At STR Automotive, we have the industry’s best alignment equipment (Hunter Hawkeye Elite) and can take care of all of your alignment needs. Our technicians are trained and have experience in all types of suspension and steering setups. We have found that many of our customers are confused or misinformed about what an alignment is and why they may need one done on their car, so we put together this FAQ. We hope it’s helpful.
What is an Alignment?
An alignment is an adjustment to a vehicle’s steering and/or suspension systems. It is not an adjustment to the tires or wheels. It therefore does not need to be done when new tires are installed, but in many cases the tires are being replaced because an out-of-alignment condition caused the tires to wear prematurely. In order to prevent the new tires from suffering the same fate as the old tires, the vehicle owner will often opt to have an alignment performed.
How do I know if I need an Alignment?
Symptoms of a poor alignment include:
If your steering wheel is off-center
If your tires have uneven tread wear
If your vehicle pulls to the left or right
An alignment problem cannot directly cause a vibration.
Other problems can also cause these symptoms, so it is recommended to have a qualified technician diagnose the cause of the problem before assuming that an alignment is at fault.
What are the Causes of Misalignment?
There are 3 main reasons why a vehicle may be out of alignment:
Sudden jarring or impact caused by hitting something such as a pothole, a speed bump, a curb, or of course another vehicle.
Worn parts caused by wear and tear. Over time parts such as struts, springs, and ball joints can start to sag or develop movement. If the wear becomes too extreme, the part(s) will need to be replaced before an alignment can be properly performed.
Height modification. Installing a lift kit on your truck or lowering your vehicle causes the steering and suspension angles to change.
Why do Alignments Matter?
An improperly aligned vehicle can cause tires to wear unevenly, faster than they should, and in a pattern that could cause noise and/or vibration. This type of tire wear is not covered by the tire manufacturer’s warranty.
An improper alignment also causes a loss in fuel economy. If the tires are not pointed straight, they will be slightly dragging along the pavement, causing the engine to work hard to overcome the resistance.
How Often Should an Alignment be Performed?
You should have your alignment checked at least once a year or every 15,000 miles, whichever occurs first. You likely will not need to have an adjustment done every time, but catching a misalignment before it can damage your tires will save you time and money. Once a misalignment has damaged the tires, the only “fix” is replacing the tires. An alignment can only prevent damage to the new tires, it cannot put rubber back on to the old tires.