When should I check my wheel alignment?
If you notice that your vehicle pulls significantly to the left or right when you are travelling on a straight, flat road with little cross-wind, or your tyres are wearing abnormally, then your wheel alignment may require adjustment. You should therefore take your vehicle to a Michelin tyre dealer or a reputable garage to have its wheel alignment checked. This is a simple process, which may require slight adjustment of front and/or rear suspension components. If your vehicle’s wheels are not properly aligned, this can cause abnormal wearing of the tyres.
Note that wheel alignment may also be referred to as suspension alignment.
Always have your vehicle’s alignment checked when:
- Your vehicle has hit something (e.g. a kerb or major road hazard).
- You notice that your tyres are wearing abnormally or unevenly.
- You experience steering or handling problems, such as:
- Your vehicle pulls or drifts to one side.
- Your steering wheel does not return easily after a turn.
- Your steering wheel remains at an angle when driving in a straight line.
- When you buy a new set of tyres and want them to last as long as possible.
- When you replace suspension or steering components.
Why is wheel alignment important?
Wheel alignment can affect the amount of wear and tear that tyres endure. The normal alignment on most vehicles is designed to minimise wear and tear and maximise driver and passenger comfort. Correct four wheel alignment will reduce wear on your tyres, help increase their life and performance, and improve fuel economy. It will also improve handling and driving safety by reducing steering and stability problems.
Wheel alignment versus wheel balancing?
People often get confused between wheel alignment and wheel balancing. They are completely different. Wheel alignment, or tracking as it’s sometimes called, consists of adjusting the angles of the wheels so that they are as specified by your vehicle manufacturer. On the other hand, wheel balancing allows the wheels to spin without causing unnecessary vibration.
Why does wheel misalignment happen?
Misalignment can occur when hitting a kerb or driving through a pothole, as well as in more severe circumstances like accidents, which can knock your vehicle’s suspension out of alignment. Misalignment can also happen as suspension components wear or when they are replaced. When wheel alignment is incorrect, rapid tyre wear can occur especially on the edge of the tyres, and vehicle handling can also be adversely affected. It almost certainly means that you will have to replace your tyres earlier than expected.
It takes only a small misalignment to create problems
The purpose of correct wheel alignment is to provide optimum vehicle handling and to maximise the life of the tyres.
The main reasons for having correct wheel alignment are:
- It can save you money, as tyre replacements are required less frequently.
- Your tyres will last longer.
- Your vehicle handling will be optimised.
- Your vehicle will drive smoother with less tyre rolling resistance.
How long does it take to realign my wheels and what does it cost?
Most front and rear alignment problems can be solved in about 30 minutes. Wheel alignment is all about checking the direction and angle at which the wheels are set against your vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. Even though you may hear expressions like toe in, toe out, positive camber or negative camber, wheel alignment itself is not complex. In fact, adjusting wheel alignment is actually a very straightforward operation.
Camber is the angle of lean of the wheel away from the vertical when viewed from the front of the vehicle. If the wheel leans too far, uneven wear will occur.
- Positive camber is when the top of the wheel is leaning away from the car. Too much positive camber causes tyres to wear on the outside edge.
- Negative camber is when the top of the wheel is leaning in towards the car. Too much negative camber causes tyres to wear on the inside edge.
The camber angle is designed and adjusted for each vehicle to optimise the tyre’s behaviour on the straight and during a turn. If there is too much difference between the camber angles of the front wheels, the vehicle will tend to pull to one side.
Toe identifies the direction in which the tyres are pointing relative to the centre line of the vehicle. Toe is usually expressed as the difference in distance between the front of the wheels and the rear of the wheels on the same axle.
Toe settings affect the handling characteristics of the vehicle and its straight line stability.
- Toe-in is when the front of the wheels on an axle are closer together than the rear of the wheels. If there is too much toe-in, the tyre tread will tend to wear more on the outside edges. The tread will also wear in a feathered manner which can be felt by running your hands across the tread of the tyre.
- Toe-out is when the rear of the wheels on an axle are closer together than the front of the wheels. If there is too much toe-out, the tyre tread will tend to wear more on the inner edges. The tread will also wear in a feathered manner which can be felt by running your hands across the tread of the tyre.