Do I need 2 or 4 wheel alignment?
Wheel alignment is crucial for maintaining the safety, performance, and longevity of your vehicle. However, it can be confusing to understand whether you need 2 or 4 wheel alignment and how to tell if there’s an issue in the first place. In this blog, we’ll cover all you need to know and answer your most pressing questions. We’ll also touch on the importance of proper tyre care and maintenance to keep your car running smoothly. So buckle up, and let’s get started!
What is Wheel Alignment, and Why is it Important?
Aligning the wheels of a vehicle requires more than basic DIY know-how; it needs an expert mechanic and specialised machinery to make sure the suspension system, axles and tyres move in the same direction. The process involves adjusting the suspension angles related to tyre movement and positioning for the perfect centring of the steering wheel. For this particular task, manufacturers provide standard angles for aligning tyres, usually specified in degrees.
When wheels are not aligned correctly, it can cause the vehicle to pull to one side, making it more difficult to control. It can also cause uneven tyre wear, which can lead to the need for premature replacement of tyres.
In addition, incorrect alignment can increase fuel consumption by making the engine work harder to overcome the added resistance of misaligned wheels. To ensure that your wheels are properly aligned, it is recommended to have a wheel alignment check at least once a year or more frequently if you notice any issues with steering or tyre wear.
What is the Difference Between 2 and 4 Wheel Alignment?
The main difference between 2 wheel and 4 wheel alignment is the number of wheels that are adjusted during the alignment process. Here’s a simple breakdown of each:
What is 2 Wheel Alignment?
A 2 wheel, or front-end alignment can involve camber, toe, and caster adjustments. Certain vehicles don’t need an adjustment if they have a solid rear axle. The mechanic may also need to conduct a thrust angle adjustment as part of the 2 wheel alignment. This process ensures that all four wheels are in perfect alignment with each other.
What is 4 Wheel Alignment?
This type of alignment refers to a comprehensive adjustment of your vehicle’s suspension and steering. It involves adjusting the camber, caster, and toe angles on each wheel and axle of the vehicle, both front and rear. This helps to ensure optimal handling, comfort, and safety while also helping to reduce wear on tyres due to uneven tread wear. Professional technicians ensure that all four wheels are properly aligned to prevent any significant issues related to tyre wear or performance.
Choosing the right wheel alignment service for your car
When determining the ideal alignment service for your vehicle, there are multiple variables to consider, such as the make and model of your car, its steering and suspension system, manufacturer advice, or recent incidents concerning its suspension.
Generally speaking, most modern vehicles like family cars, small 4×4’s, crossovers, and people carriers require a four-wheel alignment. This is especially true for all wheel drive models.
However, there are exceptions to this rule as some vehicles require a two wheel alignment instead. These might include large trucks and classic cars with solid, fixed rear axles that cannot be adjusted in the same way as other wheels.
6 Signs Your Car Needs Wheel Alignment
Here are some common signs that your car wheels may be misaligned:
1. Vehicle pulls to one side
If your car pulls sharply or slightly to one side while you’re driving on a straight road, you need to have your wheels aligned immediately to ensure your safety.
2. Uneven tyre wear
If the tread of your tyres appears to be wearing down unevenly, it could mean your wheels are misaligned. Check for excessive wear or smoothness on either the inside or outside edge of each tyre as a potential indication.
3. Steering wheel is off-centre
If your steering wheel is not centred while driving straight, it may be an indication that your wheels are misaligned.
4. Vibrations while driving
If you feel vibrations or shaking while driving, it may be a sign that your wheels are misaligned.
5. Squealing tyres
Misaligned wheels can cause your tyres to squeal or make other unusual noises while driving.
6. Reduced fuel efficiency
Misaligned wheels can cause your car to work harder, leading to reduced fuel efficiency.
If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to have your wheels checked as soon as possible. Driving with misaligned wheels can cause further damage to your vehicle and may also compromise your safety on the road.
What Causes My Wheels to Become Misaligned?
Here are several factors that can cause your wheels to become misaligned, including:
- Hitting a pavement or pothole: This can easily knock the wheels out of alignment, making driving difficult and unsafe.
- Wear and tear: Through extensive use over time, the suspension components and steering system can become weakened, which results in wheel misalignment.
- Accidents: In the event of an accident, your vehicle’s wheels can easily become misaligned due to the force inflicted by a collision.
- Improper installation of suspension or steering components: Substandard suspension or steering system installation can lead to misaligned wheels, compromising safety and efficiency.
- Modifications to the suspension or steering system: If you have made modifications to the suspension or steering system, such as installing a lift kit or lowering the vehicle, it can cause the wheels to become misaligned.
5 Expert Tyre Care Tips
Besides wheel alignment, regular tyre maintenance is critical for your safety and the longevity of your tyres. Here are some expert tips on how to look after your tyres:
1. Check tyre pressure regularly
Check your tyre pressure at least once a month or before any long trips. Ensure that all tyres are inflated to the correct levels according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
2. Rotate your tyres regularly
Regularly rotating your tyres is important for several reasons. Most notably, it helps to ensure even wear across all four tyres, which can extend their lifespan by reducing the chance of any one tyre wearing down faster than the others.
Additionally, regular rotation helps to reduce uneven tread wear, which can cause vibration and handling issues while also adversely affecting fuel economy. Rotating tyres every 8,000 miles or following the manufacturer’s recommendations can keep them in tip-top condition and maximise the amount of mileage you get out of them.
Recommended read: Why is Tyre Rotation So Important?
3. Monitor tyre tread depths
For optimal safety, it is recommended that you change your tyres before they reach the minimum legal tread depth of 1.6mm across three-quarters of the tyre as set by MOT standards. This applies to vehicles such as cars, bikes and light commercial vans with a gross weight no greater than 3,500kg.
In fact, some experts recommend replacing them when the tread depth has reached 2.5mm or even 3mm, so make sure you check your tyres regularly! For more information on how to check your tyre tread to ensure your car doesn’t fail its MOT, we recommend reading: What Are The Tyre Requirements For An MOT?
4. Importance of replacing worn-out tyres
Replacing worn-out tyres is important for several reasons. Most importantly, worn-out tyres can be unsafe. Tyres that are too old or have been driven on too much can lose their tread, making them more prone to hydroplaning in wet conditions and making it more difficult to effectively brake.
Worn-out tyres can also offer less grip when cornering or driving on slippery surfaces, which could increase the risk of an accident. Additionally, worn-out tyres can adversely affect fuel economy by increasing rolling resistance, resulting in higher fuel consumption.
5. Benefits of proper tyre care and maintenance
Proper tyre care and maintenance can help extend the life of your tyres, improve driving safety, and save you money. Regularly checking your tyres for signs of wear, such as bulging or cracking, can alert you to potential problems before they become a safety hazard.
Additionally, regularly checking tyre pressure and inflating them to the recommended levels helps keep them in good condition. This reduces the risk of blowouts due to low pressure and also ensures optimal fuel economy by reducing rolling resistance.
Finally, rotating your tyres on a regular schedule helps spread the wear more evenly across all four tyres, which will extend their lifespan.
Wheel Alignment and Safety Checks with Elite Garages
To give you peace of mind that your car is safe to drive no matter the weather conditions, why not book a Free Safety Check with Elite Garages? Allow our team to perform a comprehensive inspection and give you an obligation-free quote. If your vehicle needs alignment or wheel balancing, our technicians can help.
Need to replace your tyres? No problem! We’re a member of Group Tyre, which stocks over a million tyres and offers numerous brands to suit everyone’s budget. Choose Elite Garages for your next wheel alignment, tyre replacement, tyre rotation, MOT or vehicle service. To find your nearest branch visit our Locations Page.
Click the + to read any answer or visit our most FAQ page to review the most frequently asked questions across all our Elite Locations.
If you click on a ‘Category’ or ‘Tag’ link, the page will ‘refresh’ and reload the page showing the top of the page first, you’ll then just need to scroll down to the FAQ section to see the results for the Category or Tag you selected.
A typical wheel alignment takes around one hour, regardless of whether it’s a two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle. However, if any components exhibit excessive wear, tear, or damage, the process may take longer due to potential replacements.
To determine if your vehicle requires a wheel alignment, start by observing its behaviour while driving in a straight line. Take note of any tendency to veer left or right, particularly when you’re not applying pressure to the steering wheel. This could indicate that a wheel alignment is necessary.
Yes, it is recommended to get a four-wheel alignment when you fit new tyres. Even brand new tyres can be affected by improper wheel alignment, which can lead to uneven tyre wear, increased fuel consumption and poor handling.
To determine whether you need a two-wheel or four-wheel alignment service, you first need to consider your type of vehicle and the symptoms you are experiencing. If you need assistance, please contact your nearest Elite Garages branch for more information or you can book your wheel alignment online!
Put simply, two-wheel alignment is a procedure that corrects the positioning of your front wheels, while four-wheel alignment adjusts all four. Generally speaking, it’s not necessary to perform the latter on large SUVs or trucks with solid rear axles unless an accident has occurred and caused misalignment in its frame which translates into “dog tracking”.