Are You Aligned Properly?

By: The Auto Guy Email
By: The Auto Guy Email

If you are getting pulled in different directions while you are driving, don’t blame your busy schedule, you might just need an alignment.

Let’s take a look at how alignments are done and why you need to deal with a shop with the right equipment if you own certain types of newer vehicles.

Before an alignment is even started, the mechanic needs to check the air pressure in the tires and the suspension parts on the vehicle. Sometimes the parts can be damaged from hitting a curb or a pothole and other times they are just plain worn out. Worn or damaged parts need to be replaced before an alignment can be done.

Next it’s time to get the vehicle information entered into the alignment machine. In the old days, the mechanic needed to manually enter the year, make and model information into the computer. But the technology on newer alignment equipment allows the mechanic to simply scan the bar code on the door jamb of the vehicle to enter the vehicle data into the alignment machine.

The alignment starts with sensors being placed on every wheel. Those sensors will be picked up by a signal being sent out from the alignment machine and readings will appear on the computer monitor to show the mechanic if each wheel is aligned correctly.

A wheel that’s out of alignment will show up as a red number on the readout on the alignment machine, rather than a green number. There are a lot of different specs that are checked during an alignment, including camber, caster and toe. All of these settings need to be right on the money for your vehicle to drive correctly, so adjustments need to be made to get all of the wheels lined up just right. Once the mechanic gets all four wheels adjusted into the green areas on the computer screen and centers the steering wheel, the alignment is done.

The mechanic follows up on the alignment by taking the vehicle on a test drive, to make sure that the vehicle drives straight and does not pull to one side or the other.

FYI - some newer vehicles have a steering angle sensor in the steering column that needs to be re-calibrated after an alignment. That sensor tells the vehicle’s computer control system whether the steering wheel is turning left or right or pointing straight ahead. That information is necessary for systems such as the stability control to function correctly, so make sure that you are dealing with a shop that has the information and equipment necessary to do the job right.

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