Alignment 101: Thrust Alignment and All the Other Types

No matter what kind of car you drive, it is bound to have alignment issues. 

Proper alignment is integral for any vehicle as it directly impacts the overall performance of the vehicle and the safety of the occupants.

There are different kinds of alignments and thrust alignment is the most common one. 

The following text will discuss the basics of wheel alignment and compare them to help you select the best options for your car.

The 3 Types of Wheel Alignments

When it comes to wheel alignment, there are multiple options depending on the type of terrain and car. 

Here are the 3 main options that you’ll generally come across.

1. Front-end

The traditional method of aligning the wheel of any car. 

The front end only adjusts the front wheels of the car is only suitable for older vehicles with solid suspension. 

While simple, this type of alignment only covers the bare minimum and is not recommended for modern vehicles.

Today, it would be very hard for you to find tire fitters who know how to perform a front-end alignment. 

Many tire fitters would either refuse to do it or do a shoddy job. 

Generally, Thrust or Four-Wheel alignment has now become the industry standard for all kinds of vehicles.

2. Thrust

Thrust alignment is a step up from the front-end setting but follows the same fundamentals. The major difference is the focus which is now on all four tires rather than only the front ones.

The thrust alignment or more commonly known as thrust angle alignment squares off all four tires of the vehicle and ensures that they remain in the same direction. 

This is an ideal setting for vehicles with a solid rear suspension as it delivers better fuel average, longevity, and performance than its front-end counterpart.

3. Four Wheel

This is perhaps the most comprehensive type of wheel alignment and is generally necessary for all 4-wheel drives. 

However, other cars with adjustable rear suspension would see a significant improvement in performance characteristics after a four-wheel assignment.

While excellent, you won’t find this type of alignment being performed everywhere. 

It’s comprehensive and requires an extensive set of tools and expertise. 

However, the overall handling and performance of your car will be worth all the effort and money.

Which Type of Wheel Alignment is the Best Choice?

As with many automobile parts, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You have to find the perfect balance between the effort, costs, and the overall requirement of your vehicle.

For instance, A thrust angle alignment would be perfect for your car if you are driving a hatchback or a sedan with a solid rear suspension and your regular terrain is free from potholes and gutters.

However, the same kind of suspension would not be a good fit for a modern SUV or an all-wheel-drive car with an independent suspension system on all wheels.

The right choice depends on the type of car, the type of terrain, and your driving habits. 

However, the recommended course of action would certainly either be thrust angle alignment or four-wheel alignment. 

It’s unlikely that anyone would ever recommend a front-end alignment at this age.

The Advantages of Thrust Wheel Alignment

We all are aware of the fact that wheels need to be aligned for the best performance of your vehicle and the overall safety of the occupants. 

Thrust wheel alignment comes with some additional benefits that make it one of the most common alignment types in the market.

  • Effective for both older and modern vehicles
  • Doesn’t require comprehensive tools or special skills. So, its readily available
  • Relatively lower cost than four-wheel alignment
  • All the usual benefits of alignment like a straight steering wheel, even tire wear, etc.

How to Check and Fix a Bad Thrust Angle

It is not expected or necessary for drivers to know the details about the process required for different alignment types. 

In most cases, drivers only know that wheel alignment is something important and must be regularly checked.

However, it’s always recommended to be aware of the major signs of alignment issues. 

Whenever you feel that you’re facing them, simply visit your nearest mechanic to get your alignment checked.

Here are the main things you must keep an eye on:

  • Crooked steering wheel.
  • Vehicle pulling on one side while driving straight.
  • Uneven tire wear and faster deterioration.
  • Squealing sound from the car when it accelerates or decelerates.

The Basics of Toe-In and Toe-Out

Draw an imaginary line through your car from the middle. 

Now, both the front and rear wheels would make a certain angle with that line and that angle determines your overall driving performance and road grip.

The term toe-in is used to describe a situation where the angle of both the front tires is towards the centerline.  

In basic terms, tires facing each other mean a toe-in while tires facing the opposite direction mean a toe-out.

The main thing affected by toe-in and toe-out is understeer and oversteer. The right specification depends on your suspension and whether your car is a front-wheel or all-wheel drive.

One important thing to note is that independent tire axles require different settings for each tire. 

Each tire will need to be adjusted individually according to the terrain and the type of vehicle.  

Other Important Notes on Wheel Alignment

When it comes to the alignment of your vehicles, there are a few important things everyone must know about:

  • Changes in your car’s suspension would require wheel alignment. Similarly, installing some aftermarket components will also need wheels to be aligned.
  • During alignment, it’s imperative to ensure that the suspension is under normal load during alignment.
  • Modern alignment machines generally deliver a printout of the before and after alignment angles. It’s important to ask for a copy of the printout so that you can be sure that your requirements are fulfilled.   

Key Takeaways

Wheel alignment is essential for any type of vehicle because it has a direct impact on your comfort, fuel efficiency, and overall safety. 

There are different types of alignments, but thrust alignment is the most common method because of its versatility and simplicity.

While it’s very hard to get your wheels aligned by yourself, knowing the basics can help car owners know that their requirements are being met properly. 


Dean Alvarez, TireForge Head Author

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