Introductory Guide to Wheel Alignment
What is a wheel alignment service?
A wheel alignment service refers to the adjustment of your car’s suspension components. The term ‘suspension’ is the term for the system of linkages, springs, and rods that connect your car to its wheels. Actually making adjustments to the wheels themselves is not part of a wheel alignment service.
This service will ensure that your tyres make proper contact with the road by measuring, analysing, and adjusting your car's steering and suspension angles. The wheels are checked with a laser that measures and ensures that the wheels are parallel to one another and at a 90-degree angle to the ground.
Well, mostly parallel and perpendicular. A small amount of misalignment is prefered as your vehicle will be safer, handling will be more predictable, and your vehicle will handle carrying loads better.
Depending on the model and make of your vehicle, you can find different methods of adjustment. The main measurements involved are camber, caster, and toe.
When viewed from the front, the camber is the side-to-side tilt of the wheels. Uneven tyre wear results from out-of-adjusted camber, which causes one side of the tread to wear down more quickly than the other.
Most vehicles will specify a small amount, usually tenths of a degree, of negative camber, that is, wheels that angle in towards the vehicle at the top. This is so when you are driving around corners, your outer tyres work more effectively, providing more stability and grip.
The difference in the distance between the front and the back of the tyres on each side of the same axle refers to the toe measurement. Imagine looking down at your feet, with your toes pointing outwards, vs. inwards. Toe is the most important measurement to consider, especially when trying to avoid uneven tyre wear.
Many front-wheel-drive vehicles' factory wheel alignments have a small amount of toe-out, which allows fine-tuning of steering performance.
The percentage measurement known as "caster" has an impact on a car's steering wheels. Although it can affect straight-line tracking, the caster's misalignment has little impact on tyre wear.
Some vehicles don’t have much in the way of caster adjustment, but if the caster is different from side to side, it could indicate worn-out suspension components, damage, or previous accident history.
When should you book a wheel alignment service?
It is advised to have your car's wheels aligned every 10,000 kilometres or so. We also recommend a wheel alignment each time you purchase a new set of tyres.
You’ll get the most out of your tyres, improve vehicle handling and fuel efficiency, and prevent uneven wear with regular alignments paired with a tyre rotation strategy.
Signs you need a wheel alignment service
There are some symptoms to watch out for that will indicate your vehicle’s wheels require alignment work. These are as follows:
- The steering wheel is vibrating or shuddering, especially when travelling at high speeds
- Your car seems to be pulling to one side
- You’ve run into road debris or a curb, which can damage your car’s suspension
- Your tyres wear unevenly
- Even though the steering wheel is straight, your car no longer travels straight
Benefits of maintaining wheel alignment
Simply put, your car will handle better when your tyres are properly aligned. Here are some of the benefits of maintaining recommended wheel alignment services:
Improve your car’s safety
Steering is quite difficult when your wheels are misaligned, which results in a lack of control over the car, reducing your safety overall.
A wheel alignment service will give your vehicle predictable and safe handling characteristics, greatly improving your and other passengers' safety.
Enhance fuel economy
You maximise your fuel efficiency when your wheels are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the surface of the road.
When your wheels are misaligned, it causes your tyres to drag, causing unnecessary strain on your car’s engine, resulting in an increase in fuel consumption.
Enjoy a more comfortable ride
Your driving experience can be unpleasant when you feel your car is pulling to one side of the road; you may experience bumps, shaking and vibration of your steering wheel. When you need to adjust your steering frequently, it can be tiring and likely dangerous.
A wheel alignment service will solve this problem and enable you actually to enjoy your ride and improve your driving experience.
Avoid unnecessary costs related to repairs
Some components of your car can experience premature wear due to misaligned wheels, including the steering, tyres, suspension, and brakes.
If you ignore the signs that indicate your car needs a wheel alignment, it can result in expensive and unnecessary damage to your vehicle that could have been avoided.
By routinely checking your wheels for alignment, you can avoid incurring these unnecessary and undesirable costs.