What is the difference?
Basically a properly adjusted wheel alignment will keep your steering wheel and tyres in the straight ahead position and prolong tyre life.
With your steering wheel in the straight ahead position your front and back wheels should also be straight. To the naked eye the wheels may look to be straight but if the wheels are as little as 1mm outside of manufacturer recommendations this may be enough to cause your tyres to wear prematurely.
The three angles that are checked and adjusted if applicable are:
The most common angle that is adjusted is toe:
Positive toe, or toe in, is the front of the wheel pointing in towards the center of the vehicle. Negative toe, or toe out, is the front of the wheel pointing away from the center of the vehicle.
Caster very simply is the movement of a wheel forwards or backwards. If wheels have uneven caster, then the wheel with the most caster will try and steer the vehicle away from that side causing a pulling effect.
Camber angle is the tilt of the front wheels, inwards or outwards this is noticeable when viewed from the front of the vehicle. If the top of the wheel is tilted out this is called positive camber. If the top of the wheel is tilted in this is called negative camber. Uneven camber angles tend to cause the vehicle to steer towards the side with more camber (this is just the opposite to the tendency caused by uneven caster).
Note: In some vehicles the caster and camber can only be checked and not adjusted, vehicle manufacturers have pre-set these angles with no provision for adjustment. In many cases there are aftermarket kits available to be fitted to the vehicle in order to allow for adjustment.
There are two types of wheel alignments that our stores can perform. A thrust wheel alignment and a four wheel adjustment.
Basically the thrust wheel alignment aligns the front wheels to line up with the back wheels to ensure that all wheels are centered.
The four wheel adjustment wheel alignment, individually adjusts all four wheels to within manufacturers specifications.
So to summarize a properly adjusted wheel alignment will get your steering wheel straight, vehicle to drive in a straight line and minimize tyre wear.
Every time a new tyre gets fitted to a wheel it must be rebalanced. If your vehicle has a shake through the steering wheel, the wheels might need to be rebalanced.
This is simply done by taking the wheel off the vehicle and placing it on a wheel balancing machine. The wheel is then spun by the machine for approximately 10seconds to see if the wheel is on balanced when it is rotating, like it would on a vehicle. This then gives a read out of how many and where the weights need to be placed to ensure that the wheel rotates evenly.