Front End Alignment vs Wheel Alignment

Published on

December 28, 2023

technician performing wheel alignment | front end alignment vs wheel alignment

Is your car veering when you drive it? Are some of your tires wearing faster than others? Do you feel your steering wheel occasionally vibrating?

If you've answered "yes" to any of these questions, your vehicle could need a wheel alignment. Wheel alignments adjust and balance the suspension components near each of your vehicle's wheels to ensure they match the manufacturer's standards.

Alignment issues differ from many other automotive issues since there isn’t a warning light that pops up on the dash when service is needed. That said, it's important to understand what a front-end and wheel alignment service consists of and when to know whether you need it. 

Understanding Front-End Alignment and Wheel Alignment

While these two terms are often used interchangeably, front-end alignment and wheel alignment are not the same.

So what is a front-end alignment? And what's the difference between a front-end alignment and a wheel alignment? 

Here's an easy way to remember it: a wheel alignment consists of checking all four of the vehicle's wheels. Hence, it's often simply called a "four-wheel alignment." While a front-end alignment, or two-wheel alignment, only checks the front two wheels. 

Essentially, both types of wheel alignments are the same. However, when your technician diagnoses your car’s particular issue, they may only recommend a front-end alignment or you may need all four wheels to be realigned. 

Common Symptoms of Misalignment

If your vehicle's wheels aren't aligned properly, you're likely to notice it. And if you don't have your vehicle serviced and your wheels aligned, it could result in some serious safety issues. Some common symptoms of misalignment include:

  • Uneven tread wear on your tires, even when you stick to the recommended tire rotation frequency.
  • You notice your vehicle pulling toward the right or the left, particularly on a flat, straight section of the road. Vehicle pulling tends to be the most noticeable when you're traveling over 50 miles per hour.
  • You experience a vibrating steering wheel.
  • Your steering wheel is off-center when driving down a straight, flat road.

The best way to avoid wheel misalignment is to check your vehicle regularly when you bring it in for routine maintenance, like oil changes. At GreatWater, all of our oil change services come with a thorough multi-point inspection, including the tires and wheels, so we can help drivers catch small problems before they become big ones and ensure their vehicles run better for longer.

Ensuring your vehicle's wheels are properly aligned comes with a variety of different safety and performance benefits. For instance:

  • Your tire tread will wear evenly, and your tires will last longer.
  • Your vehicle will drive more smoothly.
  • You won't have to regularly correct the steering wheel from pulling in one direction.
  • You'll get better fuel economy.
  • Your vehicle will just handle better.

When to Get a Front-End Alignment

Generally, most automakers suggest taking your vehicle in for a front-end alignment once it hits about 50,000 miles; however, your driving habits and the area where you're driving can make alignment service necessary on a more regular basis. For example, if you're regularly driving on dirt roads or poorly maintained roads with potholes, your vehicle is going to endure more wear and tear compared to a smoothly paved road.

The best way to know when to get a front-end alignment is to be aware of the common signs and symptoms - and then to have the vehicle serviced by a pro like us. After an inspection, the technician may find that only the front two wheels need to be aligned. If this occurs, then a front-end alignment would be the suggested service.

When to Get a Wheel Alignment

Wheel alignments involve servicing all four of the vehicle's wheels. Again, the best way to know whether your wheels need an alignment is to be aware of the common signs and symptoms and have your vehicle regularly inspected to get out in front of issues. That's part of the value a good automotive service center, like GreatWater, can offer customers.

The alignment process is relatively simple, fast, and affordable. At GreatWater 360 Auto Care, our alignment machines quickly ensure the make and model specifications are met aligning the wheels. The process tends to take about an hour.

Camber, Caster, and Toe

The camber, caster, and toe are three crucial components to ensure your vehicle is aligned and driving smoothly. Here's a brief overview of each and the role they play in proper wheel alignment:

  • Camber: Think of this as the inward or outward tilt of the tire. Each vehicle usually comes with a specific camber alignment; however, when this alignment is off it will affect the entire vehicle’s performance.
  • Caster: Think of this as the difference between the ball joints. Every automaker sets a correct caster angle when producing its vehicles, but when the caster is thrown out of whack, it will also impact the overall alignment.
  • Toe: An improper toe means that the wheels of your vehicle are angled improperly, typically at an inward or outward angle.

Contact GreatWater 360 Auto Care Today

To make sure your vehicle runs better, stays safer, and lasts longer, it needs regular maintenance over time. And that's where your local GreatWater shop can help; because on top of expert service, our number one priority is you. That's why we offer our GreatWater Guarantee, a comprehensive 3-year/36,000-mile Nationwide Warranty. This means you can travel worry-free after our repairs because we've got you covered. For more information on the difference between front-end alignment and wheel alignment and to schedule your next service appointment, contact us today.