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Wheel Alignments in Houston, TX

wheel alignment houston tx

Wheel Alignments in Houston, TX

It’s a good idea to have your wheel alignment checked a couple of times a year, and it should be a standard auto repair item whenever you’re purchasing new tires. Your car leaves the factory with the wheels set at specific angles, engineered for optimum handling, steering response and ride quality, and it’s important that they stay in those parameters. A hard hit on a pothole or parking curb, or worn steering parts on an older vehicle can result in a wheel alignment that’s suddenly out of whack.

Wheel Alignment Angles

Think about someone who walks with their right or left foot skewed out to one side. Over time, that gait will wear that person’s left or right shoe differently from the other shoe, and that’s similar to what happens to your tires when alignment angles are wrong. In fact, two crucial angles are referred to as “toe-in” and “toe-out.” A car that has a front wheel that’s angled to one side will constantly try to steer itself in that direction, which is where the nagging pull on an out-of-alignment car comes from. Over the course of several thousand miles, that tire will wear unevenly at the inside or outside edge, depending on how the wheel is angled. In addition, the drag of that tire creates friction and requires more energy to move the car down the road, resulting in poorer fuel economy. In light of that, it’s easy to see why wheel alignments are an important auto repair detail that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Other important alignment angles are camber and caster. Camber refers to the inward or outward tilt of the front wheels, if viewed head-on. Caster is the alignment of the upper and lower ball joints for each wheel, two parts of the steering assembly. Caster and camber both have a significant effect on handling and high-speed stability, and can contribute to tire wear if out of spec. Minute adjustments can have a big effect on wheel alignment – over the course of a mile, a car with a front end that’s toed out only 1/8” would drift 28 feet off of a straight line if left on its own.

Four Wheel Alignment

Many newer vehicles with four-wheel independent suspensions or front-wheel-drive with adjustable rear suspension require a four-wheel alignment. An important alignment measurement is the “thrust angle” – imagine a line drawn through the center of the car, from front to rear. The thrust angle is taken into account when ensuring that all four wheels are properly lined up with each other. On vehicles with solid rear axles, the thrust angle shouldn’t ever change unless the car has been in a collision, which would require a trip to a frame-straightening shop. With adjustable rear suspensions, this angle can change over time, hence the need for four-wheel alignments.

Why Are Wheel Alignments So Important?

Like with so many other details of auto repair, a proper alignment can save you money in the long haul. Fighting the steering wheel of a vehicle that constantly tries to pull to one side is tiring on a long trip, but consider the needless tire wear and fuel consumption that goes with a poor wheel alignment. Over time, those costs will outweigh the amount you’d spend on a proper wheel alignment.

Not just any auto repair shop can perform wheel alignments. It takes trained technicians and an up-to-date alignment rack to bring things back into spec again. At McIntyre Automotive in Houston, TX, we can take on this important auto repair and bring things back to their proper settings again. If you’re noticing uneven tire wear, steering that feels “heavy,” a steering wheel that pulls to one side or won’t center readily after making a turn, make an appointment with us today.