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Wheel Alignment

What is Wheel alignment?

Put simply, the term “wheel alignment” refers to how well (or otherwise) the wheels on your vehicle are aligned relative to each other, as well as to the centre line of the vehicle. While alignment settings differ between manufacturers and models. All vehicles are designed to deliver precise steering and braking responses - but only if the wheel alignment angles are correct for that vehicle.

What are the Benefits of Wheel Alignment?

  • Increased fuel economy.
  • Prolonged tyre life.
  • Braking and steering response is improved.
  • Straight-line tracking is improved, and driver fatigue is reduced, since the overall driving experience is improved.

Signs You Need A Wheel Alignment?

Maintaining the wheel alignment on your car is an integral aspect of its overall maintenance and upkeep. However, this very important step is often ignored or skipped until the first symptoms of poor wheel alignment show up, in the form of ruined tyres. Here are some common signs to look out for….

  • Uneven or accelerated wear on the edges of your tyres. Usually caused by a toe out or toe in condition.
  • The steering has a "mushy" feel or has become less responsive. While poor steering can be caused by wheel alignment it may be linked to a more serious problem behind the wheel that needs professional diagnosis.
  • It your cars steering wheel is not returning to the dead ahead position or pulls to one side.

When Should You Get a Wheel Alignment?

Obviously, the best time to get a wheel alignment is when noticeable symptoms of poor alignment are present, but there also other “best” times, such as:

  • When you rotate the tyres, since it allows you to properly inspect the tyres for signs of uneven or accelerated wear patterns that may have gone unnoticed while the wheels were on the car
  • When you replace one or more tyres to ensure that the new tyres are not damaged by the effects of marginally out-of-spec alignment settings that you may not have noticed before
  • When you replace standard, steel rims with lightweight alloy rims, even if the alloy rims have the same width and offset than the original wheels, since the weight of the wheels is a critical factor when alignment angles are determined during the design phase of all cars 
  • Every time you have maintenance or repair work done on the steering or suspension systems both front and rear, since many of these procedures require at least some disassembly of the suspension system, which in turn can upset or disturb alignment settings during reassembly.
  • When you perform any modification to the vehicle that alters its ride height or weight distribution, since these factors are critical to maintain proper (and correct) wheel alignment settings

What Causes Wheel Alignment to “Go Bad”?

There are many possible reasons why the wheel alignment on any vehicle can “go bad” and while most of them are the inevitable result of wear and tear on suspension and steering components, other causes are sometimes preventable with regular maintenance. here are some of the common causes of poor wheel alignment-

  • Excessive free play in components such as tie rod ends, ball joints, control arm bushings, steering racks, wheel bearings, and strut mountings, all of which can cause the wheels to deviate from prescribed alignment settings.
  • Hitting potholes and other obstacles, including kerbs when parking, can cause damage to suspension components.
  • If you’ve been in an accident, even a small one, there could be damage to the body of your car that is not visible to the naked eye which could result in poor wheel alignment.
  • On some vehicles, excessively wide tyres on rims that widen the track width sometimes causes a toe-out condition due to the high rolling resistance of the tyres.

Importance of Wheel Alignment on New Tyres

You are no doubt aware of just how expensive it has become to replace a set of four tyres these days. That's why it makes good sense to have a comprehensive wheel alignment procedure carried out when you replace all your tyres - to prolong the life of those expensive new tyres for as long as you can, but there are other, equally compelling reasons as well, such as:

Tyre warranty requirements/conditions
All major manufacturers/suppliers of tyres offer some kind of warranty, which could a include mileage warranty. However, these warranties typically require that you, the consumer, must be able to prove that you had properly cared for the new tyres when you want to collect on the warranty for whatever reason.
Thus, if you cannot prove that you had the wheel alignment checked at the time that you purchased the tyres, you will almost certainly not be able to claim on the warranty if your new tyres wear out prematurely.   

Once uneven wear appears, the tyre is ruined
Even if you don’t care about the tyre warranty, you should know if your new tyres start to wear unevenly within the first few thousand kilometres because you skipped wheel alignment, it is too late to save the new but now damaged, tyres.
The fact is that once a new tyre starts to show uneven wear, no amount of fiddling with alignment settings will save that tyre. Fixing the wheel alignment at this late stage might slow the progression of the damage somewhat, the uneven wear will continue unabated until the tyre is completely ruined long before its due time. 

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