Giving your car a wheel alignment every six months or so is part of a good automotive service program. Your tyres will last longer, your car will drive more smoothly and you’ll save on those petrol bills.
Time for a Wheel Alignment?
You’ll know it’s time for a wheel alignment if:
- You notice uneven tyre wear. Characteristically, misalignment-induced wear occurs on one side, or edge, of the tyre.
- Your car pulls to one side when travelling in a straight line.
- Your fuel consumption is higher than it used to be.
- Your car seems to fight against the steering.
- Your steering wheel is off-centre when the car is travelling in a straight line.
Wheel Alignment Terms
When you take your car for a wheel alignment you may hear the technician use the following terms:
Toe – refers to the position in which the wheel, when viewed from above, sits in relation to the centre of the car. If a wheel is “toed in” it is angled towards the centre of the car (think pigeon toed). If it is “toed out” it is angled away from the centre of the car. Toe problems cause wear and “pull”.
Camber – describes how perpendicular the wheel is. If the top of the wheel leans towards the car it is said to have positive camber. If it leans out, it has negative camber. Camber problems cause wear and pull.
Castor – measures the position of the left and right wheels in relation to each other. Sometimes one of a pair of wheels is set further forward or back than the other. Castor problems don’t cause uneven wear, but they do contribute to pull.
What a Wheel Alignment Does
A comprehensive wheel alignment will involve:
- A check of the front end and steering linkage for wear or excess play.
- A tyre pressure check (uneven tyre pressure can cause pull and uneven wear)
- An adjustment of the front and back pairs of wheels so that they are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground.
Sometimes, in the interests of economy, an alignment is performed on only the front pair of wheels. Your car, however, runs on four wheels and so it makes sense, wherever possible, to get a full, four-wheel alignment.
A Note of Warning
If your tyres are badly worn on one edge and you get your wheels aligned, the tyre will then only make contact with the road on the unworn section. This partial contact is unsafe and the tyres should be replaced – speak to your mechanic.
Wheel alignment can be thrown out by hitting the curb or a pothole, or simply by the stresses of driving. If you notice tyre wear, or that your car pulls to one side, visit a wheel alignment centre as soon as you can. You’ll save money in the long run on tyres and petrol, and driving will be a more pleasant experience.
Learn more about wheel alignment with this video.