Tag Archives: alignment

Wheel Alignment

Caster. Camber. Toe.

Do you ever get the feeling that your mechanic is speaking a different language than you?  It might sound like English, but the average person could easily be lost after the first sentence or two?

We’d like to shed some light on a handful of mechanical terms you are likely hear if you’ve recently hit a pot-hole, a curb, been involved in a collision or taken your vehicle for some off-road joy-riding.   Terms like: wheel alignment, tire balance, caster angle, camber angle and toe.

 

Wheel Alignment vs Tire Balancing.

You probably already know that these are two very different things, but people often get the two mixed up.  Any time you get new tires mounted (put on), the mechanic will typically add some adhesive weights to the inside edge of your wheel.  Believe it or not, those little weights help reduce vibrations or wobbling of the steering wheel.

Wheel alignment also has a significant impact on a vehicle’s driveability.  Unlike balancing, which focuses on the individual tire and wheel, an alignment looks at how a set of wheels tires on each axle interact with each other and the axle itself.  Your typical alignment looks to see if tires run parallel to each other, if they are set perpendicular to the road and if they are positioned in front of or behind the upper ball joint.

 

Caster Angle.

Technically the caster angle is determined by the position of both the upper and lower ball joints.  A simplified way to look at the caster angle on a vehicle would be to examine the shocks.  Are your shocks straight up and down or do they appear to lean toward the front or rear of the vehicle?  Acceptable caster angle can be anywhere from zero to slightly positive.

Caster Angle Image

Camber Angle.

Camber angle refers to the resulting angle of the tires as they sit on a flat road.  When the tires appear to lean away from the body of the vehicle, they have a positive camber.  Tires that lean in, toward the body, have a negative camber.  A slightly negative camber can help to enhance stability when cornering, however, to maximize straight-line acceleration a 0 degree camber angle will provide the best traction.Camber Angle Image

 

Toe.

In this case, your mechanic is probably not referring to the phalanges on your feet…or your vehicle’s capacity to pull (tow) a trailer.  Rather, he is likely talking about the difference in distance between the front of the tires and the rear of the tires (ideally they will be either parallel or have a very small amount of toe in).

According to Greg, Shop Foreman at Axleboy, “As your vehicle moves down the road, the tires create a certain amount of “rolling resistance” which basically means that they naturally pull outward.  Bigger tires experience more rolling resistance, so it is important to align them properly to avoid fighting a floating steering wheel.”

Vehicle Toe ImageFront of Vehicle

Proper wheel alignment plays a critical role in vehicle handling and performance, and is one of the primary factors in determining life expectancy of tires.  So next time you take a little off-road detour or just happen to notice your vehicle drifting to one side or the other, give us a call and set up an appointment for a wheel alignment.

Axleboy Automotive

 

Tire Care Aware

As Americans we want to get the most use out of every investment and it is not uncommon for us to push things (like tires) to their limits.  Is it any surprise that in 2012 the Car Care Council found that 10 percent of vehicles had excessive wear and were in need of replacement?  According to Randy Goodrich, service manager at Axleboy Automotive, “Tires are one of the easiest things for the average person to check and yet they are the most neglected.”

It only takes a few minutes to check tires.  The experts at Axleboy suggest three critical components to be aware of:

Tire Pressure: Maintaining appropriate tire pressure is not only helps ensure even wear, giving your tires a longer life, it is also proven to improve fuel efficiency by up to 3%.  Checking tire pressure is a quick and easy process that could save drivers hundreds of dollars each year.

Tread Depth: Tread is what keeps tires from slipping while turning corners or driving in wet conditions.  If tread depth measures below the minimum legal limits or if the rubber has started to crack, it may be unsafe to operate the vehicle.  If you’ve never heard of the “penny test” stop by Axleboy and one of our experts will show you to do this test yourself.

Alignment:  If your vehicle consistently pulls to one side or you experience stronger than normal shaking, you may have an issue with the alignment.  A vehicle that is not properly aligned is not only uncomfortable to drive, but it can also lead to premature, uneven tread wear.  Under normal driving conditions, the Car Care Council recommends “hav[ing] your car’s alignment checked at least once a year.”

In addition to being attentive to tire pressure, tread depth and vehicle alignment, Scott Carline, owner of Axleboy Automotive, suggests rotating the tires every 6,000-8,000 miles.  “Many people are not even aware that their front and rear tire tread wears down at a different rate,” says Scott.  “Generally, rotating tires at every other oil change can help minimize uneven wear and allow drivers to realize the full life expectancy of their tires.”

 

Schedule your next automotive service today and we’ll show you what to look for when assessing the tires on your vehicle.

The Pothole’s Revenge

Potholes, chuckholes, ruts or tire biters…call them what you will.  These road hazards seem to come back with a vengeance every year.  As drivers, we do the best we can to dodge them but there always seems to be one or two that are unavoidable.

After hitting a pothole, most drivers think, “{censored} pothole!!! I hope my car is okay.”

Upon first inspection, things may appear to be just fine.  Tires and wheels can easily be visually inspected, but there are several other issues that may not be as visually apparent.  According to the Car Care Council the following are signs that there may be more damage to the vehicle than initially anticipated:

  • Loss of control, swaying when making routine turns, bottoming-out on city streets or bouncing excessively on rough roads. These are indicators that the steering and suspension may have been damaged. The steering and suspension are key safety-related systems. Together, they largely determine your car’s ride and handling. Key components are shocks and/or struts, the steering knuckle, ball joints, the steering rack/box, bearings, seals and hub units and tie rod ends.
  • Pulling in one direction, instead of maintaining a straight path, and uneven tire wear. These symptoms mean there’s an alignment problem. Proper wheel alignment is important for the lifespan of tires and helps ensure safe handling.
  • Low tire pressure, bulges or blisters on the sidewalls, or dents in the rim. These problems will be visible and should be checked out as soon as possible as tires are the critical connection between your car and the road in all sorts of driving conditions.

If you have got any of the symptoms described above, give us a call at (636) 939-5337  or click below to request an appointment.

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