Can you remember when was the last your car was in a workshop for a wheel alignment? Although they may seem as being vertical to the ground, manufacturers use pre-defined angles when aligning wheels on their cars. It is important to ensure these angles are within their limits, as this will have more than one upside. Besides prolonging tread life by reducing wear, a proper wheel alignment will improve both handling and ride safety. In this article, we will explain everything about wheel alignment and learn how to tell if your car needs one.
What is a wheel alignment?
Wheels on our cars appear to be perfectly perpendicular to the ground and parallel one to another. However, all of them have small tilts in various positions, which improve both handling and ride quality. There are three angles that define the position of each wheel in respect to the car and the surface. Toe is a horizontal angle between front wheels, and it can be positive or negative. A vertical angle between the wheels is called camber, and it can be either towards inside or outside. In the end, a castor is an angle between the vertical line and the suspension strut.
How can I tell if my car needs a wheel alignment?
Among all possible symptoms of a bad wheel alignment, an excessive tire wear is the most common one. Depending on what angle is incorrect, either the outer or inner tire edge will wear out quicker than the rest. It is also possible to have a steering wheel pull, which happens because of unbalanced side-to-side camber or caster settings. Another common symptom is a crooked steering wheel, which may have a tendency to get worse with time. This happens because of the wear or damage to some suspension components. Lastly, a steering wheel that feels sluggish or doesn’t return to the center position may indicate an incorrect castor angle.
Can I perform a wheel alignment myself?
Before performing the wheel alignment itself, it is important to replace all worn or damaged components. Otherwise, it will be impossible to achieve desired values for all three suspension angles and the steering will remain inaccurate. When it comes to the wheel alignment process itself, professional workshops have sophisticated equipment that ensures both speed and accuracy. With lasers and sensors that determine the angles, these computerized machines will guide the mechanic through the adjustment process. There is another method that requires only some string, measuring tape, and a bubble level. However, performing a wheel alignment using these rudimentary tools calls for an extensive experience and knowledge.
How important is this repair?
As we have explained in this article, performing wheel alignment is a complex and demanding job. If you don’t have the right tools or don’t feel up to the job, consider hiring a professional. At FixMyCar, we have certified and seasoned technicians that can come to your home and solve all wheel alignment related issues. This will ensure that all important components are checked and your car is ready to hit the road.