If every road was straight and smooth, we wouldn't have to worry much about wheel alignment. But they're not, so we do. Hitting potholes or driving on rough pavement can knock your vehicle out of alignment and you'll notice it in one of several ways.
Your steering wheel may not be centered when you're driving straight ahead, or your vehicle may pull to one side. You may find your tires wearing on one side or they may squeal. All are signs that could point to you needing an alignment.
Your wheels should be perpendicular to the road and parallel with each other. If not, your tires will wear out faster and your vehicle won't go straight on a level straightaway.
In alignment, there are several factors that must be checked. One is camber. Your wheels should be straight up and down if you look at them from the front. If not, you'll wear your tires unevenly on one side.
Another factor is caster, the angle of the steering pivot. Most vehicles have what's called positive caster, when the top of the steering pivot leans toward the rear. Proper caster balances steering effort, stability on the highway and cornering.
You may have heard the term "toe" in reference to your wheels. If you looked at your front wheels from straight above, for example, imagine your wheels were your feet. If you were to turn your toes in toward each other, that would be toeing in. The toe of your vehicle should be set to manufacturer's specifications so your vehicle handles well and doesn't prematurely wear out tires.
It's a good idea to have your alignment checked periodically since it can get knocked out by one hard knock or a lot of little knocks. It's not just about tire wear, it's about ride comfort and safe handling. You may say a vehicle aligned just feels divine.
The Auto & Tire Doctor Inc
12000 PIONEER TRL
TRUCKEE, CA 96161