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Keeping Front-Wheel And Four-Wheel Drive Vehicles Properly Aligned
Many common car troubles like pulling to one side, uneven tire wear and suspension problems can be traced to misalignment. Over time, or as a result of collisions, a vehicle's drive tires may deviate from their factory orientations. Each drive tire has certain adjustable components built-in to correct these deviations. From time to time, it is important to have your vehicle's alignment checked and corrected to prevent worsening problems and costly repairs down the road.
There are three axes to describe the orientation of a tire: caster, camber and toe. Alignment for most vehicles almost always is a toe adjustment, but it is important to understand all three at least in passing. Caster refers to the angle of the suspension. Camber is the difference in the vertical axis of the tire away from the vertical axis of the vehicle as a whole. Toe, the adjustment generally being made in an alignment, is the deviation of each tire's center-line from being parallel to the center-line of the vehicle from front to back.
Toe, or tracking as it is sometimes called, is always adjusted to be symmetric. Toe is described as either positive (“toe in”) for tires pointing toward the center-line, or negative (“toe out”) for tires that point away from the center-line. Asymmetric toe changes are often the reason a car or truck will start to pull to one side when the steering wheel is straight. Since one tire is actually pointed slightly in or out, the vehicle will naturally travel in the direction of the errant tire.
Thrust alignment is performed on the front wheels and is the most form of alignment in the US because of the prevalence of front-wheel drive cars. The thrust angle of each of the front tires is determined, and they are squared against each other to make sure the vehicle will steer true.
This is a somewhat more involved process. The center-line of the rear axle determines a reference thrust angle that should exactly perpendicular to the center-line of the vehicle. Then the front axle is aligned to be perfectly parallel with the rear axle, and all four tires are squared up to each other for the best performance and most comprehensive alignment.
There are two main kinds of vehicle alignment performed on modern cars and trucks: thrust and four-wheel. Thrust alignment is an adjustment of the front drive tires' toe – generally straight ahead. Four-wheel alignment is performed mainly on four-wheel vehicles and entails checking and adjusting the toe on all four wheels. You should have your vehicle's alignment checked regularly.
To learn more about vehicle alignment in La Jolla, visit this website.
Justin is a certified car nut and writes about all car topics. He has a special interest in performance parts, wheels and rims. Share his enthusiasm at auto care blog.
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