Some know it as tire alignment, and others refer to it as wheel alignment. This process is essential to proper performance and longevity of your tires. Besides, wheels that are aligned translate to safe driving and prevent the vehicle from pulling in on the side or making strange noises on the road.
If you are new to wheel alignment, it is basically an adjustment of your vehicle’s suspension (the system that connects your vehicle to the wheels). Proper alignment is all about finding the perfect angle of each wheel, and making sure that it makes the best contact with the road.
How Do You Know If You Need Wheel Alignment?
There are a few ways you can tell your vehicle needs a wheel alignment. First is the uneven tread wear, which is quite obvious – demonstrated on your tires’ tread. If you see that your tires are wearing out differently, it is most likely that they are not properly aligned.
If your vehicle is pulling to the left or right on a straight road, it is another common sign of misalignment. Alternatively, the problem can be first spotted in your steering wheel – if it is vibrating or is off-centered when driving straight, your wheels are most likely misaligned.
As for what causes the wheel alignment, we can definitely attribute the poorly maintained roads, potholes, or even the scenarios where you hit a curb. Aggressive driving and heavy loads are other common scenarios. All of these affect your wheels and can cause even the slightest alignment issues.
The 3 Main Elements Of Wheel Alignment (Camber, Toe, Caster)
There are three main elements to the wheel alignment process: camber, toe, and caster. Below, we are describing each one of these in detail.
The first element is camber, which represents the inward or outward angle of your tire (when seen from the front). If it has too much inward or outward tilt, it is known as negative/positive camber. Some of the common reasons for this incline include worn bearings, ball joints or other wheel-suspension parts. Whenever the camber is positive or negative, it indicates improper alignment and requires immediate adjustment.
Toe alignment is a metric that measures how much your tires actually turn inward or outward (when viewed from above). Similar to standing up and looking down at your feet, this alignment type sees the car’s tires from upside down. Ideally, all tires should be perfectly vertical (when viewed from above) and any outward or inward angles mean that it’s time for a wheel alignment.
Last is the caster angle, which is closely related to the steering, stability, and cornering. This is the angle that is based on the steering axis (when viewed from the side of the vehicle). A positive caster, for instance, is when the steering axis tilts towards the driver. A negative one, on the other hand, represents an axis tilted toward the front of the vehicle.
Why Do You Need Wheel Alignment?
Improper wheel alignment leads to uneven and premature wear. Some of the common issues include:
- “Feathered” tires, when the tread is smooth on one side and sharp on another
- Camber wear, when the inside or outside of the tread is more worn than the center of the tread
- Heel and toe wear, when one side of the tread blocks wears down quicker than the other (in a circumferential direction)
In the end, wheel alignment is unique to every vehicle and its specific positioning. It is also different from the process of wheel balancing, which involves compensation for any weight imbalances in the tires and wheels. However, both wheel alignment and balancing are done together, ensuring that every wheel and tire are good for the road.
More importantly, properly aligned wheels ensure optimal drivability. They will make your tires last longer and keep you pointed in the right direction. Plus, your car will require less energy to keep going, saving you fuel and helping you commute and travel in the way you are supposed to.
Our experts at Stop & Go recommend checking your wheels and tires for alignment every 5,000 to 10,000 kilometers to prevent and get rid of any issues before it’s too late. To schedule your wheel alignment appointment, contact us today.