Wheel alignment plays a major role in tire longevity and performance. The strange sounds you hear when accelerating may be eliminated by proper wheel alignment. Bad alignment results in abnormal friction on the wheels which can cause premature tire thinning, they might even lose pressure.
An ordinary wheel needs tens of thousands of miles on it to wear out. If yours go down within the first few months you might need to have your wheel alignment checked.
You can drive with a bad wheel alignment, but this will have a negative impact in the long run. When driving with a bad alignment, the driver will experience fast and uneven tire wear, increased fuel consumption, incorrect steering, the car pulling to one side or another that will affect the correct handling of the car.
New cars have their wheel alignments in perfect condition. Misalignment can be attributed to the multiple potholes on our roads and maybe any accidents the car might have been involved in. Going over a bump too fast can also misalign your wheels.
It is advisable to check the alignment when the driver has hit a pothole, climbed high obstacles that could affect the wheel assembly.
What Is Wheel Alignment?
This is the perfect alignment of tires to ensure each is well set in relation to all others and manufacturer specifications. During alignment, the car’s suspension is altered to ensure it comes into contact with the tarmac at the proper angle.
As long as your wheels are in a correct position, and by that I mean if they are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other, the tires will wear evenly. The bearings can be destroyed and even the control of the car can be lost.
How Can You Tell When Your Car Needs Alignment?
Every car owner should be able to inspect their car for wheel misalignment. To do this, however, they must understand the various aspects of car wheel systems and how they work.
Before settling on wheel misalignment as the cause of the car’s problem, mechanics look into three aspects: the camber, toe, and caster.
This is the tires’ angle when you look at them straight from the car’s front. If they are too inward or outward, that is a bad sign. Some of the causes of camber misalignment include worn-out ball joints and bearings.
You should also look at which part of the tire is tilted inward. If the upper part of the tire is tilted inwards, that’s called negative camber and if it tilts outwards that’s positive camber.
Both of these are not safe but some high-performance vehicles induce negative camber to improve balance and stability during cornering. Positive camber has its benefits too. Too much of either can damage other parts of the car.
This is somewhat similar to camber except that this time the view is from the top. When they tilt inwards it’s called toe-in and when they tilt outside it’s called toe-out.
Toeing is beneficial in racing cars which need more balance to navigate sharp corners at high speeds. Racing cars have their wheel alignment altered to induce toeing out which enables faster cornering.
This is the balance of the steering wheel with respect to the driver. If the steering wheel tilts towards the driver it’s called a positive caster and when it tilts towards the front of the car, it’s called a negative caster. Caster is best examined from the side of the vehicle.
Correct caster balance improves cornering stability even when driving at racing speed. Caster does not affect wheels so much but rather determines the amount of effort you will employ when balancing the wheels. Ordinary everyday cars might not need caster alignment but customized vehicles do.
How To Tell When Your Wheels Need Alignment?
1. Uneven Tread Wear
Regularly inspect the tires to ensure the tear and wear are equal between all four. Correctly aligned tires should experience wear at similar rates or at least at similar angles. If your tires have wear and tear marks at different areas or some are too beaten compared to others, then the alignment is not correct.
It can become expensive when you have to change your tires now and then. To prevent this, you are advised to regularly inspect the wear depth in all your tires or have your mechanic have a look at your car often
2. The Car Might Pull To The Left Or Right.
Sometimes when your wheels are not aligned correctly, you might be steering them in one direction and the car pulls to the other. This might not seem like a problem worth your time but it is.
Cars with this problem are more likely to hydroplane when driving in the rain. When the car hydroplanes, it drifts loosely over the pavement and might slip into another lane and cause an accident.
To test for this, you can let go of the steering wheel when on a straight road and watch how the car drives. If it changes directions without you steering it, then it needs alignment. It might not be any big deal in the beginning but as time goes by the misalignment could get worse and start to show.
3. The Steering Wheel Might Get Off-Center When Driving.
The steering wheel is designed to remain at the center of the vehicle. When the wheels are aligned straight forward, the logo on the steering wheel should be too. If the logo seems a little off, this is a clear sign of misalignment.
Another sign is when you have to turn more times than normal to gain movement when turning the wheels.
How Long Can You Drive With A Bad Wheel Alignment?
Wheel misalignment might not render the car motionless but it should not be ignored. There are some cases of misalignment that cause the car to pull to the left or right of the road. This can be very dangerous in the fast lane.
You should also keep in mind that the more you drive your car with misaligned wheels, the more damage you cause to the tires- they are anything but cheap.
What can a bad wheel alignment do to your car?
Bad wheel alignment can cause premature tire wear. Some experts attribute high fuel consumption to incorrect wheel alignment.
What happens if you don’t do car alignment?
If you do not align your wheel correctly, you are likely to experience any of these problems.
- Possible accidents due to hydroplaning
- Abnormal tire wear
- High fuel consumption
- The steering might vibrate
- The tires might squeal
Difference between wheel alignment and wheel balancing
Sometimes there is confusion between these two operations, but they are not related to each other. Adjusting the parallelism or alignment consists of adjusting the wheel angles to become perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other.
Instead, balancing a wheel allows the wheel to spin without vibrating at certain speeds.
How long does a wheel alignment take?
The angle adjustment operation takes between 15 minutes and 30 minutes, depending on the car.
This operation is very important from the safety point of view of the passengers, but also of the other drivers, as it can lead to car accidents. Also, it prevents irregular tire wear, provides a better grip on the car, and reduces fuel consumption.
How much does a wheel alignment cost?
Wheel adjustment is a very simple operation for a specialized service that has the right tools. Prices range from $50 to $100, depending on the service you go to.
Every car leaves the factory with the wheels correctly aligned but as we navigate corners and potholes, the positioning gets altered. With simple tests, you can easily identify incorrect wheel alignment and proceed to have them realigned. Poor wheel alignment can be expensive and dangerous.