As the Founding Fathers used to say, all men are created equal, but all alignments are not.
A lot of basic alignment services – like the ones offered at tire shops, for example – only adjust the front toe, which is the angle of the two front wheels in comparison to each other. For example, if your BMW’s wheels are “toe-in,” the front edges of the wheels are closer to each other than the rear edges.
So the tire shop technician aligns your front tires, charges you $65, and sends you on your way thinking that your BMW is in tip-top shape.
But what you may not realize is that there’s a lot more to your BMW’s alignment than that. Things like the weight, balance, and ride height of the car need to be calibrated, as do important elements like the camber and caster.
If your BMW or MINI Cooper needs a proper alignment and you’re not sure who to trust, read on. We can help you ask the right questions and make sure that your car is treated the right way.
What You Need to Know About BMW Alignment
We understand that some of our readers aren’t as
obsessed enthusiastic about BMWs as we are, so we’ll start by defining a couple of terms.
We’ve already mentioned the toe, or the angle of your car’s two front wheels in relation to each other. Next is the camber, or the angle at which the wheel connects with the road. When your alignment is correct, each wheel should be perpendicular to the ground, so the maximum amount of the tire’s surface area is on the road.
When the alignment deteriorates and the top of the wheel tilts inward, the camber is negative. If the top of the wheel tilts outward, the camber is positive. Both tilts have the same effect: less tire on the road to support your car.
As the illustration demonstrates, the section of tire still on the road will wear down much more quickly than the rest, which can lead to handling problems and more serious damage to your car.
Our last term is caster, which is the angle created by the steering’s pivot point from the front to back of the vehicle. Caster is positive if the line is angled forward, and negative if backward. Positive caster will increase tire lean when cornering, and improve stability at high speeds.
Fun fact, courtesy of Yospeed: Most road vehicles have a slightly different caster and camber, which causes them to drift slightly to the right while rolling. This is a safety feature that sends unmanned vehicles or drivers who have lost steering control toward the side of the road, instead of into oncoming traffic.
The CMW Method
Your Ultimate Driving Machine™ performs best when all of the above elements are calibrated precisely, but at Coast Motor Werk, we like to go above and beyond for our customers. That’s why make sure all of the BMWs that come through our shop are providing the driver feedback and handling characteristics that BMW intended.
We start each of our alignments by placing your car on our exclusive BMW alignment rack. Then we weigh the car down to simulate passengers and adjust the ride height on each corner. The alignment doesn’t start until after we get these aspects dialed in.
During your alignment, we’ll make sure that these elements meet BMW’s exact specifications:
- All four corners
- Steering Wheel
We also include the following tasks:
- Adjusting tire pressures
- Resetting and adjusting adaptive headlights
- Road testing
- Adjusting steering angle sensor (if necessary)
Your BMW or MINI was engineered from the ground up to drive like nothing else on the road. To keep it that way, an alignment should be performed when you get new tires, or every 30,000 miles. CMW also stands behind our alignments for a full year, and we’ll even talk to you about your driving habits and customize the alignment to suit your style.