Have you ever been driving and felt your vehicle pulling to one side? Or when you check your vehicle, have you noticed that there is a greater degree of wear on one side of your tyre than the other? If you’ve ever experienced this or your tyres are in this state, then you most likely have misaligned wheels. The process of aligning wheels is actually quite simple; your vehicle is placed on a wheel-alignment ramp, which uses laser-controlled measuring devices that give the technician instructions on what should be corrected to bring the suspension system back into the correct alignment position.
A vehicle’s suspension system is composed of a wide range of components that all work together to give your vehicle the ability to absorb the impact of bumpy roads and allows you to brake, turn and accelerate safely and without difficulty. The system is mostly made up of springs and dampers. Many modern vehicles contain a coil above every wheel which allow the car to take in any vertical movement the vehicle may experience and dampers then absorb the shock by stopping the motion, keeping the car stable in the process.
Wheel alignment procedures are dependent on the kind of car you are driving but can be either a two-wheel or a four-wheel alignment. There are three common alignment angles which are the camber, caster and toe; these angles are often adjusted in these procedures.
The camber is an angle found slanting on the upper part of the tyre. It depends on which direction the slant is facing to determine if it is negative, positive or neutral camber. A camber slanted outwards means a positive camber while cambers facing inwards are negative and tyres without a slant in either direction have neutral camber.
Most vehicles have either a neutral or slightly negative camber to prevent tyres from wearing out unevenly. However, having too much negative camber can wear out the inner part of the tyre faster, whilst a too positive camber can cause the outsides of the tyre to wear out quickly.
While caster tyres are not visible from the outside, the wheel alignment machine can detect the misalignment. This misalignment does not affect how quickly your tyres wear out, but it also keeps the wheels from keeping in the centre after each turn.
The toe is the alignment angle most involved in keeping your vehicle to go straight ahead and is the most common angle that requires alignment treatment. There are three directions in which the toe can be faced: toe-in, toe-out and zero toe. Most vehicles toe angle is set to nearly zero to allow the car to go straight ahead without obstruction. This angle is commonly found on both the front and rear parts of the vehicle. Too in or out toe angles can cause your vehicle to be unstable when driving at elevated speeds which can cause tyres to get worn out at a much-increased rate.
Now that you know the basics of tyre realignment, it helps to be aware of a few tell-tale signs that you should keep an eye out for, that will suggest your tyres need realigning:
- Your tyres make squeaking noises.
- Your vehicle pulls unevenly to one side.
- The steering wheel is not centred.
- Uneven tyre wear will be evident.
It is advisable that you have your vehicle’s wheel alignment checked every six months or 8,000-10,000 miles. You should also have it checked for realignment if you have hit a deep pothole or steep curb, as this can cause damage to your vehicle’s suspension system and affect the wheel alignment. To have your alignment checked you may visit your local car repair shop or book your car with us at Sinspeed.