The Importance of Wheel Alignment Explained for Those Interested in Auto Mechanic School
Drivers rely on wheels every day to translate the power that the engine supplies into movement and distance. For the wheels to properly perform the task of moving a vehicle from A to B, they need to be properly aligned.
The alignment of wheels refers to the angle they sit at in relation to the road, the vehicle, or each other. Auto industry professionals perform wheel alignments in repair shops, assessing the wheels for improper angles and adjusting them so that they’re safe and effective to use. Read on to learn why wheel alignment is so necessary.
The Impacts of Wheel Misalignment
Improperly aligned wheels can severely impact many aspects of driving, negatively affecting safety, comfort, and the longevity of a vehicle. Wheels can become misaligned due to several factors, including road conditions, driving habits, collisions, or wear and tear. A vehicle’s front set of wheels is more susceptible than the rear to losing its alignment, but it can happen to either pair.
Wheel misalignment can affect fuel efficiency, the steadiness and evenness of tire wear, vehicle handling, tire performance, and, importantly, maneuverability. When the alignment is severe, the vehicle may pull to one side and influence steering response.
This not only makes a driving experience frustrating and uncomfortable, but it can also be dangerous for the driver and others on the road. Before it comes to that, the wheel alignment should be assessed by a professional with auto mechanic training.
Auto Mechanic School Students Should Know the Angles of Alignment
Wheel alignment may seem relatively simple, but it involves several complex measurements. For this reason, it should always be performed by an auto industry professional. Wheels are aligned along three different measurements: the toe, camber, and caster angles of wheel orientation. All these orientations should be at their proper angles to ensure that the vehicle is safe for use.
The camber angle is the measurement in degrees of the difference between the vertical alignment perpendicular to the surface. A perfectly aligned wheel should have a camber angle of 0 degrees. The caster angle is a bit more difficult to visualize. It’s the angle created by the steering’s pivot point from the front end to the back end of the vehicle.
Most vehicles are aligned with something called cross-caster, where the caster and camber angles are slightly different. This makes the vehicle drift slightly to the right while unmanned, meaning the cars of unaware drivers drift to the side of the road rather than into oncoming traffic. The last orientation is the toe angle, measured by the pointing of the tires inward or outward from a top-down view.
How to Tell When Wheels Should Be Aligned
Automotive school graduates should advise drivers to have their wheels aligned regularly. How often they need to be adjusted varies depending on the type and make of the vehicle. Drivers should have their cars assessed to know whether the wheels need to be realigned. Realignment should also be done whenever a new set of tires is installed, suspension parts are replaced or adjusted, or the vehicle has been lowered or lifted.
Besides regular examinations, there may be times when the driver notices that something is wrong with the alignment. Cars with misaligned wheels can sometimes pull to one side, have a steering wheel that no longer lines up straight, have tires that show uneven wear, or have a front end that shimmies. After being involved in a collision or hitting a bump or pothole, wheels should be closely monitored for signs of misalignment.
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