Alignment Symptoms

October 1st, 2011

   Many customers show up at the sales counter saying " I need an alignment" . When asked why, many customer's can not give a reason. Those that can, often will say " my car vibrates", or "it pulls". It is a very unusual circumstance if a vehicle alignment condition will cause either a vibration, or a vehicle pull. Usually, if a vehicle is vibrating at highway speeds, it is caused by a wheel balance problem. Sometimes it could be caused by a bent wheel. Most vehicle pulls are caused by crooked belts on the inside of the tire.

    Before performing an alignment, it is critical that the service adviser, or technician, test drive the vehicle to duplicate the symptoms. I learned my lesson the hard way. Many years ago, a customer came to the shop I was managing, and asked for an alignment. We performed the service she asked for, charged her for doing so, and returned her vehicle to her, aligned correctly. The next day, she returned, saying" you didn't align my car....it still shakes". We then proceeded to balance her tires, after all, if a car vibrates at highway speeds, it is almost always a wheel balance condition...right. The customer returned the next day, very frustrated stating " my car still shakes" . Finally, we asked her to describe the shake. Only then did she elaborate, stating.." my car shakes while sitting still at a traffic light" . WOW,  TO REALIZE HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO HAVE PROPER COMMUNICATION.  Never again will we take in an alignment without asking the right questions, and test driving for symptoms. A vehicle shaking at idle is NEVER caused by an alignment condition. After properly diagnosing her vehicle, it was evident she had an engine misfire, caused by worn spark plugs, & ignition wires.

  Allow me to give a thumbnail education about vehicle alignments on most of today's vehicles. When performing an alignment, the technician measures 3 angles....caster, camber, & toe-in. The camber and toe-in affect tire wear. The caster affects vehicle "drift" or "pull", or in other words the tendency of the vehicle to steer one direction or the other when a driver releases the steering wheel. On most vehicles, the only angle that is adjustable is the toe-in. If the caster or camber measures out of specification, it often requires a specially designed "kit" that is added to the suspension to make that angle adjustable. Adjusting the toe-in, is therefore the cure to most vehicle misalignments.

    Therefore, whether coming to our shop, or to one of our competitors, please describe your symptoms, prior to requesting an alignment.

Tags: Alignments

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