Everything You Need To Know About Alignments

Regular car maintenance plays a crucial role in safe driving and extending the lifespan of your vehicle. But while some maintenance tasks like oil changes are commonplace and well-known, other tasks like wheel alignments might be a new term to drivers leasing or buying their very first car. So, what is a wheel alignment, and why does it matter so much? To ensure your vehicle lasts you years down the road, let’s take a closer look at how to do an alignment and address any questions you may have about car alignments.

What is a Vehicle Suspension Alignment?

Aptly named, a wheel alignment occurs when a car service technician adjusts a vehicle’s suspension. The suspension is what connects the wheels to the automobile. Over time, this alignment can change due to regular wear and tear. Based on the vehicle you own, you may need a four-wheel alignment or a two-wheel alignment. If all four wheels on your car can undergo adjustments, you should always opt for a four-wheel alignment. If it is impossible to adjust your car’s back two wheels, getting the front two aligned will suffice and keep your vehicle in good shape.

What Happens During the Wheel Alignment Process?

What can you expect during the wheel alignment process? A car alignment is quite simple given all the technology at our disposal in our high-tech service department. When you first drive into our service center, a machine will do a quick scan to see what your alignment looks like and where our service technicians can make changes once your car is in the proper position.

A trained technician specializing in tire service will place your vehicle on a rack and use a machine to conduct a full scan of your alignment. The technician notes where issues lie, and then they will rotate or adjust the wheels to ensure your car has a proper alignment. If you have any broken parts in the suspension, the service technician will address the issue before your alignment.

Some adjustments that technicians commonly make during wheel alignments are toe, camber, caster, and thrust adjustments. A technician examines tire angles when the tires turn in or out during a toe adjustment. While making a camber adjustment, a technician looks at the tires’ vertical angles when looking straight at the vehicle. A caster adjustment addresses your steering axis’ forward or backward angle when viewed from the side of the car. And a thrust adjustment involves lining up the rear axle and centerline.

Additionally, if you find that your steering wheel is out of alignment, we can take care of that too.

How Long Does a Tire Alignment Take?

Typically, a tire alignment should take anywhere from one to two hours for two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicles. However, it can take longer depending on the damage to the suspension system, track rod, steering bushing, or other components.  These parts may need to be replaced.

Why Do You Have to Come in for a Wheel Alignment?

Like all car maintenance, getting a wheel alignment every so often is necessary. If you drive with poorly aligned wheels, that can lead to several safety issues and pose unnecessary risks to your car. For example, if you’re currently riding around with poor wheel alignment, you might be dealing with issues like these:

  • Your vehicle makes bumpy movements as you’re driving.
  • You experience shaking and vibrating sensations.
  • Your vehicle pulls to one side, or you lose control of the steering wheel as it suddenly jerks to one side or another.
  • Tire tread wear occurs unevenly or rapidly, increasing the risk of tire blowouts or loss of control on the road. In this case, you might need to replace your tires with a wheel alignment to solve the underlying issues.
  • Your steering wheel is difficult to operate, and it does not return to the center position.
  • Other components attached to the suspension take on the damage that can be both dangerous and costly to fix.

While some of these problems may only be a minor nuisance in the short term, all of them can lead to unsafe driving that puts you at risk of collisions. If you’re experiencing any of the above issues, you need to schedule service as soon as possible to get your car back in alignment. 

Why Do Cars Lose Proper Alignment Over Time?

For most cars, alignment changes over time with wear and tear. No matter how safely you drive, you’re going to need to visit a service center to guarantee proper alignment in the future. However, there are some ways that you can throw your car out of alignment much faster than you would normally. For example, you can impact your vehicle’s alignment while running into debris on the road and driving over potholes. Also, car collisions, faulty or broken parts, and modifications that damage the car’s suspension can affect your car’s alignment.

How Often Should You Schedule a Wheel Alignment?

A good rule of thumb is to bring in your car for a wheel alignment each time you drive a total of 6,000 miles. Alternatively, you could bring your vehicle in for an alignment once or twice a year, depending on your needs. If you have your car serviced and notice any of the signs of poor alignment we listed above, don’t ignore it. Make an appointment as soon as possible to get your wheels aligned and take care of any necessary repairs. 

Need a Wheel Alignment Close to Youngstown, Ohio?

When you need to get your tires aligned, you don’t want just any service. You want the help of a dealership with a service center complete with state-of-the-art technology and factory-trained, certified technicians. Here at Cochran Cars of Youngstown, Ohio, that’s what you’ll get. Cochran Cars will help you find the right vehicle and ensure that it receives the high-quality maintenance it needs to operate optimally for years after you drive your new car off our lot. 

Whether you’re noticing a slight pull, changes in tire tread balding, or severe issues that demand immediate attention, we’re here for you to handle any potential repairs and wheel alignment so that you can get back on the road in no time. Schedule service with us today, or contact us with any questions that you may have about wheel alignment and other car maintenance services we offer.

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