Understanding Wheel Alignment Or Wheel Tracking
Checking wheel alignment regularly should be part of your vehicle’s maintenance schedule but many motorists neglect this step all too often. It’s at their detriment, though, as it can really help keep long-term running costs down while ensuring the vehicle is safe to drive. However, before you can truly understand the importance of wheel alignment, you first need to know what it is.
What Is Car Wheel Alignment?
Also referred to as ‘wheel tracking’, it involves the process of measuring and adjusting the steering and suspension components according to the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. Put plainly, wheel alignment is essentially adjusting the position of the wheels in relation to one another and the road.
Remember, it’s not an adjustment of the tyres or wheels themselves but rather the angles of the tyres which affect how they make contact with the road. Considering your tyres are the only parts connecting your car to the road, it’s best to keep them in good condition.
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Toe-In And Toe Out
‘Toe’ refers to the angle of each wheel in relation to the vehicle’s invisible centre line running down the middle if looking at it from above. This is the inward or outward angle of the tyre and, depending on the tilt, can result in negative or positive camber.
Both indicate improper front wheel alignment or rear wheel alignment which will require adjusting. Worn bearings, ball joints, and other wheel-suspension parts can result in camber misalignment.
- Toe-in or Positive Toe causes tyre wear on the outside edges
- Toe-out or Negative Toe can lead to excessive tyre wear on the inside edges
Camber And Cross Camber
Camber is the amount of ‘tilt’ in the wheel which can be seen when the top part of the wheel is leaning away from the vehicle. This is known as ‘positive camber’ while ‘negative camber’ is when the wheel tilts inward at the top. You may not always notice if the camber is right but if it’s not, it can also cause excessive tyre wear and make your car pull to either side.
Cross camber refers to the difference in camber from one side of your car to the other. If the wheel alignment has the correct tolerance but at opposite ends of the scale, the cross camber will be high which may lead to your car pulling. Cross camber isn’t easy to spot and many struggle to get it just right so some manufactures now specify this value.
The caster (angle of your steering axis when viewed from the side) helps balance steering, stability and cornering. A positive caster means the steering axis will tilt towards the driver whilst negative caster refers to the steering axis tilting towards the front of the car. An incorrect angle can reduce stability so it’s important that the caster is correct to ensure better vehicle control.
Thrust angle refers to the direction of the rear wheels in relation to the vehicle’s invisible centre line. Ever notice a car driving in front of you that looks like it’s going a little sideways? That is as a result of an incorrect thrust angle that may push the car to move sideways from the rear.
Why Do I Need To Perform Regular Wheel Alignment Checks?
You may not realise but everyday driving can affect your wheel tracking which is why regular checks are absolutely essential. Even though your wheels will naturally become misaligned over time, not correcting it can lead to premature and uneven tyre wear. However, when it comes to premature misalignment, the following are known as the most common causes:
- Hitting the pavement and potholes can drastically affect your wheel tracking
- Worn or damaged suspension can speed up alignment issues
At Elite Garages our expert technicians can rectify any wheel tracking problems you may have with state-of-the-art laser wheel alignment tools and equipment. To book your FREE car alignment check at any of our branches, click here to find your nearest Elite centre.
What Are The Benefits Of Doing Regular Car Alignment?
Aside from safety, there are many reasons you should have regular wheel alignment checks. For starters, it improves fuel efficiency which reduces carbon emissions making it better for the environment.
Then there is improved handling as misaligned wheels can cause the vehicle to pull to either the left or the right. A reputable wheel alignment centre can easily help rectify the issue and get you back on the road in no time.
Regular car alignment can also help reduce tyre wear resulting in a longer lifespan and a more comfortable ride. It will improve your overall driving experience as you don’t have to fight against a steering wheel that wants to go in the opposite direction.
Wheel Tracking And Tyre Balancing At Elite Garages
Tyres and wheels can easily become misaligned as a result of road conditions, driving habits and accidents. Whilst front wheel alignment is often a more common issue, rear wheel alignment can also experience displacement.
Our technicians will check the front wheel alignment as this is often enough to identify any issues. However, in some cases, they may need to perform a 4 wheel alignment if necessary and provide a full quote if any additional work is needed.
Whichever way you look at it, wheel alignment cost should never be in question as the price of not doing it can be far higher. This refers to using more fuel and premature tyre replacement but more so the increased risk of accidents and the resulting damage.
Where To Find Wheel Alignment Centres
All of our Elite Garages are wheel alignment centres with expertly trained staff and the latest equipment. Our team will always go the extra mile to provide you with the best possible wheel alignment offers, service and advice.
To find a garage close to you, simply type into an internet search “wheel alignment near me”. This should bring up various centres with Elite Garages popping up in the south and southeast, including Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Brighton, Maidstone and Southampton among others.