Car owners are told to get oil changes, rotate their tires, and top off fluids, but we often don't hear as much about alignments. However, that doesn't mean they're not an important part of vehicle maintenance.
A video from Learn Engineering aims to explain why we should be mindful of alignments and how they correct a car's poor posture. Firstly, it helps to understand the elements that go into a car's alignment and tires. There is camber, toe, and caster. Camber is the act of pushing the tire away from the car, or in towards the car. Toe relates to the tire positioned at an angle away or toward the car. Finally, caster is the work of the steering axle, which creates the effect of the steering wheel returning to its on-center position when a driver lets go of the wheel after a corner.
Knowing these three elements, it helps to understand why an alignment is essential. Automakers all adjust camber, toe, and caster to a specific vehicle to create safe, drivable cars. Some may be set up for performance, while others are simply engineered for overall stability. Nevertheless, these three elements are crucial to a car's driving behavior.
When one or all of them fall out of line, the car can begin to behave differently and give the driver a harder time in standard cornering. An alignment does exactly what it sounds like: brings the car back into its factory settings. After an alignment, cornering and steering response should improve. Vehicles out of alignment may also experience greater tire wear as the contact patch (where the tire meets the road) is not correct.
Check out the video for an in-depth explanation and perhaps schedule an alignment for your car soon.