WHY ALIGNMENT CHECKS ARE NEEDED
Normal driving usually won't knock the wheels out of alignment or damage the suspension. So why are regular alignment
checks needed? Because normal driving also involves encounters with the unexpected which often includes potholes,
curbs, railroad crossings (which are famous for being rough), parking lot speed bumps and other things that jar and stress
the suspension. For this reason, periodic alignment checks are a good way to ensure proper wheel alignment and to
detect and damage or worn parts that might need attention.
Wheel alignment should also be checked anytime a vehicle is experiencing a tire wear, steering or handling problem. Checking alignment will tell you two things:
(1) If alignment is in or out of specifications, and (2) if it is out of specifications, whether an adjustment will fix the problem. In many instances, the underlying cause of the alignment problem is worn or damaged parts in the steering linkage or suspension.
Worn or damaged parts cannot hold the wheels in proper alignment and must be replaced BEFORE the wheels can be realigned to factory specifications. An alignment check can be both a diagnostic and preventative maintenance service. If potholes have taken a toll on a vehicle's suspension, an alignment check will reveal any need for correction or repairs. A thorough inspection and check of all the important angles will assure your customer that the suspension is in good condition and the wheels are aligned within factory specifications for optimum tire life and handling.
The benefits that result from proper wheel alignment include: * Significantly reduced tire wear (both front and rear) * Improved steering stability and tracking * On-center steering (steering wheel is straight) * Proper steering effort * Better traction & safer braking * Reduced rolling resistance for better fuel economy
WHAT ALIGNING THE WHEELS SHOULD INCLUDE
Alignment procedures vary depending on the "type" of alignment being performed. A simple "two-wheel" alignment only checks the alignment of the front wheels. A complete "four-wheel" alignment checks the alignment of all four wheels. A "thrust-angle" alignment compensates for rear axle misalignment but only aligns the front wheels. The basic procedure includes the following:
1. A prealignment inspection of the tires, steering linkage and suspension components to check for worn or damaged parts that could have an adverse effect on wheel alignment.
2. Measuring ride height to check for spring sag, which can affect wheel alignment.
3. Reading front toe, front camber, turning angle and front caster, and rear toe and camber (if doing a complete four-wheel alignment). Otherwise, only front toe, camber, turning angle and caster would be measured and compared to factory specifications.
If additional diagnostic work is needed, SAI, included angle and thrust angle may also be measured. 4. If adjustments are needed, corrections are made to rear camber and toe first, followed by front camber, caster and finally toe.
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