In our comprehensive guide we look at what an alignment is, when you need to get one, and the different types of wheel alignments that are available.
What Is A Wheel Alignment?
The meaning of wheel alignment can often get confused, as the term is misleading. But the actual meaning is adjusting all the angles of wheels to the car manufacturer specifications. The purpose of these adjustments is to reduce tire wear and to ensure that vehicle travel is straight and true without “pulling” to one side. This maximizes the life of your tires and ensures straight driving on the road.
When Should You Get An Alignment?
You should get your vehicle checked for an alignment when suspension parts are replaced if there are obvious signs of misalignment (such as the steering wheel being cocked to one side when the vehicle is going straight or if the vehicle consistently pulls to one side) or in cases of uneven, rapid or severe tire wear.
Additionally, an alignment is advisable when tires are replaced, especially if the old tires wore prematurely or unevenly.
What Causes Misalignments on Wheels?
There are three main causes of wheel misalignment. The sudden jarring or heavy impact caused by hitting something, such as a pothole, bumping a curb, or a road accident & worn parts caused by wear and tear. Over time, parts such as suspension springs can become worn and slack, leading to a shift in the wheel alignment. In this case, prevention is more effective than cure; so regular service checks are necessary.
Height modification is another one. That’s when the suspension has not been changed to suit. Car suspension is designed to work at a certain height, and if you adjust the height of your vehicle without also adjusting the suspension, your car will probably suffer from wheel misalignment.
If you notice any of these alignment symptoms you need to get your car checked out, as your wheel alignment may need to be adjusted:
- Tires wearing abnormally/unevenly
- Car drifts to one side when driving
- Steering wheels does not return easily after a turn
- Steering wheel is crooked or vibrates
- There is a squealing noise coming from your tires
What Is The Difference Between Front Wheel & Full Wheel Alignment?
If your front end is not aligned, you may find your car veering to the right. Aligning the front end is a matter of adjusting the caster, camber and toe. The caster is the forward or backward tilt of the steering axis when viewed from the side. The camber is the tilt of your wheels when viewed from the front or the back. The toe is how much the front of your wheels are inward or outward. When viewed from the top. This is the Front Wheel Alignment.
A Full Wheel Alignment is when your camber, caster & toe are checked on all four wheels. Your technician measures how aligned they are and then will adjust those angles to match the vehicle manufacturer specifications, ensuring a smooth ride, even tire wear and efficient fuel economy. A front end alignment and rear end alignment will be completed during a 4-wheel alignment service.
Every wheel has camber, caster and toe angles & when they are correctly aligned, your car drives straight. When the camber, caster and toe angles are misaligned, wheel alignment problems can arise. Your vehicle can pull to the left or right or your tires can wear unevenly. At a basic level, caster angle and toe angles keep your tires, steering, and overall vehicle driving straight and even.
Wheel Alignment Cost?
There are many service centers that can perform an alignment with the average wheel alignment cost being $75 for a single alignment up to $200 for an extended warranty. This is a very important preventative maintenance procedure to have completed as it will ensure the safety of your vehicle’s operation.