Wheel Alignment after a Crash
Collisions with potholes, curbs and other objects are inevitable on the roads today. While body damage can be easy to spot, damage to the suspension and safety systems of a vehicle can be more challenging to identify. Much has changed over the last decade or two when it comes to the sensors and components on modern vehicles. The first wave of changes took place with the design and materials used for the components. Look at the best selling vehicle platforms on the road today, most have full independent suspension. Independent rear suspension is one of the traits most responsible for the smooth driving and performance levels of vehicles when compared to the quality a generation ago. Also, a vehicle’s mechanical components are now made of lighter and softer alloys and composites. Aside from materials, more suspension configurations are using sophisticated geometry.
Another major step forward for the vehicles we’ve grown accustom to is the integration of sensor sand actuators that work to keep a vehicle out of a collision. ABS and stability control systems are now standard features on most vehicles in virtually all price-tiers. Newer and higher-end vehicles are now starting to be equipped with advanced driver automatic safety (ADAS) systems. ADAS systems use the foundations of ABS to actively help drivers avoid collisions and conditions that are potentially dangerous. These technologies, systems and sensors are merging together and changing how suspension and vehicles can be damaged in a collision. Such developments in technology adds a new dimension to alignments! If a vehicle has ABS and stability control, it almost certainly has a steering angle sensor somewhere on the steering column. Inspecting and calibrating the steering angle sensor, with a proper scan tool, is necessary and should be included with an alignment performed by a quality service provider.
Before simply walking into a shop and requesting an alignment, it is important to convey to the service advisory for what reason you are seeking an alignment. Think of it this way.. you wouldn’t withhold information about your symptoms or behaviors when seeking care from a medical professional. Sharing openly with our doctors enables them to provide us a more accurate diagnosis in a timely manner before any condition further develops or worsens. Similarly, your chosen auto shop needs to have all the information to efficiently help you. Depending on whether you struck a curb or are experiencing a pull at highway speeds, sharing such information will provide the mechanic critical guidance so they will know what inspections to focus on. The professionals at Hollenshade’s in Towson perform a complete visual inspection prior to conduction any alignment. On of the keys to successfully identifying damage is being able to compare systems and components side-by-side. Also, paying attention to the materials of the suspension components can help identify areas of concern. Locations where composites and metal are bonded or critical weld seams often are the primary locations of damage. Stamped steel and cast iron can bend and aluminum components can be as strong or stronger than steel or cast iron. What sets aluminium apart is the manner in which it fails. Most aluminum suspension components are extruded or forged, and often are heat treated. If a component is exposed to extreme stress, like in an impact or collision, the part can likely crack and break instead of bending.
What can Prevent an Alignment
Conditions that most commonly prevent an alignment from being performed are failed ball-joints and tie-rod ends. Excessive movement and free-play in steering and suspension components will render an alignment ineffective and, if performed, a waste of money. Similarly, Other components that can similarly impact an alignment are compliance bushings, the steering rack and pinion unit, and the bushings that secure the steering rack to the vehicle. It is best any money that would be used for an alignment be allocated towards repairing such components. One thing to remember is an alignment usually will be required after such repairs are completed. Another think to consider is modified vehicles. While it is fairly commonplace for vehicle owners to replace rims and tires or the shocks/springs with aftermarket items, doing so often changes the ride-height of the vehicle. While small changes in these categories can be corrected back to OEM specifications with an alignment performed by an experienced technician, too large of changes can require more adjustment/correction then is possible. A vehicle with an alignment condition that deviates significantly from OEM/factory specifications can exhibit poor and/or unsafe handling characteristics and reduced stopping performance.