An Alignment is a service that makes sure that your vehicle and its wheels/tires are properly in line with each other. Overall road use can take its toll on suspension components; hitting pot holes, speed bumps to quickly, entering uneven road surfaces at an accelerate rate are all occurrences that can cause the vehicle to enter a state of misalignment. Low tire pressure can also cause added street to suspension components! Read along to learn more about the suspension geometry and how each variable has its effect.
Toe is the term used to describe the angle at which your wheels and tires point in relation to the car. When a car is perfectly aligned it will have zero toe or close to it. When your wheels are angled away from the car that is called toe-out or negative toe, when your tires are angled toward the car that is called toe-In or positive toe. Both toe-in and toe-out have negative effects on the vehicles performance and can cause uneven tire wear.
Camber is the term used to describe the vertical tilt angle of your wheels and tries. Similar to toe having a misaligned camber will lead to accelerated wear on your tires and extra stress on other parts of the car however, toe will have a faster and greater effect on tire wear than camber.
Caster is the term used to describe the placement of the wheel as it relates to the front and back of the wheel well. Like toe and camber any misalignment in the castor will lead to wear on the tires as well as additional stress to the other components of the car.
Why is an alignment important?
Alignments are a fairly complicated process that requires the mechanic to survey and adjust all applicable components of the suspension and more than just keeping the steering wheel straight when you let go of the wheel. Something to keep in mind when when taking your car in for an alignment is that some vehicles may not have provisions to make adjustments for toe, camber or caster. This means making sure your vehicle is inspected often to verify that all the surrounding suspension components such as shocks, tie rods, steering rack, ball joints etc. are in good operating condition is imperative. If one or more of these suspension components need to be replaced, the alignment’s end result might not come out properly.
When starting the alignment, the mechanics need to set up the machine by selecting the vehicle they are aligning via the internet bases database. This database hosts vehicle information and factory alignment specifications set by the manufacturer. This information is quite important when aligning a vehicle because these specifications were used when the vehicle was manufactured. This allows our mechanics to set the car like it was if it were brand new if all components allow them to. The second step would be to get the car square on the rack. This happens by driving each vehicle onto the machine and rolling onto the four individual rotational plates. This allows the wheels to have complete rotation while making adjustments. This allows each change to be measured very precisely. On the newer machines like our state of the are Hunter Hawkeye Elite Alignment Machine, this machine uses sensors mounted in discs that are placed over the face of the wheels. These discs use the sensors to transmit information on where the wheel is sitting in the wheel well by using geometry to assume angles that communicates with the base brain of the alignment machine. These sensor discs can detect any variation from the ideal angle of your toe, camber, and castor and make recommendations to the mechanic of what to adjust. These discs can measure up to a hundredth of an inch and help ensure that you get a perfect alignment every time. We even have a specialty level that can gauge how straight the steering wheel is.
Should I get an alignment? And When?
This answer is variable and subjective. Thinking long term, aligning your car once a year or every two years can have a positive effect on wear and tear as a whole. When your car’s wheels are aligned correctly it is going to allow the tires to wear evenly; ultimately extending their life. It is a complete waste of time, money and materials to cycle through tires so often. Secondly, consistent alignments will reduce the stress on other parts of the vehicle such as tie rods, ball joints, shocks etc. When the alignment is kept up with you the life of these parts is lengthened because their operating angles they were intended to be in are retained. Many of these variables are often over looked and lands people in a position where they are spending unnecessary hard earned money on something that could have been avoided.
Should I replace with OEM or aftermarket parts When needed?
This is a hot topic and really depends on your budget and intended use. Cars that are 100% in factory form and are never going to be modified should probably stick to OEM replacement parts or high quality OEM grade aftermarket replacement parts. We install what we use in our cars so you can trust that Excelerate Performance is going to recommend a quality part on your vehicle, plus we stand behind it with our parts and service warranty.
For cars that have aftermarket suspension components that lower the vehicle whether it be springs, coilovers, shocks etc.we typically recommend using adjustable aftermarket performance parts to help accommodate the new lower suspension geometry to return the necessary angles back to factory specifications. The OEM components can only be adjusted so far before needing to exceed the maximum adjustment range.