle affects wheel alignment is to look down at the tops of your feet. Imagine that you’re hovering above the hood of your car and you can see through the body of the vehicle. Your feet represent the tops of the tires. Now slowly turn your feet inward to an excessive degree. That’s what your tires look like when they’re toed-in. Now turn your feet outward excessively. That’s what your tires look like when they’re toed-out. This alignment angle is adjusted through the lengthening or shortening of a steering linkage part called a tie rod (found in both Conventional and Rack & Pinion Steering systems). Obviously when this angle is out or in too far, tires wear out quickly! This angle also affects whether your car’s steering wheel is straight. If the steering wheel is crooked, the toe’s probably way out. Excessive toe can be caused by worn tie rods, loose rack mounts, worn idler arm/s (some vehicles have two), pitman arm, drag link assembly, or a worn rack or steering box. Before you can accurately set the toe angle, you must have tight steering linkage parts.

Caster is adjusted either by mechanical adjustment or by bending a suspension part. The caster angle can be best illustrated by the bicycle of your childhood youth. Remember when you rode your bike with “no hands?” Remember how the handlebars returned to the straight-ahead position when you leaned right or left to turn a corner? This is the caster angle expressing itself. The caster angle of your car expresses itself when the steering wheel returns to the straight-ahead position after making a turn. It is also expressed when the car wants to wander right or left.