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Learn  >  Tires  >  Alignment

ModBargains - Tire Alignment (Keywords)

- Alignment

- Camber

- Caster

- Toe

- Recommendations


Alignment Overview (Definition, Causes, Effects)

What is an Alignment?

Often referred to as a "wheel alignment" or rather simply just "alignment", it is not a simple process. In fact it's complex in the way the suspension angles are measured and a variety of components the suspension are being adjusted by. Making an alignment a necessary suspension tuning tool that adjusts and influences the efficiency of the vehicle's tires.


What causes a Misalignment?

This can occur in a number of ways. First if your springs/suspension system is considerably old, this will create a misalignment. Also if your vehicle has gone over any major potholes or curbs this can also negatively affect the alignment of your vehicle.

What happens when your tires are Misaligned?

When your tires are not correctly aligned, your car will feel out of wack. A misaligned vehicle will affect the suspension and steering system significantly. It will cause your vehicle to not operate at the correct angles, and this is a big no-no. Not only will it affect your vehicles suspension and steering system, but it will also affect your tires wear. It will significantly reduce the life of your tire, tearing through the wear faster. Therefore an alignment should be checked frequently.


Different Ways of Alignment

There are many different ways to correctly align your vehicle. These ways include, front-end, thrust angle, and four-wheel alignments.

When is a front-end alignment necessary?

Front-end alignments are considered when vehicles feature a solid rear axle. Another way to confirm is to see if the front tires are positioned in front of the rear tires.

When is a thrust angle alignment necessary?

A thrust angle alignment is necessary when your vehicle has a solid rear axle. This allows the technician working on your vehicle to confirm that all four wheels are equal also known as "square" with each other. When a solid rear axle vehicle is has a thrust angle of zero, a visit to a frame straightening shop should be considered to return the rear axle to a point of zero, which is the original location of the axle. A thrust angle can be measured by an imaginary line drawn across the rear axle's centerline.

When is a four-wheel alignment required?

A four-wheel alignment is considered when your vehicle is either a front-wheel drive vehicle with adjustable rear suspensions, or when your vehicle features a four-wheel suspension. When you do a four-wheel alignment it features the same "square" method a thrust angle alignment also does, but now a four-wheel alignment also not only includes a measuring and adjustment of the rear axle angles, but also the fronts.


What to do before an alignment.

Make sure your vehicle is carrying a "typical" load. This means that your vehicle should be about the same weight it usually is. This is important when drivers usually add items in the trunk or on top of the vehicle on lets say a bike rack.


What needs to be measured in a static suspension are cambers, caster, toe and thrust angles. Listed below are definitions of what each angle is and how it affects your vehicle.


Camber (Definition, Options, Pros & Cons of Options)

What is a Camber?

The camber angles in a vehicle display how long the tires slant away from a vertical stand point, from a front or back view of the vehicle. Usually the camber is measured in degrees, and a negative camber occurs when the top part of the tire has an inward tilt going towards the center of the vehicle. A positive camber occurs when the top of the tire leans away from the center of the vehicle. (See Below)


What influences and causes a negative or positive degree camber?

Driving styles can have a influence of the way the camber is angled. An aggressive driver who turns on corners particularly at a fast speed compared to a more conservative driver will receive more cornering grip and will have a longer tire life when a tire is aligned with a negative camber. Although when a vehicle has the more aggressive negative camber, a conservative driver who has a lower speed on corner turns would cause the inner edges of the tire to wear faster than the outer edges.


What are the cons of a negative camber?

If the vehicle ever comes across a bump or pot hole and only causes one tire to lose some of its wear and grip, the other tires negative camber will be affected and will ultimately push the vehicle in a direction and makeup for the tire that lost grip. You would be able to notice that the vehicle is a bit weak and might actually begin to see some Tramlining. Tramlining occurs when the directional control of a vehicle is interrupted by the vehicles tendency to follow grooves of the road. It would direct your vehicle in a different direction then you originally want to intend.


What should your camber direction be?

Having an appropriate camber setting will help balance the tread wear when you are cornering turns. Taking into account the vehicles drive and how you drive will definitely help. With a street-driven vehicle tire wear and handling should be in balance according to what the driver prefers and needs. Having a less negative camber will reduce the cornering ability but it will allow your tire to have a more even wear.


Caster (Definition, Options, Pros & Cons of Options)

What is a Caster?

A Caster is an angle that displays the forward or backward slope of a line that is drawn from the upper and lower steering points. This line can be viewed from the side of the vehicle (See Below Image). Like Camber's, Caster's are also measured and expressed in degrees. A positive caster occurs when the line slopes towards the vehicle from the top. It is considered a negative caster when the line slopes towards the front of the center.


Pros & Cons of a Positive Caster

Increasing the positive camber will also increase the effort for steering your vehicle. A straight line tracking as well as improving the stability at high speeds and it will also improve cornering efficiency. A positive caster will also increase the tire lean when cornering. Which is kind of like having a negative camber as the steering wheel is increased. A downside of a positive caster includes, if your vehicle does not have power steering you will see an increase in steering effort due to the positive caster. Overall a positive Caster will positively effect your vehicle.


Toe (Definition)

What is a Toe angle?

A toe angle is used to identify the direction that the tires are specifically pointing. The direction of these tires can be identified when viewed from directly above your vehicle. Just like Camber's and Caster's, Toe is also expressed in degrees. An Axle has a positive toe-in when the lines from the centerlines of the tire point towards the vehicle, intersecting in front of the vehicle. An Axle will have a negative toe-out when the tires diverge (See Below Image). The toe setting is used to adjust the vehicle handling. The way you adjust your Toe is typically used to help compensate for your vehicles suspension bushings. Helping your vehicles suspension bushings will enhance the wear of your tire.

A front-wheel drive vehicle would ultimately pull the vehicle across the front axle, which would increase forward movement of the suspension arms against the bushings. Which means front wheel drive vehicles will use some negative toe-out because they can compensate for the movement, which would allow the tires to drive parallel. The Vehicle's toe is an significantly critical setting relative to tire wear. The setting of your toe can really make a huge difference in the ride and wear of your vehicle.



Conservative/Reserved Drivers -

Being a conservative driver, you turn on corners slower than aggressive drivers, you can set your alignment to the way your vehicle manufacturers preferred setting is. This is usually the appropriate setting for a reserved driver.

Aggressive Drivers -

Being an aggressive driver, you enjoy driving hard through corners and ramps. This requires a different alignment from a reserved driver. A negative camber, positive caster, and preferred toe settings will apply best with you. These alignment settings will ultimately maximize tire performance.

The alignment of your vehicle depends on many factors. An accurate wheel alignment is such a crucial aspect of your vehicle. It can affect your tread ware in a positive or negative manner, and also affect the performance that your vehicle's tires give. The technician should be considering the preferred settings of the driver.






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