Auto Repair St. Louis, Brakes, Tires, Suspension, Alignment


Yes I’m sorry to say it came off my car!

I have an old 1969 Mach 1 Mustang that talks to me in my sleep, it says things like… “pssssst – the kids don’t need braces, I need a new performance radiator” or “buy me the latest Ricky Racer go fast part don’t worry about the kids needing school supplies, it’s OK. “

Well, as you can imagine, the car sits for most of the time and when we do get her out it’s usually for a quick cruise through the park and back into the garage. Now, I knew it needed front tires, I knew they were in bad shape, and I knew this because I drove it knowing that it needed to be aligned.  Driving it while out of alignment caused the tires to wear on the inside edges. I did not know that one of the tires was coming apart, until I heard the thumping noise and it was too late.

There are 3 alignment angles; I will explain the 2 that are usually adjustable on most cars on the road today; Toe and Camber.  Toe is the pointing in (or out) of the front of the tire, just like pointing your toes in towards each other or out and Camber is the tilting of the top of the tire in or out.  If you look at the picture the right edge of the tire is bald, this is (unfortunately) a great example of a camber issue. The tire was literally rolling while leaning on its edge and it caused one side of the tread to wear while the other side did not see much wear. Later, as the steel belts started to show the tire started to come apart on the inside, which can be seen in the picture by looking for the bulge that runs through the tire.

Alignment Process

Mechanic’s Role

Mechanics play a crucial role in performing alignment checks on vehicles. They are responsible for assessing the alignment angles of the wheels to ensure optimal performance. With their expertise, mechanics can accurately diagnose and correct any misalignments present in the vehicle’s suspension system. By regularly conducting alignment checks, mechanics can detect issues early on and prevent them from escalating into more severe problems that could lead to costly repairs down the line.

Tools Used

In the alignment process, mechanics utilize a range of essential tools to assess alignment angles effectively. Some of these tools include wheel alignment machines, turn plates, and camber gauges. Wheel alignment machines are used to measure and adjust the angles of the wheels, ensuring they are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground. Turn plates assist in rotating the vehicle’s wheels during the alignment process, allowing mechanics to access different angles easily. Camber gauges help determine the vertical tilt of the wheels, enabling mechanics to make precise adjustments for optimal alignment.

Advancements in alignment technology have revolutionized the way alignments are performed. Modern equipment such as laser alignment systems and computerized alignment machines provide more accurate measurements and faster results compared to traditional methods. These technological advancements not only enhance the precision of alignments but also improve efficiency in diagnosing and correcting alignment issues promptly.

Key Alignment Factors


Camber angle refers to the tilt of the wheels vertically when viewed from the front of the vehicle. Incorrect camber can result in uneven tire contact with the road surface, affecting traction and tire wear. This misalignment can lead to poor vehicle stability and handling, especially during cornering.

Improper camber alignment may cause excessive wear on either the inside or outside edges of the tires. Maintaining proper camber is crucial for ensuring even tire wear and maximizing the lifespan of your tires. Regular alignment checks can help identify and correct any camber issues promptly.


Toe alignment determines whether the tires point inward or outward when viewed from above. Misaligned toe settings can accelerate tire wear, causing uneven tread patterns and reducing tire longevity. Steering instability, such as wandering or pulling to one side, often indicates toe misalignment.

Adjusting toe angles correctly can enhance steering response and overall driving experience. Optimizing toe alignment plays a significant role in improving fuel efficiency by reducing rolling resistance and ensuring all four tires work together efficiently.


The caster angle measures the steering axis’ tilt when viewed from the side of the vehicle. Caster angle influences steering stability, affecting how well a vehicle maintains a straight line and returns to center after making a turn. Proper caster alignment contributes to precise steering response and control.

Caster adjustments impact how quickly a vehicle responds to steering input, influencing its overall agility on the road. Correct caster settings are essential for maintaining optimal vehicle alignment and promoting safe driving conditions for both everyday commutes and high-speed maneuvers.

Tire Alignment Importance

Camber Wear

Camber wear is a crucial aspect of tire alignment, referring to the uneven wear on the inside or outside edges of tires. This type of wear pattern is typically caused by improper camber angles. The effects of camber wear are significant, impacting both the longevity and performance of tires. When tires experience camber wear, it can lead to premature tire deterioration and uneven tread wear. To address camber-related issues, it’s essential to regularly check and adjust the camber angles according to the manufacturer’s specifications. By maintaining correct camber angles, you can ensure even tire wear and extend the lifespan of your tires.

Heel/Toe Wear

Heel/toe wear patterns on tires are characterized by diagonal tread wear across the surface of the tire. This type of wear is often an indication of alignment issues, particularly involving toe misalignment. Heel/toe wear can result from toe misalignment, where the front tires point slightly inward or outward. To correct heel/toe wear and prevent further damage, it’s crucial to realign the wheels properly. Adjusting the toe angles to the recommended settings can help eliminate heel/toe wear and promote even tread wear across all four tires.

Wheel Alignment Explained

What It Is

Wheel alignment is crucial for maintaining vehicle performance by ensuring the wheels are perpendicular to the ground. It involves adjusting three key aspects: camber, toe, and caster. Camber refers to the vertical tilt of the wheel when viewed from the front. Toe is the angle of the wheels in relation to each other when viewed from above. Caster pertains to the angle of the steering pivot when viewed from the side. Proper alignment not only extends tire life but also enhances driving comfort and safety.

Improper alignment can lead to uneven tire wear, affecting handling and fuel efficiency. By aligning your car’s wheels correctly, you can prevent premature tire wear and ensure optimal vehicle performance. The angles at which your tires make contact with the road surface impact how smoothly your car drives and how well it responds to steering inputs.

Frequency Needed

Regular alignment checks are crucial for maintaining optimal vehicle performance. As a general guideline, repairmen recommend getting your car’s alignment checked every 6,000 miles or every six months, whichever comes first. However, certain factors such as hitting potholes, curbs, or other obstacles may necessitate more frequent alignments.

Factors like rough roads, driving over potholes frequently, or even minor fender benders can throw off your car’s alignment. If you notice any signs of misalignment such as uneven tire wear or steering pulling to one side, it’s essential to schedule an alignment check promptly. If you often drive on poorly maintained roads or participate in off-road activities, you may need more frequent alignments to ensure optimal handling and tire wear.

Benefits of Proper Alignment

Vehicle Performance

Proper alignment directly impacts how a vehicle handles and performs on the road. It ensures that the wheels are parallel and pointing in the right direction, enhancing stability and control. Misalignment can lead to issues with acceleration and braking, affecting overall safety.

When your car’s alignment is off, it can cause uneven tire wear due to increased friction against the road surface. This not only affects the tires but also puts a strain on other components of the vehicle. By maintaining proper alignment, you can maximize fuel efficiency by reducing rolling resistance.

Tire Longevity

The correlation between alignment and tire lifespan is significant. Improper alignment can cause tires to wear out unevenly, reducing their longevity. Proper alignment ensures that tires wear uniformly, extending their lifespan significantly.

Regular alignment maintenance is crucial for preserving tire quality. By aligning your car’s wheels correctly, you can prevent premature wear and tear on the tires. This not only saves you money on frequent replacements but also ensures a smoother and safer driving experience for longer.

Identifying Alignment Needs

Common Signs

Drivers should pay attention to common signs of alignment issues like uneven tire wear or steering pulling. Recognizing these signs early is crucial to prevent further damage to the vehicle’s suspension components. Promptly addressing alignment problems can enhance driving safety and prolong tire lifespan.

Different tire wear patterns such as cupping, camber wear, or feathering indicate specific alignment issues. Cupping may signal improper wheel balance, while camber wear suggests misaligned camber angles. Understanding these patterns helps in diagnosing alignment problems accurately based on tire condition.

Tire Wear Patterns

Maintaining Alignment

Regular Checks

Regularly checking your car’s end alignment is crucial for its overall health and performance. By ensuring the correct angle and right direction, you can prevent issues like premature tire wear.

Drivers should keep an eye out for signs of misalignment, such as uneven tire wear or the vehicle pulling to one side. These indicators signal the need for a professional alignment check.

To maintain alignment between professional checks, drivers can visually inspect their tires for any signs of uneven wear. They can ensure that the steering wheel is centered when driving straight on a level road.

Professional Advice

Seeking professional advice for end alignment concerns is highly recommended to ensure optimal vehicle performance. Certified technicians have the expertise to accurately diagnose and correct alignment issues.

Professional alignment services not only guarantee accurate adjustments but also help in identifying underlying problems that may be affecting the vehicle’s handling and safety.

Closing Thoughts

You’ve now grasped the intricacies of car alignment, from its types and importance to the process and key factors involved. Understanding how proper alignment benefits your vehicle’s performance and longevity is crucial. Identifying and maintaining alignment needs can enhance your driving experience while ensuring safety on the road. Remember, a well-aligned car not only saves you money on repairs but also provides a smoother ride.

Take charge of your vehicle’s alignment by staying vigilant and proactive. Regular checks and timely adjustments will keep your car running smoothly, improving fuel efficiency and tire lifespan. Prioritize alignment to enjoy a safer, more efficient driving experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the importance of wheel alignment, tire angles, and correct angle for my car, new tires?

Proper wheel alignment ensures even tire wear, improves fuel efficiency, enhances handling and steering response, and prolongs the life of your tires. It also contributes to a smoother and safer driving experience.

How can I identify if my car needs an alignment to ensure the tire angles are at the correct angle?

Look out for signs like uneven tire wear, drifting to one side while driving straight, vibrating steering wheel, or squealing tires. If you notice any of these issues, it’s advisable to get your alignment checked by a professional.

What factors are crucial in the alignment process?

Key factors include adjusting the angles of the wheels to manufacturer specifications, ensuring all four wheels are parallel and perpendicular to the ground, and inspecting suspension components for any wear or damage that could affect alignment.

Why should I maintain proper alignment for my vehicle?

Maintaining proper alignment helps prevent premature tire wear, ensures optimal handling and performance, maximizes fuel efficiency, promotes vehicle safety by improving stability and control, and ultimately saves you money on potential repairs in the long run.

How often should I have my car’s alignment checked?

It’s recommended to have your car’s alignment checked at least once a year or whenever you replace your tires. If you hit a pothole or curb hard or notice any signs of misalignment, it’s crucial to get it checked promptly.

We see uneven tire wear quite frequently while servicing vehicles for our customers.  Any time you see uneven tire wear, there is a reason. It could be loose, bent or broken suspension parts, or just out of alignment. Either way once the tires start to wear there is no way to stop them.  Some of the best ways to prevent this are to rotate your tires regularly and have the suspension inspected to catch any problems early and to get an alignment when you get new tires and/or new suspension parts.  At Jammin’ J Automotive, we include free tire rotation when you purchase new tires from us.  Also, we keep track of your vehicle history and will partner with you to help you to remember to do the things that need to be done regularly to keep your tires in good working condition as long as possible.  When buying new tires, ask about an alignment, it is a small investment to lengthen the life of your tires.

Now if I can just get the new tire bill passed through the Wife Congress…….. 🙂