The meaning of wheel alignment can often be confused, as the term is misleading. Rather than referring to your car’s wheels, wheel alignment (also known as tracking) is related to the suspension. Disruptions to your car’s suspension can cause some components to be knocked off-kilter, causing the wheels to sit at improper angles. Wheel alignment ensures that the wheels are set straight again, avoiding further problems to your vehicle.
There are three main causes of wheel misalignment, these are:
If you experience any of the following problems, you should get your car checked out, as your wheel alignment may need adjusted:
The first symptom here is the most obvious, and can be checked easily by running your hand carefully over your car’s tyres.
For another easy check to see if your wheels need realigned, drive on a straight stretch and briefly let go of the steering wheel to see if the car veers to the left or right. A correctly aligned car will stay straight.
Uneven wear can seriously impair a tyre’s performance, and can even put lives at risk as an unevenly worn tyre is at risk of a blowout.
Misaligned wheels also have poorer fuel economy, as misaligned wheels have greater resistance with the road, leading to higher gas mileage. Steertrak found that by adopting preventative wheel alignment, there was an improvement of up to 20% in average tyre life.
We spoke to TyreSafe, one of the UK's leading tyre safety organisations, who commented: ‘Correct wheel alignment is essential not only for your safety and comfort on the road, but also to extend the life of your tyres. Cars suffering from misalignment will experience rapid or irregular tyre wear, meaning they need to be replaced much sooner.
In order to perform an alignment, you must take your car to an experienced mechanic, who will use a wheel alignment machine to check the alignment and adjust the components accordingly, so that the car is brought back to its proper configuration.
The three main angles where adjustments will be made are the camber, caster and toe. These sound rather complicated to us, but here is a quick summary of what each relates to:
Camber – This is the ‘tilt’ relative to the road at which the tyre sits. Positive camber is when the top of the wheel leans away from the car, and negative camber is when the top of the wheel leans in towards the car.
Caster – Caster is harder to conceptualise, but involves the angle created by the steering’s pivot point from the front to back of the vehicle. Caster is positive if the line is angled forward, and negative if backward.
Toe – Toe settings affect the handling capabilities of the vehicle related to the direction of the tyres relative to the centre line of the vehicle.
Prevention is better than cure when it comes to wheel alignment, as you can save more by keeping on top of it. If your wheel alignment is checked regularly, you will see the following benefits:
It is recommended that your wheel alignment be checked every 12 months.
A wheel alignment with Arnold Clark costs from £30 and can be booked through any of our service centres.