What is an Alignment?

What is an alignment, and why do our vehicles need them?

 

I’m sure if you’ve been to any repair shop you’ve seen/heard the term ‘Alignment’ What is an alignment you may ask, well, let’s find out!

 

 

The vehicle’s alignment consist of very specific specifications, known as the primary angles. The primary angles consist of Camber, Caster and Toe. These are all measurements based on the direction of the wheel and tire compared to the vehicle’s centerline.

Camber is a diagonal measurement of the wheel/tire in relation to the to the vertical axis of the vehicle. If camber is not set properly it can cause serious steering/pull issues as well as rapid tire wear.

Caster is a horizontal measurement of the wheel/tire in relation to the vertical axis of the vehicle. If caster is not within specifications it can cause vehicle pulling issues, along with stiff or loose steering due to binding/looseness in the springs and suspension system.

Toe is a diagonal measurement of the wheel/tire in relation to the horizontal axis of the vehicle. If toe is not within specifications it can cause steering wheel issues, loose steering,  and it can also chew through tires pretty quick if it is out far enough.

Most modern day cars have adjustments on the front and rear of the vehicle, usually the only vehicles that do not have rear adjustments are those with  a solid rear axle, most trucks only have front wheel adjustments as well.

Alignment angles are measured using a specific machine that has sensors that connect to all four wheels. The alignment machine is able to get accurate measurements by using different laser projections and reflections between the machine and sensors.

Lamborghini Murcielago hooked up to a digital alignment machine

Adjustments are made by adjusting different positions on the steering/suspension components. Camber/caster are usually adjusted at the steering knuckle and control arms, and the toe is adjusted by rotating the inner tie rods and increasing/decreasing the length of the outer tie rod from the steering gear assembly.

 

*I recommend a trained professional to perform your alignments for you, as they can get tricky, and without the proper tools and training they can turn into a headache!

*Always research the shop before trusting them with your repairs, and ask friends/family if they have any recommendable shops nearby. Trust those who you allow to work on your vehicle and it will almost always be an enjoyable experience.



One Comment

  • Stephen says:

    Hey Grey,

    Thanks so much for sharing this knowledge about car alignment with me. It was very interesting reading seeing your article and with all the detailed explanation you have give about how car alignment need to be properly measured top avoid loosing steering or binding.

    This is indeed very technical, I’m not a mechanic, but I have learned a lot from your post on how cars are made. For example, I never knew that Alignment angles are measured using a specific machine that has sensors that connect to all four wheels, which is able to get accurate measurements by using different laser projections and reflections between the machine and sensors.

    Thanks for sharing with me this post. Now when I want to take my to a mechanic shop I will follow your advise to do research and look for someone that I can really trust.

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