What Your Mechanic Doesn't Want You to Know

Written by Austin C. Davis

Reader Question: My car shakes and vibrates onrepparttar freeway, does this mean I need a front end alignment?

Dear concerned car owner,

How do you know if your car needs a front end alignment? Vibrations, shimmy, and shaking felt inrepparttar 108453 steering wheel are usually not a sign of needing a front end alignment. A front end alignment, or four wheel alignment as it is commonly referred to these days due torepparttar 108454 fact thatrepparttar 108455 rear end ofrepparttar 108456 vehicle can also be adjusted, does just whatrepparttar 108457 name implies align, or line uprepparttar 108458 direction ofrepparttar 108459 wheels sorepparttar 108460 vehicle is pointed in a straight line.

Caster, camber, and toe are terms used to describerepparttar 108461 direction ofrepparttar 108462 wheel in relation torepparttar 108463 body ofrepparttar 108464 vehicle. The front ofrepparttar 108465 tire can be pointed in towardrepparttar 108466 center ofrepparttar 108467 vehicle thus "toed in." Whenrepparttar 108468 front ofrepparttar 108469 tire is pointed outward, it is referred to as "toed out." Both of these problems can quickly wear downrepparttar 108470 tread of a tire and can cause a "pull" in one direction ofrepparttar 108471 front end. The top ofrepparttar 108472 wheel can also lean in towardrepparttar 108473 center ofrepparttar 108474 vehicle or lean out away fromrepparttar 108475 vehicle, causing a camber problem. This situation can also cause tire wear and a pull to one direction inrepparttar 108476 front end. Caster measuresrepparttar 108477 relationship ofrepparttar 108478 left and right wheels to each other. If one wheel is farther forward or back fromrepparttar 108479 other wheel, then there is a caster problem. Caster will usually not cause a pull or tire wear, and this problem is commonly found on wrecked vehicles.

So what causes shimmy and shakes inrepparttar 108480 front end? The biggest culprit is an out-of-balance or out-of-round tire. Asrepparttar 108481 tread onrepparttar 108482 tire wears, it will need to be re-balanced to evenly distributerepparttar 108483 weight ofrepparttar 108484 tire andrepparttar 108485 wheel. To do this, small lead weight is attached torepparttar 108486 outside ofrepparttar 108487 wheel and a machine is used to spinrepparttar 108488 tire and wheel to check balance. Tires should be balanced and rotated every 12,000 miles (approximately every four oil changes) to ensure even tire wear and extend tread life. Out-of-round meansrepparttar 108489 tire has worn unevenly and cannot be balanced. An out-of-round tire will have to be replaced. I have even seen new tires that were out-of-round due to a manufacturing defect.

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