It is true that there are several variables that can be adjusted to fix misaligned wheels. They include camber, toe, thrust angle, caster, riding height, setback, steering center, etc. Any one of them could cause your wheel alignment to be out of whack. Each of these factors is sufficiently complex that it can be really hard to actually fix the wheel alignment if only one or two of them are slightly off.
Obviously, someone who is not an expert with automobiles will find it hard to determine what the problem is. The good thing about new cars these days, at least those produced in the last 15 to 20 years, is that they are built in such a manner that unless they get distorted in an accident, the alignment will not go out of whack. So the question remains, how do you determine if you need an alignment, and should you fix it if your alignment is off?
Disclaimer: I am not an auto mechanic. So this is just my opinion on what I think is right. I would follow this advice only because I trust myself.
Wheel alignment problems can manifest themselves in two ways.
- Uneven tread wear
- Vehicle veering to one side
In both cases your alignment may be off. If the alignment is only slightly off, I would not go fix it, because it could make things worse. I would only get it fixed if it veers seriously all the time. After that it can only get better.
Uneven wear should be countered with simple tire rotation every 5000 miles and proper inflation.