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What is an alignment machine?

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Quick Answer

An alignment machine measures the angles of car wheels and adjusts them so they are properly aligned with one another and the road surface. Proper wheel alignment reduces tire wear and ensures the vehicle moves straight.

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Full Answer

During wheel alignment, also known as breaking or tracking, the angles of the wheels are typically adjusted to conform to the manufacturer's specifications. However, sports cars and vehicles used for off-road purposes have alignment angles that don't conform to the manufacturer's specifications for specific handling.

An alignment machine takes four main measurements: camber, caster, toe and thrust. All of these measurements impact the movement and position of the tires. For example, camber is the inward or outward tilt of a wheel. A wheel with an outward tilt has a positive camber, while a wheel with an inward tilt has a negative camber.

There are three main types of alignments: four-wheel alignments, front-end alignments and thrust-angle alignments. The type of alignment a vehicle needs depends on its suspensions. A four-wheel alignment, for example, is appropriate for four-wheel drive vehicles or front-wheel drive vehicles with independent or adjustable suspensions. A front-end alignment, on the other hand, is appropriate for vehicles that only need adjustment for their front axle components.

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