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A Few Myths About Wheel Alignments

January 27th, 2016

We do a lot of wheel alignments at Family Tire Distributors…and we run across some misconceptions about wheel alignments from time to time. We’d like to Wheel Alignments in Hollywood & Pembroke Pines, FLtake a few minutes to clear up a few of them.

I hear that my car needs a wheel alignment once a year…”

Not really true. Wheel alignments are a repair item, not a maintenance or preventive maintenance item. With proper driving habits and no incidents like hitting a curb or pothole, your vehicle’s wheel alignment should literally be good for years.

“My car’s pulling to one side – do I need a wheel alignment?”

Well, not necessarily. A pull to one side can be due to a low tire, tires of different sizes or tread designs, or a tire that’s beginning to fail. In these cases, swapping the front tires left-to-right is a good way to diagnose the problem; if the pull changes from right to left or vice versa, that’s a good sign it’s the tires and not an alignment issue. Even a crosswind or pavement that’s crowned and sloped to the right can cause a pull to one side, so it’s wise to not jump to conclusions.

“Vibration and shimmy are a sure sign of wheel alignment problems”

Incorrect. Vibration and shimmy are just about always due to tire problems, such as an out-of-round or out-of-balance tire. Vibration can also come from driveline problems or other sources, but are seldom if ever due to alignment issues.

My car just won’t hold an alignment”

That probably means that someone’s not doing it right. Someone is missing one of the crucial adjustment angles and the wheels are never completely in spec. In some cases, a vehicle that’s old and has many hard miles has enough wear and slop in steering components that it becomes hard for it to stay in spec; in these cases, the shop should advise you that the steering assemblies are that worn and should advise you on what to do.

“Four wheel alignments are just a scam”

Actually, for many newer vehicles, four-wheel alignments are a must. Many newer models have rear suspensions that are adjustable, giving the technician more precise adjustments to bring the front wheels in line relative to the rear. This is called a ‘thrust angle’ alignment, and a rear end that isn’t true to the front end will result in a car that “dog tracks” down the road. If your car’s manufacturer says that four-wheel alignments are what your car needs, that’s what you should get.

“That one place that advertises the latest alignment equipment…they must be better, right?”

Like everything else, technology has improved the science of proper steering geometry. Newer alignment racks can make a job easier or can allow for more precise adjustment, but it’s always going to rest on the tech who’s actually doing the job. A good tech can use a 1960s-era alignment rack and get an alignment that’s completely in spec, while a careless, untrained or sloppy tech can use a state-of-the-art machine and still not quite get it right. Here’s one clue…a good alignment should take 60 to 90 minutes to complete. If you’re only in the waiting room for 20 minutes, chances are your alignment tech was cutting some corners.

 

We hope that clears up any misconceptions you might have had about wheel alignments. If you’ve been noticing uneven tire wear, a constant pull to one side on straight pavement, steering that feels clumsy or “heavy” or a steering wheel that doesn’t center readily after rounding a corner, chances are you do need a wheel alignment. We hope you’ll come to Family Tire Distributors for that…make an appointment with us!

A Few Myths About Wheel Alignments was written by of Family Tire Distributors
  Posted in: Auto Repair 101