An In-Depth Look at the Wheel Alignment Process

When you think of collision repairs, you probably envision a crumpled bumper or major dents. But many types of collision damage are hidden. Even a minor fender bender, or hitting a pothole or curb can cause major mechanical problems. This is why you should always take your car to an auto body shop after a collision. Ask for an alignment inspection, since misalignments are one of the most common types of collision damage.

Mechanic tuning aligner for wheel alignment

Alignment Specifications

A wheel alignment doesn’t actually adjust the wheels or tires. Rather, it’s an adjustment of the suspension system. A wheel alignment affects the angle at which the tires come into contact with the road. Every make and model of vehicle has its own alignment specifications. These are influenced by factors like the size, weight, and length of the vehicle, and what its specific use will be. Modern auto body shops use sophisticated, computerized equipment that already has the precise alignment specs for each model.


The body shop technician evaluates three main areas during a wheel alignment: The caster, camber, and toe. The caster is the angle of the steering axis. If you’re looking at the car from the side, a positive caster means that the steering axis is tilted slightly toward the driver. A negative caster refers to a steering axis tilted toward the front end.


Picture yourself standing in front of your car, looking at the tires. From this angle, you might see if the tires are tilted slightly inward (toward the center of the car) or outward. The inward or outward angle is the camber. An overly inward tilt is a negative camber, and vice versa.


Stand up and look down at your feet. You can turn them inward or outward without tilting them to the side. Now, picture your car tires doing the same thing. This angle is referred to as the toe. If the angle is either “toe in” or “toe out,” it needs an adjustment.

After any type of accident, you can have your vehicle inspected for hidden damage at Michael J’s Body Shop. We’ve been providing reliable alignment and suspension repair services at our auto body shop in San Jose for more than 20 years. Call (408) 279-2070, and be sure to ask us about our lifetime warranty on collision repairs!

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