What is Wheel Alignment

Alignment is one of the key maintenance factors in getting the most wear and performance from your tires. In addition, wheel alignment provides safe, predictable vehicle control as well as a smooth and comfortable ride – free of pulling or vibration. Today’s modern suspensions require a precise four-wheel alignment that can only be achieved through a modern alignment system. This applies to both front and rear-wheel drive vehicles. While the Discount Tire Company/Americas Tire Company stores do not perform alignment work, the following information should help to explain the importance of proper alignment.

Wheel Alignment

Alignment Basics

Aligning a car or truck involves the adjustment of the vehicle’s suspension – not the tires and wheels. The direction and the angles that the tires point in after the alignment is complete, however, are critically important. There are five factors involved in setting the alignment to specifications: caster, camber, toe, thrust, and ride height. The following brief discussion of each aspect will help you understand the process and spot potential problems.


Caster is the angle of the steering axis (the part of the suspension that supports the wheel and tire assembly). Viewed from the side of the vehicle, an imaginary line drawn between the centers of the upper and lower ball joints forms an angle with true vertical; this is defined as a caster. The illustration below shows whether this angle is referred to as positive or negative. Caster is important to steering feel and high-speed stability.


Viewed from the front of the vehicle, camber describes the inward or outward tilt of the tire. The camber adjustment maximizes the tire-to-road contact and takes into account the changes of force when a vehicle is turning. Camber is the one adjustment that can be set according to driving habits. Generally, if you drive more aggressively when cornering, a more negative camber can be set. If you drive on highways and do very little hard cornering, a more positive camber can be set.


Viewed from above the vehicle, the toe describes whether the fronts of the tires are closer (toe-in) or farther (toe-out) apart than the rears of the tires. The illustration to the right shows this relationship. Toe settings vary between front and rear-wheel drive vehicles. In a front-wheel-drive vehicle, the front wheels try to pull towards each other when the vehicle is in motion, which requires a compensating toe-out setting. A rear-wheel-drive vehicle works just the opposite, necessitating a toe-in setting. Stated differently, the toe is set to let the tires roll in parallel (at zero toe) when the vehicle is in motion.

Ride Height

Rider height is simply the distance between the vehicle’s frame and the road. This is the reference point for all alignment measurements. Vehicle customizing very often will include raising or lowering the vehicle. Don’t forget to have your vehicle aligned afterward. Also, this rule applies if you put a taller or shorter tire on your vehicle.

Misalignment and Tire Wear

By now you may have concluded that poor tire wear and misalignment are closely related. That of course is true. But what can be done to minimize this condition? It turns out that many of these misalignment conditions can be easily “read” by your tire dealer; and s/he can recommend the appropriate solution, which will be “get an alignment.” For your assistance, the following troubleshooting guide will help you see what your tire man sees. Armed with this knowledge you can check your tires every so often; a knowledgeable glance in the parking lot can pay big dividends.

Worn Parts

Very often a worn suspension part is the cause of an alignment problem. On older vehicles, worn springs can lower a vehicle’s ride height, altering its geometry and creating misalignment (all alignment settings refer to ride height). Weak springs can also contribute to uneven or “cupped” tire wear. Another common problem is worn ball joints. The symptoms here are erratic handling, slow steering response, and irregular tire wear. Finally, worn tie rods can allow the tire to wander left to right, effectively changing toe as the vehicle rolls down the road. Irregular feathering will develop on the tire tread when this is the problem. Again this is not an exhausting listing, but if you stay alert to these common problems, it may help you schedule an early visit to your mechanic and save tire wear.

Wheel Alignment Factors

If your car’s wheels are not aligned properly, it can lead to a variety of issues such as tire wear and steering difficulty. Alignment is the positioning of the angles on both sides of your car so that they match up with each other; these shapes help create stability in turns, making driving easier for you! Wheel alignment is the process of ensuring that all four tires can reach their maximum level of performance. Wheel misalignment can lead to a decrease in steering ease, stability, and tire life. Improper wheel alignment can affect the way your car drives, steering responsiveness, and more.

Toe and tracking are the two most critical alignment settings for front-end tire wear. Toes that point in or out can lead to premature overheating, which causes a lot of stress on your tires. Toe is the amount by which you steer one tire relative to an opposing wheel. To adjust it, loosen and tighten bolts at each side of your car’s front axles until they are parallel with a gauge on the frame. Too much toe will result in excessive wear for both tires; too little will create diagonal or feathering tire tread patterns that can be expensive if left untreated for long periods.

Cars that are out-of-toe will have to replace their tires much more quickly than those that maintain a well-aligned condition. This is because the alignment of the tire and vehicle affects wear on both inside and outside edges, leading to faster tread deterioration from improper tracking.

Camber determines how much a vehicle leans when hit from an opposing direction by another one traveling at high speeds; while caster provides stability so that tires do not slide sideways during sharp turns on slippery surfaces such as ice patches, rainwater puddles, etc. Its primary function within an automobile is several different positions that affect both how well your car handles turns along with load-bearing requirements such as keeping weight evenly distributed upon entering into corners at higher speeds onto either one side or another without tipping off balance.

What Are The Symptoms Of Needing An Alignment

When your car starts to pull in one direction, turn or take a long time to stop, you might need an alignment. This is because the front and rear wheels on your vehicle are pulling in different directions. They must be aligned so that they can turn without any problems. When they’re angled, it can cause a variety of problems like uneven tire wear and vibrations in the steering wheel or when braking. If you notice any of these issues, then it may be time for an alignment.

How Often Should You Get An Alignment

Wheel alignment is one of the most important car maintenance tasks you can do. It ensures that your tires wear evenly and last as long as they should. Proper wheel alignment also gives you the maximum amount of tire traction for an excellent driving experience. How often to get a wheel alignment depends on how much you drive, which in turn depends on where you live and how bad the roads are around your home. Typical intervals range from 3-6 months or 12,000-18,000 miles but it’s always best to ask a mechanic at your local auto shop for their expert opinion about when it might be time for another inspection!

How Fast Will Tires Wear With Bad Alignment?

We all know that tires will wear out eventually, but how fast do they go? You may be surprised at the answer! The truth is that tire life varies depending on several factors such as driving habits, terrain, and alignment. In general, people can get anywhere from 15-20K miles on their tires before they need to replace them. However, in some cases, this can drop down to 10-12K miles if your alignment is off. This means you could end up spending more money than expected just to keep your car going!

The alignment of your tires is important for many reasons. One is that it promotes a smoother ride and helps you get better gas mileage. The wear on the tire will also be even across the treads if they are properly aligned, which means less rotating out new tires to replace ones with uneven wear.

What Are the Types of Alignment?


Front-end alignment is the simplest and most basic way to align your vehicle but it’s not recommended for any current model. It can be less accurate, especially if you don’t account for rear-wheel angles. The front wheels are aligned so they’re parallel with each other and the centerline of the car which may result in a centered steering wheel depending on adjustment purposes.


Using a thrust alignment is the most accurate way to align your car if you don’t have an adjustable rear suspension. With this method, only front tires are adjusted since both of your back wheels can’t be pointed forward at the same angle or even close enough that they could compensate when one point is straight and another is slightly off-center. This means one wheel will point in a different direction and this slightly off-center steering won’t affect your car because it compensates enough with the aligned front axle which keeps things centered.

Four-wheel alignment

One of the most important aspects of making sure your car is aligned correctly is thrust alignments. Thrust alignment can be done with any vehicle without adjustable rear suspension, and it only requires the adjustment of front wheels. The best way to make a good thrust alignment happen is by first checking that both back tires point straight ahead; if they don’t, one side will have greater distance than the other when looking at them from behind and you’ll need to adjust accordingly so as not to cause an unbalanced steering wheel position for there not to be too much pressure on one tire or bearing which could lead into further issues down the road like bent tie rods!

If you’re looking for a reputable auto repair shop for your wheel alignment, contact Network Automotive Service Center. Book an appointment at one of our locations today!