When you take your car for a service, or are buying new tyres, do the words wheel alignment sound like nothing more than an unnecessary add on sale (‘do you want fries with that?’)? If so, you aren’t the first person to feel this way, however - this is untrue. A wheel alignment is key to ensuring that you get the best wear and performance out of your tyres.
To get a little technical for a moment, a wheel alignment is the measurement, analysis and adjustment of your vehicle’s steering and suspension angles. It makes sure that the wheels are perpendicular (at an angle of 90 degrees) to the ground and parallel to each other. Still with me?
To cut to the chase, when your tyres are correctly aligned, your car handles better. Signs that you may need a wheel alignment include feeling as though your vehicle is pulling to one side of the road, or your steering wheel starts to vibrate or shudder when driving at higher speeds. How does this happen? Usually, over time caused by everyday driving, or from small incidents like hitting a curb or a pothole (oops!). Not to point out the obvious, but unaligned wheels compromise safety and can greatly increase tyre wear, which none of us want.
So how do you know when to say ‘yes’ to that suggested wheel alignment? You should always have one done when:
- Having new tyres fitted
- If you change the suspension on your car
- Whenever you notice some of those hassles just mentioned - like a shuddering steering wheel
- At least once a year, along with a tyre rotation, to ensure tyre life is maximised
Because every vehicle make is unique, they require different methods of adjustment. Ultimately however, a wheel alignment involves three main measurements - caster, camber and toe. These measurements have standards that a technician uses as targets of adjustment. To better understand what you’ve just read, take a gander Tyre Review’s Leeson and Jared’s video clip above (if you haven’t already). Or if diagrams are your thing - we’ve made one especially for you.