Alignment Shop in Fresno
Learn the Basics of Your Vehicle’s Alignment and Balance
Wheel alignment refers to the position of the wheels relative to your car. Without the correct alignment, your wheels will resist steering commands, which can lead to poor gas mileage and uneven tire wear. To ensure accuracy and speed, our technicians at Goodguys exclusively use Hunter wheel alignment equipment, recognized as the best in the industry.
Wheel balance refers to the distribution of weight around a revolving tire and wheel assembly. An imbalance can lead to premature wear of tires, struts, shocks, and other steering and suspension components. The tire industry recommends that you have your wheels balanced every 6,000 miles—or whenever you’re getting your tires rotated. This can help prevent costly car repairs in the future.
Explaining Toe, Struts, Shocks, Camber, and Caster
As the owner of a vehicle, it helps to first know what your friendly Goodguys mechanic is talking about when the two of you are discussing balance or wheel alignment service. Then you will have some base knowledge to keep tires in good working order and you can feel safe behind the wheel.
Below are a few important terms you should know:
This term refers to the angle of a tire’s wheel relative to the vertical of the vehicle. Based on the tilt, it is either referred to as a positive camber, which is when the tire tilts away from the center of the vehicle, or a negative camber, which is when the top of the tire tilts inward. There isn’t a “right” way to the tire’s camber. Both tilts have their own unique effects on the car, so it depends on how you would expect the vehicle to perform.
This is the angle that manufacturers use to balance the effort it takes to steer the car, its stability at high speed, and the front end cornering effectiveness. It is determined by the slope of an imaginary line drawn through the upper and lower steering pivot points. It doesn’t have much influence on wear of the tires, but caster does affect the directional control of the steering and that’s important.
Toe refers to how much the vehicle’s front and/or rear wheels are turned in or out from a straight-ahead position. Generally, the wheels on your car should be pointed directly ahead as you are driving. Based on the type of vehicle you drive, though, there are some benefits to the toe either being in or out.
These are hydraulic components designed to keep your ride as smooth as possible. Together, the springs and the shock assembly help minimize movement by absorbing the jolts that are natural when driving. Another effect of good shocks is that the driver has better control over the car.
They are weight-bearing parts that serve the same purpose as shocks. Struts consist of a spring and a shock absorber, so are much stronger than shocks. They also improve a vehicle’s steering and alignment. Not all cars have struts.
Now that you know some common wheel alignment terms, you can begin applying them today to find out if the tires on your car need to be balanced, aligned, or both.
Tire Balancing and Alignment
When you get into your car to drive to the store, you don’t think about whether your trip will be bumpy or smooth. In fact, you expect your vehicles to drive the way they are designed to operate. You may also assume the trip will be comfortable. But if the alignment on your vehicle is off or the tires need to be balanced, the ride could be far from smooth and also dangerous.
Tire (or Wheel) Balancing
It might be hard to understand how the tires on a vehicle can become unbalanced. But the weight of the tire on the wheel assembly must be evenly distributed or the car can develop vibrations, tire wear, and suspension and chassis problems. Even more concerning, though, is that the car is no longer firmly connected to the road. At this point, unbalanced tires can become a safety issue.
To prevent problems like this from occurring, the tires must be perfectly balanced. If you bring your car into an alignment shop for this service, the tire and wheel assembly will be taken off the car and mounted onto a machine. It spins the entire assembly in order to measure any imbalance. Then, the technicians will place small tire weights on the wheel to correct the imbalance.
Many times, having the tires balanced is done along with an alignment. The two services, however, are not the same.
Sounds like almost the same thing as tire balancing, right? Maybe, but it isn’t. You may be surprised to know that a car alignment has less to do with your tires and more to do with your car’s suspension system. It’s important that your wheels are rolling along in the same direction and angle. That’s what is meant by alignment.
This is where those terms camber, caster, and toe are also important. Each of those words refer to slightly different ways that the wheels are aligned on your car. Each has to do with angles, and they all determine how well your car rides. When a car is out of alignment, it might pull to the right or left, the tires will wear unevenly, the steering wheel may be crooked even when driving straight, and the tires might squeal. The car is simply not as easy to control as it should be.
The car could be out of alignment, but that might not be the problem at all. Shaking, vibrating, and pulling may indicate that wheel bearings, ball joints, and wheel suspension parts are worn. Those parts are costly to repair or replace, so it’s important for you to know exactly what the problem is.
Our technicians at Goodguys can make sure that your tires are lined up correctly and spinning in the right position to prevent or correct any issues. A tire alignment should be part of routine maintenance on your vehicle, so that you and your family are safe on the road. New tires installed on your car should always be aligned before you drive away from the shop, as well. Having new tires but no alignment done is only getting half the job done!
Schedule for Wheel Balancing and Car Alignment
Now that you know the importance of a tire alignment and tire balancing, below is a general schedule that it may help to follow:
- Barring accidents or unusual wear on your car, your wheels should be aligned every 2-3 years. Or you can ensure that all issues are dealt with beforehand by having the car aligned every time you have the oil changed.
- The tires on your car are usually balanced each time they are rotated, which is recommended every 6 months or 5-6,000 miles. Today’s cars are lighter than ever, so balancing the tires in order to stay connected to the road is very important.
Be sure to check out the savings and coupons available on our website for deals on services like balancing and alignment!
Your Car Care Partners: Goodguys Tires & Auto Repair
You don’t have the time to diagnose every problem with your vehicle. Goodguys Tires & Auto Repair looks forward to being your partner in keeping your car or truck safe and in good mechanical condition at all times. Crashes happen in an instant and can change lives forever. Come in and get to know us; we are all on the same safety team!
Frequently Asked Questions
We recommend that you perform a wheel alignment service on your vehicle every two to three years as a part of your vehicle’s routine maintenance schedule.
While a wheel alignment every two years is average, there are instances where you may need wheel alignment services more often. Sudden shocks to your wheels, such as running over a pothole, performing an emergency maneuver, or even being involved in a fender bender, can suddenly throw off your vehicle’s alignment and cause you to need a wheel alignment service sooner.
Wheel alignment is the act of measuring the camber and toe of your wheels and making micro-adjustments so they point perfectly straight. A wheel alignment helps maximize the life of your tires by promoting even tire wear while optimizing your fuel economy by lowering your vehicle’s rolling resistance. Wheel alignment additionally saves you money by preserving your tires’ lifespan and optimizing your fuel economy.
If your vehicle needs constant correction to travel in a straight line, this is a telltale sign it’s time for wheel alignment. Another way to determine if your vehicle needs wheel alignment is to check whether the emblem on your steering wheel is crooked. If it’s even just a few degrees off center, it can be a sign that your vehicle is in need of a wheel alignment.
You can also test your vehicle by driving on a flat and even surface. Once you reach speeds above 35 mph, briefly let go of the steering wheel and see if your vehicle continues to travel in a straight line. If your vehicle pulls to one side or another and you continually need to adjust the steering wheel to stay within your lane, you are in need of a wheel alignment.
If you’re still unsure whether your vehicle needs a wheel alignment, schedule an appointment with our service center. One of our Goodguys ASE-certified mechanics will be happy to perform a wheel alignment check to determine if your vehicle needs to be serviced.
Each bump, uneven surface, and pothole you go over is a shock to your suspension. Over time, this constant movement causes your wheels to slowly move off their intended axis. However, a few factors can cause your wheel alignment to become off-center faster:
- Track driving
- Spirited driving
- Emergency maneuvers
- Fast cornering
- Hard braking
- Heavy acceleration
- Hitting curb
Wheel alignment is the act of adjusting the camber and toe of your wheels so they point perfectly straight. Tire balancing involves adding micro weights to the edge of your wheels to ensure that they don’t vibrate. Understanding the difference between tire balancing and wheel alignment is important to maintain the life of your tires.
During the manufacturing process, tiny weight imbalances translate to vibrations once your tires begin to rotate. Wheel balancing ensures that your tires operate smoothly on the pavement, while wheel balancing ensures that your vehicle travels in a straight line.
Wheel balancing lasts an average of two to three years. Vehicles that are not driven much or driven on largely smooth roads may need wheel alignment every four to five years.
The cost of wheel alignment services varies depending on the type and size of your vehicle. At Goodguys, we service all make and model vehicles, and we’re happy to provide you with a quote for a wheel alignment for your vehicle’s make and model.