Alignment 101

Hello car friend’s! 

   Today we are going to cover a very over looked service on your vehicle that plays a huge role In tire wear, life of tires, ride quality, handling of vehicle, and probably the least know fact fuel economy.

     Since I’m trying to make this blog easy for people to understand the basics of vehicles (hence the 101)  we are not going to go super deep into all complexity of the angles of alignments. We will just touch base on the 3 main angles that we look at during an alignment. 

            (Alignment rack & computer                                       Tuffys Appleton

    After years of driving the suspension parts start to weaken and get old, the springs lose tension over time, and the car begins to sag this action changes the alignment angles. There are 3 main angles we are looking at when we check an alignment toe, caster, and camber. 


   Toe is the angle that your tires point in (toe in) or outward  (toe out) in relation to the tire center line if viewed from above the car. 

    Toe is a very important angle for tire wear. A toe setting just a little bit out of specs can make a huge difference in tire wear. The tire being out just 1/16th of an inch will scrub each tire that is out sideways 7 feet  for every mile you drive!

      It can also cause driveability issues especially in heavy rain. Due to heavy trucks on the highway they put ruts in the highway over time. When it rains these area’s pool up with water. If your toe angles are way out of spec this means your tires will not be traveling straight down the road and since the tires are not traveling straight when you hit the puddle they will lose grip causing the car to feel unsettled or “nervous.”

    Toe is a very critical angle. This is by far the most adjusted angle on alignments as a tech I would say close to 90% of vehicles I roll on the alignment rack the toe is out of specifications. 

(Toe wear)


(Camber angle)

     The next angle we are going to talk about is camber.

    The camber is how far the tire slants away from the vehicle when viewed from the direct front or back of vehicle. Camber is also measured in degrees. 

    Camber plays a direct role in the handling of the vehicle and is taken into consideration when the vehicle is manufactured. Incorrect camber can cause a number of issues including tire wear, vehicle pulls, and how the vehicle handles.

     Negative camber is when the top of the tire points inward towards the center of the vehicle. Positive camber is when the top of the tire leans away from the center of the vehicle (as seen in the picture above.)

    Camber angle is always checked during a vechile alignment although camber may not be adjustable on some vehicles.               

(Camber wear)


                   (Caster angle)

      The last angle we will discuss is caster. This angle is a little harder to understand by deffenition.

      Caster is the foward or backward slope of a line drawn through the upper and lower pivot points of your steering when viewed directly from the side of the vehicle.

    This does seem complicated so think as it as looking at a motorcycle. The forks of the motorcycle are at a long extended angle this helps the motorcycle have more stability than say they forks were at true vertical. 

   This holds true with your vehicle. Caster is what keeps your car going straight down the road it also helps to return your steering wheel back to straight.

     I hope this sheds some light on a very overlooked service that can cost you lots of headaches and money if not taken care of.

      So if you feel a pull or have never have an alignment done call Tuffys Appleton today or visit our website and we will be happy to get you rolling straight down the road and put money back in your pocket!

Tuffy Auto Service Centers
2940 E College Ave, Appleton, WI 54915
(920) 954-8500


About mechanic101

I myself have been working on cars for about 15 years. I'm ASE certified and went to school for automotive technology at FVTC. In my spare time I do alot of hunting and fishing and I also have a passion for aviation and fly as a student pilot!
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