What Is Four-Wheel Alignment, Balancing and Tracking?

A common question we get at Elite Garages is whether wheel balancing and wheel alignment describe the same thing. In theory, they sound similar and whilst both aid the long term health of your tyres, they are different. In this guide, we discuss the differences between two and four-wheel alignment, tyre balancing and tracking.

Two-Wheel Alignment And Four-Wheel Alignment

Wheel alignment refers to the angle and direction of tyres which can be adjusted using specialist equipment. Your wheels need to be aligned to the recommended position as indicated by your vehicle manufacturer. If you don’t get perform regular wheel alignment checks, your tyres can wear prematurely which can be particularly dangerous and expensive.

Typically, if your car is an all-wheel-drive model with independent suspension, you need a four-wheel alignment. This consists of a caster and front toe adjustment with camber and toe adjustment for the rear wheels.

However, whether they’re 4WD, front-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive, most modern cars and many SUVs can be four-wheel aligned. They should get a 4-wheel alignment as the rear is just as likely to be out of alignment and cause uneven tyre wear as the front.

Recommended: ‘Signs And Causes Of Uneven Tyre Wear’

Four-Wheel Alignment Centres Near Me

Wheel alignment, in general, is not a complex process but proper four-wheel alignment needs to be done with precision. That means only service centres with modern equipment and highly trained technicians can offer this service. To help ensure a safer, smoother ride, several Elite Garages offer four-wheel alignment, including the following:

  • Wheel alignment Canterbury
  • Maidstone wheel alignment centre
  • Mannings Heath wheel alignment centre
  • Four-wheel alignment Brighton
  • Pulborough wheel alignment centre
  • Haywards Heath four-wheel alignment centre
  • Salisbury four-wheel alignment
  • Four-wheel alignment Bournemouth

What Is Tyre Or Wheel Balancing?

A wheel balancing service checks that the weight is distributed equally around the wheel and that the tyre rotates evenly. The process involves adding small balancing weights to the rim which counterweight inconsistencies. It’s similar to adding sets of weights to a balancing scale.

Wheel or tyre balancing works in the same way and if the system identifies an imbalance towards one side of the wheel, weights are added to the opposite side for even weight distribution. If you notice uneven tyre wear or a tyre “wobble” at 40 to 50 mph and excessive vibrations at higher speeds, you might need to have your wheels re-balanced.

What Is Wheel Tracking?

Wheel tracking refers to the olden days when cars only had two adjustable front wheels and a fixed axle at the rear. Here, the two front wheels were ‘tracked’ or aligned to point in the right direction and completely parallel.

You could not adjust the back wheels which would simply follow the direction of the front. When most people ask for ‘wheel tracking’ today, they usually mean ‘wheel alignment’ or four-wheel alignment unless they have an older car.

Main Causes Of Bad Wheel Alignment

Wheel alignment is related to the suspension which means any issues can cause some components to be knocked out of place. This can cause the wheels to sit at improper angles which a wheel alignment service can straighten, avoiding further problems to your vehicle. There are essentially three main causes of wheel misalignment:

  • A sudden jarring or heavy impact from hitting something, like a pothole, the pavement or a road accident
  • Wear and tear of suspension springs which can become worn and slack. The best solution is prevention which is why regular service checks are so important.
  • Height modification without also adjusting the suspension

6 Signs Your Wheels May Be Misaligned

Sometimes underinflated tyres can cause problems which could also be caused by misaligned wheels. Always check the tyre pressure first and if that is within the normal limits, it may be time to book a two or four-wheel alignment. Here are six signs or symptoms to keep in mind.

  • Vehicle pulls to one side
  • Uneven steering wheel
  • Loose steering
  • Vibrating steering wheel
  • Uneven tyre wear
  • Tyres that consistently squeal

For more information about our wide range of services, including free vehicle safety checks, four-wheel alignment, clutches, brakes and exhausts, visit our website today.  You can also book a service, MOT and reserve tyres online.