When your wheels aren't aligned properly, you can do a lot of damage to various systems in your truck. Truck wheel alignment is integral for this reason. One of the many things that you can wreck by having a poorly-aligned set of tires is the thrust angle.
This is actually one of the things that we check whenever we do a realignment diagnostic. Click here to get one done.
The thrust angle is a line that's perpendicular to the rear axle's centre. It compares the rear axle's direction with that of the centre line of the vehicle itself. It's one of the key traits that are checked to see if the tires are aligned properly.
To measure the angle, the team performs a four-wheel alignment. We check for thrust conditions, which manifest when the rear toe isn't equal. The angle can be generated by two conditions, however. This is the sort of detail that needs high-tech gear and professional training to diagnose properly.
The thrust angle determines the straight-ahead position of the front wheels.
If you ignore the change in angle, you can undermine the accuracy of the front suspension. This leads to crooked steering wheels and front wheels that aren't quite in the right position. A misaligned thrust also means the vehicle handles differently when turning in the direction of the problem.
Rear-wheel drive vehicles and trucks can be a fascinating exercise in this regard.
Rear leaf spring suspensions, in particular, are problematic. They don't have adjustments built into the design. This means the thrust line becomes more useful when diagnosing the problems.
If the rear live axle is greater than it should be, the angle becomes an indicator. It shows that the axle has shifted. Another possibility is that the mounting points have shifted from their optimal positions. Neither of these outcomes is ideal.
If you think you need to get a better idea of the damage done, look at the setback of the front.
What's a setback? It's a diagnostic angle that measures the distance between the centres of the front wheels. Differences in this angle can tell you if there's damage along the frame or in specific components. A closer look at this from side to side is a quick way to check for a problem.
Laser tools are also good. In fact, professional mechanics use them extensively. These provide a guaranteed straight line of sight, perfect for checking for even the slightest deviations from the norm.