What are the causes of misaligned wheels?
There are three main causes of wheel misalignment, these are:
1. Sudden jarring or heavy impact caused by hitting something, such as a pothole, bumping a curb, or a road accident.
2. Worn parts caused by wear and tear. Over time, parts such as suspension springs can become worn and slack, leading to a shift in the wheel alignment. In this case, prevention is more effective than cure; so regular service checks are necessary.
3. Height modification, when suspension has not been changed to suit. Car suspension is designed to work at a certain height, and if you adjust the height of your vehicle without also adjusting the suspension, your car will probably suffer from wheel misalignment.
What are the symptoms of misaligned wheels?
If you experience any of the following problems, you should get your car checked out, as your wheel alignment may need adjusted:
• Tires wearing abnormally/unevenly
• Car drifts to one side when driving
• Steering wheel does not return easily after a turn
• Steering wheel is crooked or vibrates
• There is a squealing noise coming from your tires
The first symptom here is the most obvious, and can be checked easily by running your hand carefully over your car’s tires.
For another easy check to see if your wheels need realigned, drive on a straight stretch of road with no crown and briefly let go of the steering wheel to see if the car veers to the left or right. A correctly aligned car will stay straight. Crowned roads may cause vehicle to move to one side.
What problems do misaligned wheels cause?
Uneven wear can seriously impair a tire’s performance, and can even put lives at risk as an unevenly worn tire is at risk of a blowout.
Misaligned wheels also have poorer fuel economy, as misaligned wheels have greater resistance with the road, leading to higher gas usage. Experts have found that by adopting preventative wheel alignment, there was an improvement of up to 20% longer tire life and 1- 4 miles per gallon better mileage.
Cars suffering from misalignment will experience rapid or irregular tire wear, meaning they need to be replaced much sooner.
Your fuel bills will also be increased adding further expense to your motoring. Furthermore, when the wheels are misaligned, your car may become less stable, which may be a particular problem when having to take emergency or evasive action. As wheels can become misaligned through general wear or tear or every day occurrences like hitting a pothole or the curb, it’s important to have your car’s alignment checked regularly.’
How can wheel alignment be fixed?
In order to perform an alignment, you must take your car to an experienced mechanic, who will use a wheel alignment machine to check the alignment and adjust the components accordingly, so that the car is brought back to its proper configuration. We recommend the dealer, they know your vehicle and what to look for.
The three main angles where adjustments will be made are the camber, caster and toe. These sound rather complicated to us, but here is a quick summary of what each relates to:
Camber – This is the ‘tilt’ relative to the road at which the tire sits. Positive camber is when the top of the wheel leans away from the car, and negative camber is when the top of the wheel leans in towards the car.
Caster – Caster is harder to conceptualize, but involves the angle created by the steering’s pivot point from the front to back of the vehicle. Caster is positive if the line is angled forward, and negative if backward.
Toe – Toe settings affect the handling capabilities of the vehicle related to the direction of the tires relative to the center line of the vehicle.
Prevention is better than cure when it comes to wheel alignment, as you can save more by keeping on top of it. If your wheel alignment is checked regularly, you will see the following benefits:
• Tires will last longer
• Vehicle handling and comfort will be optimized
• Fuel consumption and energy use will be reduced
It is recommended that your wheel alignment be checked at least every 12 months or 12,000 miles.