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Is Your Car Cruising on Crooked Skis?

Is your car pulling one way or another when you’re driving? Do you feel an unusual or harsh vibration? Are your tires wearing unevenly? If so, your car may be out of alignment.

Alignment relates to the suspension of your car. Your suspension determines how tires come in contact with the road. Often people assume alignment is directly related to the tires, as this is where you feel bad alignment when you’re driving. But think of it like this: if you are skiing and your skis are pointed inward, sideways, or spreading wide, the skis are not broken; rather, it’s your legs and knees, your shocks or struts, throwing everything off.

Three terms to know when talking alignment

When it comes to alignment there are three things to keep in mind: toe, camber and caster. Each of these terms defines a different way in which the tires can be out of alignment. Let’s keep our skis on and carve further into each term.

Toe

Toe is simple if you’re looking down at your skis. There is toe in, and toe out. Like your feet, the tires can be slightly pointed toward or away from one another. Toe in will wear the tires on the outside and toe out on the inside. Think about skiing with your toes pointed toward one another: snow will build up on the outside as the skis scrape, which is similar to how a tire might wear on the outside.

Camber

Now, still on your skis, gently cruising down the mountain, try to touch your knees together. This is like having negative camber, as everything is folded in and the top of the tires point toward one another. If the camber of your car is off, it will cause tires to wear oddly and affect how the car handles.

Some finely-tuned sports cars use negative camber to improve handling. But if you’re driving to and from soccer practice, you don’t need to hug the neighborhood curves.

Caster

Caster relates to the vertical angle of your suspension. A positive caster angle means the top of the suspension is back, and negative is when the top of the suspension is tilted forward. This affects how your car performs and handles. If the caster is off, it’s like your skis have drifted out in front of your torso and now you’re leaning back while moving forward. This is not an efficient way to get down the mountain and it is equally troublesome for a car. When the caster is off your car may act irregularly at higher speeds — exactly when you need it to drive true.

Call on Chapel Hill Tire for all your alignment needs

Your alignment may get knocked off any number of ways. If you hit a big bump, drive on worn-down tires, jump a curb or get in a high-speed chase — we’re kidding! Please don’t! — you can knock your alignment out of whack.

If you think your alignment may be off, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Bad alignment can lead to increased labor costs or, worse, accidents down the road. Chapel Hill Tire specializes in tire service. We can help you recognize an issue and get it repaired before it grows into something more significant. So if your car is pulling one way or the other or your tire treads look uneven, make an appointment today. We’ll get you in, out and on with your life.

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