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Technology How long should I wait before going for an expensive four-wheel alignment?

Every time I change seasonal tires (on rims), I am upsold to do an expensive alignment. Do I really need this every six months when I am not suffering a “pull” or wandering? – Kenn H

Once every six months only benefits the shop providing the alignment. In general, I suggest every two to three years as a reasonable interval for having a routine preventive maintenance four-wheel alignment completed.

There are additional times that you will be required to have one completed, such as after having key suspension components replaced. Just purchased a new set of tires? An alignment is great way to protect your investment. Also head in if your vehicle suffers a noticeable steering wheel angle change or pulls to one side after coming in contact with a large pothole or curb. Regularly examining your tires for odd and uneven wear is also a great habit to get in to. Get an alignment completed whenever you notice incorrect/odd tire wear. A toonie works great as an impromptu tire tread measurement tool. Stick it in at multiple points, looking for even wear across the tread surface. The edge of the toonie to brass centre is approximately six millimetres, from the edge to halfway through the letters is approximately four mm. If your tire tread at any point doesn’t reach the letters, there is approximately two mm remaining or below, which indecently is their legal discard limit. Any difference of one or two mm from inside to outside means you need to involve a professional to give you some answers.

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I have an ’07 Elantra. I just replaced the front brake rotors, pads and calipers. My driver side front brake makes noise, only when I’m driving slow, on or off the brakes. What could that be. – Kellcey B

One of the most common problems that occurs after performing a brake replacement is a rubbing noise generated by the brake rotor touching the vehicle’s backing plate. Also known as a dust shield, the backing plate is a light gauge metal shield sitting in behind the brake rotors. Besides corrosion-based nuisance noises, the light gauge metal used makes them susceptible to accidental bending and distorting when replacing brakes. Lift and secure the car on jack stands and rotate the tire by hand. Listen closely and you will likely hear your scrapping/grinding noise as you rotate the tire. When this occurs for me, I will ensure there is no chance for any accidental wheel rotation and I will cautiously use a long flat-head screwdriver, gently pushing on the backing plate to move it away from the rotor. If I don’t have any luck with this technique, I will then somewhat reluctantly, remove all the brake parts I just installed. This gives me an opportunity to re-inspect the installation of all pads and anti-rattle clips, looking for something out of place. After the brake rotor is off, I examine the backing plate, searching for any place that the new rotor may be rubbing. Typically, removing any built-up rust or bending the backing plate back into place will fix the noise.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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