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Accurate Wheel Alignment Extends Tire Tread Life

Michigan and Ohio drivers experience five different seasons: summer, fall, winter, spring and pothole season. Sometimes called kettles or chuckholes, potholes appear after water freezes in cracks or crevices of the road surface. Periodic freezing and thawing causes them to widen and surrounding surface area to flake away. The hole then further expands as vehicles bump their way through it, loosening even more of the already fragile pavement around it.

An unexpected encounter with a monster pothole can cause thousands of dollars of damage to your tires, wheels, steering system and suspension components. Even a chance encounter with a medium-size pothole can inflict damage you might not notice by throwing your wheel alignment out of whack. If that happens, you might notice that your vehicle pulls to the left or right when the steering wheel is in a straight ahead position or notice excessive vibration at high speeds.

You might also notice unusual or excessive tire wear. That’s because, instead of running straight and true, your tires are now skidding or scrubbing across the road, almost as it they were constantly cornering. Fortunately, there are some tire discount stores that have state-of-the-art computerized wheel alignment equipment to quickly, accurately and affordably adjust any alignment problems that could cause your vehicle to pull or vibrate and ultimately shorten the life of your tires.

Balancing versus Alignment
Don’t be confused by tire retailers who say tire-wheel balancing and wheel alignment is the same thing or that balancing is good enough. Tires generate enormous centrifugal forces at high speeds. Balancing evens out weight irregularities in each tire and wheel combination. It helps ensure the tire maintains constant surface contact without skipping, jumping or bumping over the road. A wheel alignment ensures all four wheels and tires track straight and true. It centers them with your steering system, maximizes suspensions system performance and helps prevent uneven tire wear.

Alignment Geometry
Accurate wheel alignment is a matter of geometry. To ensure safe everyday driving with good directional stability and extended tire tread life, four critical suspension angles must be precisely aligned and adjusted to the vehicle’s factory specifications.

  • Camber angle measures how far the tire slants away from vertical when viewed from the front of the vehicle. Camber is negative when the top of the tire leans inward and positive when it leans outward.
  • Caster angle measures how far the tire slopes forward or backward of a line drawn through the upper and lower pivot points of the steering system when viewed directly from the side. Caster is negative if the line slopes forward and positive if it slopes backward toward the rear of the vehicle.
  • Toe angle measures the direction the tires are pointed compared to a line drawn through the center of the vehicle when viewed from above. Tires are toe-in if they intersect the centerline and toe-out if they do not.
  • Thrust angle compares the direction the rear axle is aimed compared to a line drawn down the center of the vehicle.  Thrust angle is on-center if the rear axle is parallel to the front axle and off-center if it is not.

Ask a Professional
If your vehicle pulls to the left or right when the steering wheel is in a straight ahead position, if experience excessive vibration at high speeds or if you notice uneven tire wear, it might be time for an alignment check. But, precisely adjusting the critical geometry angles engineered into today’s sophisticated suspension systems isn’t a job for an amateur.

ASE Certified Technicians at most tire discount stores have the training, tools and state-of-the-art computerized equipment to do it quickly, accurately and affordably. Even if you don’t have an unexpected meeting with a pothole, it’s a good idea to have your wheel alignment inspected every twelve months or 12,000 miles.

So, enjoy every Michigan and Ohio driving season. Have your wheel alignment checked by a professional after any pothole mishap or every twelve months or 12,000 miles. Many tire discounters offer free alignment checks that will tell you if you’re in need of an alignment.  You’ll not only maximize your suspension system and tire performance, you’ll also save money down the road because you won’t have to replace your tires as often.

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