While driving, you feel the steering wheel pulling to the left, as if it beckons you to go that direction. You worry, and think that your left tire is going soft. You stop, get out of the car, and check the left tire for the sound of air rushing out of a hole. You even have it checked at a tire shop. There is no puncture in your tire, but you and the mechanic notice something else—that one side of the tire tread is worn down and the other side seems thick as new. The mechanic then determines that it’s time to have your wheels aligned.
The orientation or alignment of your wheels has an effect on your drive. It can influence handling, braking, and even acceleration. The most important thing about good alignment is that it keeps your tires in good condition. There are different uses for different alignments of wheels, but for most drivers, a standard straight alignment is best. There are three things to adjust during a tire alignment, namely camber, toe, and caster.
The first adjustment is for camber. It is the inward our outward angle of your tires. When viewing the car from the front or the back, it is how the tires form a valley shape (positive camber) or a mountain shape (negative camber). Too much camber is the main cause of excessive tread wear on one side. A subconcept here is your tire’s wheelbase, which is simply how much of your tire is in direct contact with the ground. The more tire is in contact with the ground, the better you can brake. On the other hand, you will see a lot of low-riding cars with crazy negative camber. In sport or race situations with heavy cornering or drifting, negative camber can help in maintaining stability for the wildest cornering situations.
The second adjustment is for toe. Viewing the car from the front or rear, toe is the horizontal inward or outward slant of the tires. As with most adjustments, maximum tire life can be achieved with straight toe. In the field of performance, however, a change in toe still plays a part. Inward toe helps for straight line stability, while steering response can be increased with outward toe.
The third adjustment is for caster. This is the angle of your steering axis relative to the driver. From the left side of the car, positive caster is how much your strut is angled to the right, and negative caster is how much your strut is angled to the left. Caster is often neglected but is still an effective adjustment. Positive caster will give you better straight line stability, while negative caster will lead to enhanced steering response.
Tire alignment is one of the simplest ways you can ensure maximum tire life or modify your handling capabilities. And let’s face it, some negative camber looks cool too, if you’re willing to invest in it! Come by Grandstone Tire Centre for your next tire alignment!
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