Signs that a car needs alignment include veering to the side, a vibrating steering wheel and a steering wheel that's off-center when the vehicle is moving straight ahead. A driver should also inspect the car's tires to see if they are worn on the outside.
During an alignment, the car is raised into the air and attached to a computer to ensure the alignment angles are accurate. The mechanic adjusts the thrust, caster, toe and camber angles according to the manufacturer's specifications to improve the position and movement of the tires. Different types of alignment include four-wheel alignment, thrust-angle alignment and front-end alignment. The mechanic also checks the steering wheel and ensures that it's balanced during the alignment.
Advantages of aligning a vehicle include making sure the tires wear down evenly, and reducing how much the tires wear down. Having a vehicle aligned is often more cost efficient than buying a new set of tires.
A vehicle that is out of alignment is one with an unaligned suspension, not one with poorly aligned tires. Poor alignment results from everyday driving that puts stress on the springs and suspension. Wheels can also come out of alignment if they strike an object or during an accident.