All You Need to Know about Wheel Alignment0
When we talk about wheel alignment it is misleading because it is really the vehicle that is misaligned, not the wheels, and suspension parts that have worn down. You might have noticed a car in front that seems to be running at the wrong angle to the road, this is bad wheel alignment. And if the alignment is so bad that it can be seen with the naked eye then the car should be taken off the road as unsafe to drive.
Misaligned suspension is a safety issue as well as a financial one because it affects how your tyres move in contact with the road. When it comes down to it the 15cm x 15cm patch of each tyre that is touching the road represents all the control and stopping power that you have, so you want to know that your car wheels are in the best shape.
What is Wheel Alignment?
You might imagine that all the wheels would be pointing straight forward in the direction that the car is moving. Not so. Zero deviation from direction of travel when the car’s moving is the objective, but there are many forces affecting the alignment of all four wheels as your car moves along. These forces are known and the manufacturer allows for them by aligning the suspension components so that the wheels are angled differently when the car is stationary. This all sounds very complicated, and it is a little. However, Car Tyre Services and garages will know exactly what they’re doing, so don’t worry!
The Consequences of Misaligned Suspension
The most obvious consequence of incorrect suspension alignment is tyre wear. If any of your tyres are wearing more on one shoulder than the other then you need to have your alignment checked. This wear pattern is usually most obvious on the front tyres and will affect both of them. Even cheap tyres will last most people for two years if they are aligned correctly and expensive tyres will last three times longer. Misalignment can reduce your tyres’ life from 50,000 km or more down to 5,000 km, meaning that you need to replace them after a few months, instead of after three years.
In terms of tyre life tyre size matters because in a small tyre every part of the tyre gets more wear over every kilometre you travel. Tyre pressure is important too, and most of us check it regularly, but suspension alignment is the single most important factor in determining how long your tyres will last, yet most drivers wait until they can see a problem before having it checked!
Checking Your Wheel Alignment
It takes time for a mechanic to check your wheel alignment, so you can expect to pay. Some garages will check the toe-in or toe-out alignment of the front wheels without charge, but this is not enough to solve all problems. There are many adjustments that need to be made when all four road wheels are checked for alignment and the process can take an hour, so the wheel alignment cost will reflect this. It’s strongly advised that you use a professional for this job, it’s really not something that most general people are qualified to do.
How Often Should You Pay Someone to Check Your Suspension Alignment?
More often than you think! It should be done at least once every six months and every time you hit a large pothole at speed. Whenever you get a tyre replaced or repaired you should ask for a full 4-wheel tracking check.
How Do You Know When Your Tyre Alignment is Out?
Many drivers do not know if the alignment is only slightly out because the car’s handling only changes very gradually, so the changes go unnoticed. But if your car wanders to one side when you are on a straight road that is a sure sign that you need to book it in for a full alignment check. If your front tyres are wearing unevenly it is a matter of urgency and you have already shortened the life of your car tyres by a year or more.
What Causes Your Wheel Alignment to Change?
Remember wheel alignment is really suspension alignment, so any wear and tear in the rubber and steel components of your car’s suspension system can mean a change in the alignment of your vehicle. Replacing shock absorbers or other suspension components will put your alignment out and you should have it checked after any such work. Hitting potholes will also knock your alignment out, especially if you hit them at 50 km/hour or more, as can hitting a kerb while you are parking. Finally, if you are in any car accident, even a low-speed car park bump, then you should get your wheels aligned afterwards because your car alignment will probably have been affected.
Wheel Alignment in Conclusion
Wheel alignment checks are one of the most neglected areas of car maintenance for most of us, but you will notice improvements in the way your car drives after a mechanic makes any necessary adjustments. Your tyres will last longer, too, and the savings in tyre replacements will pay for any alignment checks, so it’s a win-win situation!
Main Subject: Wheel Alignment