Wheel alignment, or tracking, is a standard auto maintenance service where the angles of the wheels are adjusted or readjusted to meet the vehicle maker’s specifications. The service should be performed when you install new tires or every other tire rotation. These adjustments help reduce uneven tire wear, and they ensure that your vehicle travels in a straight line without pulling in one direction or the other. You can also opt to change the angles of the tires beyond the specifications of the auto maker in order to achieve a custom handling characteristic. For example, in off-road or motorsport applications, special angles can increase performance.
How is wheel alignment performed?
Proper tire alignment is achieved using an alignment machine, which works by attaching clamplike devices to each of the wheels of the car. These devices are linked to a computer which provides accurate measurements regarding the angle of the wheels. Your mechanic will also check the suspension components of your car at this point to make sure that they are not broken or excessively worn.
The purpose of the tire alignment service is to ensure that the axles and the wheels of the car are aligned with each other and that they all move in the same direction. The mechanic will adjust four angles – the toe, caster, camber and thrust. During the alignment process, the mechanic will also ensure that your steering system is centered.
There are three different alignment system types, and the one you will receive depends on your vehicle’s suspension. The four-wheel alignment is used for all-wheel drive cars, or for front-wheel drive cars that have adjustable or independent rear suspensions. Front-end alignment, as the name suggests, is used to align the front wheels and the rest of the components of the front axle, and thrust-angle alignment will be used to align the rear wheels of the car. When performing a thrust-angle alignment, the goal is to realign the rear axle so that it is perpendicular to the center line of the car, and parallel to the front axle.
The benefits of getting a wheel alignment
A proper alignment has several benefits. To start, it will increase the fuel efficiency of your car. When the wheels are misaligned, they are not working together, creating extra friction for the same amount of speed. This means that the engine has to work harder to drive the vehicle forward, and consume more fuel in the process.
You will also reduce the risk of expensive repairs further down the line. Driving while the wheels are misaligned puts a lot of pressure on various components in your car, causing premature tire wear. Whenever you hit a bump in the road surface or a pothole with misaligned wheels, the impact is much stronger on your steering and suspension system, which can result in expenses hire than the wheel alignment cost.
One of the signs that your vehicle’s tire alignment is incorrect is a slight drift to the left or to the right while driving with your steering wheel aimed straight. Having to constantly adjust the steering to compensate for poorly aligned wheels is not only tiring and distracting, it can also be dangerous. However, if you align your wheels at a mechanic this will go away.
Properly aligned wheels will also lead to a safer driving experience. With all the extra stress placed on various essential components of the car, you run the risk of having an unexpected breakdown, which can leave you stranded on the side of the road, or even worse, lead to an accident.
Finally, proper tire alignment will increase the lifespan of your tires. Tires can be quite expensive, and they will wear out faster when the vehicle’s wheels are misaligned. To avoid having to pay extra on new tires, the wheel alignment service is essential.
How often should wheel alignment be done?
Most cars do not have a specific time requirement when it comes to tire balancing. However it is generally recommended to go through a wheel alignment service once every two to three years, or whenever you notice any signs that the wheels are misaligned. You might also be recommended to realign your wheels once new tires are installed. Cars that have wider tires (usually sportier cars) will need alignment more often. In this category you have cars from Audi and BMW, and models such as Mazda 3, Nissan 370Z and others.
The wheels start to go slightly off after a year or two of driving, but it’s usually not enough to warrant realignment. Hitting large bumps on the road surface or potholes increase the likelihood that the wheels become misaligned. Generally speaking, if your car doesn’t pull to any side, the steering wheel is centered, and you do not notice any extra uneven wear pattern on your tire tread, your wheels are likely aligned.
Some alignment issues can be fixed at home
Most alignment system issues must be solved at the mechanic, but there are some minor problems that can be solved at home. For example, if you have a heavy load in the trunk of your car, the angles of the suspension parts will be affected. When you have too much weight in the trunk or on the backseat of the car, the vehicle height will be lowered and the wheels will be artificially misaligned. To address this issue, make sure that you do not carry any extra weight. You also want to maintain correct air pressure in your tires at all times, and drive conservatively. Many issues can be prevented with careful driving, especially when you hit a bump or a pothole.
Does your car need wheel alignment?
Proper wheel alignment is essential to the functioning of your car. Without it, not only do you risk damaging or excessively wearing out your car’s components, you also risk your own safety. If your wheels are currently out of alignment, it is best to visit a mechanic as soon as possible. At Oil Line Auto, we offer wheel alignment services at competitive prices. If you are interested in booking an appointment for a wheel alignment check or finding out more information, do not hesitate to contact us today.