By: Don Stec
This column has to do with common misconceptions the general public has about wheel alignment.
Complaint: I have had my car aligned three times in three different places and it just keeps slipping out of alignment.
Alignments do not slip out unless a bolt or steering component is loose. Vehicle owners often imply a mistake was made and the alignment technicians neglected to tighten something. However it would be highly unlikely that 3 technicians would make the same mistake.
What I have found most often is, the alignment is set as a wheel to wheel comparison, not to the centerline of the vehicle. New or rotated tires develop the same unusual wear pattern, giving the car owner the impression the alignment has slipped out.
I have discovered that many of these vehicles have frame alignment or steering linkage problems. Some problems were so minor they could not be detected by the naked eye. The alignment technician did the best he could, but he could not achieve "Total Vehicle Alignment," due to the condition of the vehicle or limitations of the equipment. This is one of the major reasons I decided to buy my own equipment and do total vehicle wheel alignments.
Coachmaster has been doing frame repairs on vehicles for over forty three years and it only made sense to do our own wheel alignments. This is not very common in body shops today and was very uncommon forty three years ago.
Complaint: No one can align my car: it has a constant pull.
After vehicle owners tell me they have had multiple alignments and the car still pulls, I look for the unusual, starting with air pressure and different brands of tires. Just because tires have the same number on the sidewall does not guarantee they are the same diameter if they are different brands. I use a large caliper gauge to check the diameter of each tire. I have found tires with the same numbers on the sidewall differ in diameter by as much as ½ inch.
Even if the wheel alignment specifications are perfect the total vehicle geometry will not be! A pull or unusual tire wear can occur. I continue to be surprised on how few people know this.
Complaint: My tires wear funny but my car does not need a wheel alignment because I have never hit anything.
If your tires are wearing funny you have a tire, frame or wheel alignment problem!
During the life span of a tire and many thousands of miles traveled, the tires may have turned a million times. The roads today are in desperate need of repair and it would seem unlikely that a driver would never hit a chuckhole or a hole in the shoulder during the life of a tire. Normal wear of steering components and a defective tire are also possible causes to be considered.
If you have rapid or uneven tire wear on your trailer or motor vehicle please stop in at Coachmaster, 6851 Eastside Road in Redding and discuss it with me. Or call at 530-243-1310 for an appointment for repair.