If you find your car drifting or pulling to the right or the left then it is important for you to diagnose the problem that your car might be having. You must check for extra “play” in the steering, diagnose tire problems or the castor and candor of the front-end alignment. You can even take your car for a road test and this will give you clear answers for the problem your car might be suffering from. However, if you carry out an Alignment Test and find that there is a problem with the alignment on your car then it is important for you to fix this problem asap. The steps in checking and fixing the alignment on your car are as follows:
Eliminating Tire Problems
Prior to diagnosing front end alignment issue, make sure that the tires of your car are not causing any steering problems that you might be experiencing. Check the pressure of air on all the four tires and make sure that you inflate the tires to the suggested pressure. Get hold of the suggested inflation pressure by the manufacturer. You will find this on the label that is attached to the side door of the driver. You must also make sure that the tire size and tire pattern are same on both wheels. It is no use having a highway tire on one side and a snow and mud tire on another side. These are combinations that can result in the car pulling one way or the other. You must also check whether the tires are displaying the signs of unusual damage or wear. Have a close look at the tires. See whether they look round or symmetrical. You must also look for chunks missing from tread. Use your hands to feel around the tires. This will give you an idea of bulges and deformities.
Examining the Front End Alignment
There are numerous features of the front end alignment of a car. You might observe alignment problems by using a two foot level and a tape measure. Different front end alignment problems that can easily be detected are:
• Toe-in: When driving straight, the front of the tires point slightly centerline of the vehicle. It serves as an advantage when the car is cornered as each tire possesses equal traction. However, if it tends to be angled inward in excess then the exterior of the tire’s tread is prone to damage quite quickly. You need to measure the rear and the front distances between centerline of tires. This will help you in getting an idea about the degree of toe-in that your car has.
• Castor: This is vertices angle of tire centerline from the front to the back. You can check this angle by making use of front end equipment from an automated shop. However, it is to be noted that the castor will not vary excessively until the control arm bushings, kingpins and ball joints are severely worn.
• Camber: This is vertical angle of tire centerline which is perpendicular to the car’s cross-section. The camber problem can be checked by parking the car on level surface and making use of foot builders level for checking if the tires are plumb.
Road Testing the Vehicle
An Alignment Test can also be carried out by road testing the car on a level, smooth and flat highway. You should have a loose grip of the steering wheel so that the car can move on its own. You must carry out the driving test on a straight road when the weather is quite dry with calm winds. If your car pulls to the right or the left then you must understand that your car requires an alignment. You must also try and check for the sounds coming from the front end of the vehicle. You must drive very slowly in order to listen to any sort of whining, grinding or scraping sounds. Such sounds are an indication of excessive friction while the tire tread is rubbing against the road or some other serious issues.