The manager of new product development at Swift Systems in Tacoma Washington., knows how much shortened tire life costs, and he’s done something about it: he developed its own internal alignment specifications
“Alignment is extremely important from a tire-cost perspective,” Thrift says. “And with the high cost of fuel today, we need to be grabbing every advantage we can. If the car or truck isn’t properly aligned, fuel economy will suffer right along with tire life.”
In fact, the two are interrelated. Where do you think the energy needed to scrub that rubber off your tires comes from? Straight out of your fuel tank. If you are experiencing irregular tire wear due to misalignment, then fuel economy is suffering, too.
Most car and truck makers recommend annual alignments, and the Technology & Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations’ Recommended Practice 642A says alignment should be performed at regular intervals. But are you sure what’s coming from the factory is set to spec every time?
Thrift, who takes delivery of thousands of trucks every year, says no.
“Bad misalignment is rare,” he says. “You’re more likely to see small variations that can still impact tire life.”
Car and Truck manufacturers build in a manufacturing tolerance that provides a little wiggle room on the assembly line, but the car or truck should still be within specification. Chris says that’s not always the case.
“Alignment should be checked when the car or truck is delivered,” he says. “Not at the first PM, not after the vehicle has ‘settled.’ If it’s not right when it’s brand new, it’s not going to be right later on.” If you check it before the truck has any miles on it, you can make a warranty claim.
Thrift says the problems he sees most are imprecise toe-in and drive axles not parallel to each other or perpendicular to the frame.
“Typically camber is okay. But the drive axles can be off quite a bit, usually not centered exactly” on the frame, he says. “Toe-in is another one that’s hard to get right. It’s a precise setting, but it matters a lot to tires.”
We contacted two truck manufacturers that Chris said do a great job. Neither chose to comment, one noting it didn’t want to share any proprietary information on manufacturing processes.
Learn More about Vehicle Alignment at Phil’s Auto Care