This is part 4 of our car know-how series, where we help car owners understand wheel alignment. See part 1 on Engine Oil Change here, part 2 on Car Battery Replacement here and part 3 on Brake Pad Replacement here.
Wheel alignment refers to the adjustment of the angles of your car’s wheels so that they are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground.
For almost all vehicles, it is necessary to get your wheels aligned periodically.
The general rule of thumb is to get an alignment about once every year. However, you should check your owner’s manual to know what is best for your vehicle.
Your driving habits will determine how often a wheel alignment is required. If you drive in harsh conditions, roads ridden with potholes, or regularly come in contact with curbs, then you may need an alignment more often.
Whenever an alignment is checked, the steering and suspension system should be checked as well, since worn parts are a common cause of misalignment.
Here are some common signs your vehicle is in need of an alignment.
Typically, your wheels can become misaligned when the car’s suspension receives impact (such as hitting a curb or a pothole, taking a speed bump too quickly) or due to general wear and tear (pressure on shocks, springs, and tyres can cause them to slowly slip out of alignment over time).
Proper wheel alignment is important to keep your car driving safely.
Poorly aligned wheels can cause your tyres to wear out faster and need replacing more often. By not prematurely wearing out your tyres and shortening their lifespans, the money you save will often exceed the cost of the alignment itself.
Misalignment can also decrease fuel mileage. Therefore, a wheel alignment can help you conserve fuel and fill up less often, saving money on petrol.
Wheel alignment typically takes about 30-60 minutes.
It is common for a workshop to only have one alignment system, and therefore scheduling an appointment in advance is highly recommended to avoid waiting in line and prolonging your service visit.
The purpose of wheel alignment is to make sure camber, toe and caster are set correctly:
Camber: Refers to the angle of the tyre when viewed from the front of the car. A positive camber refers to when the top of the wheels are leaning out, while a negative camber refers to when the bottom of the wheels are leaning out.
Toe: Refers to whether your tyres are turned inward or outward when viewed from the top of the car. A toe in alignment refers to both front tyres pointing towards the centre of the car while a toe out alignment refers to the tyres pointing outward from the centre of the car.
Caster: Refers to the angle of the steering axis (the line along which the tyres turn when you move the steering wheel) when viewed from the side of the car. A positive caster refers to the top of the steering axis leaning towards the centre of the car, while a negative caster refers to the bottom of the steering axis leaning towards the centre.
An out-of-adjustment camber, toe or caster could cause uneven tyre wear, significantly reducing your tyre lifespan.
Book your wheel alignment with Steer to get exclusive discounts off your first servicing.