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Wheel Alignment FAQ

What is wheel alignment?

Wheel alignment is the process of measuring and adjusting the steering and suspension components on your car to within the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications in order to improve comfort, performance, handling and safety. Essentially, wheel alignment involves adjusting the position of the wheels in relation one another and the road to increase the life of your tyres and your suspension.

Why does my vehicle need an alignment check?

Regular wheel alignment checks are an essential part of your car’s regular maintenance programme as it can help to keep long term running costs down but also ensures the vehicle is safe to drive. Every day driving affects wheel alignment and over time, your wheels can naturally become misaligned which can lead to the rapid ageing of your tyres. However, premature misalignment is common and can be caused by the following:

  • Factors such as kerbing and hitting potholes can alter your cars wheel alignment dramatically.
  • Worn or damaged suspension parts can speed up alignment problems
  • Your alignment may have been incorrectly adjusted previously

At Tyre City our experts can rectify any wheel alignment problems using state of the art laser guided Hunter wheel alignment equipment to accurately align your wheels every time.

What are the benefits of wheel alignment?

There are plenty of benefits of having correct wheel alignment that make having regular alignment checks an obvious choice:

  • Reduced tyre wear - Misalignment is a major cause of premature tyre wear as more weight is being placed on one part of the tyre causing that area of the tread to wear faster. Over the years, a properly aligned car can add thousands of miles to tyre life.
  • Improved fuel consumption - Misalignment results in increased drag, otherwise known as rolling resistance, on the tyres which leads to an increase in fuel consumption. Correct wheel alignment along with the right tyre pressures minimises rolling resistance which improves fuel consumption.
  • Save money and the environment - By preventing premature tyre wear (and early tyre disposal) and improving vehicle fuel efficiency, correct wheel alignment means you’ll be spending less on new tyres and fuel while reducing your CO2 emissions. So you’ll have more money in your pocket, plus it helps the environment too!
  • Improved handling - Many handling problems can be corrected by four wheel alignment, giving you the driver a better and enjoyable driving experience.
  • Safer driving - Correct wheel alignment maximises your cars handling and stability which is essential when taking emergency or evasive action. Also, uneven tyre wear caused by misalignment will have a negative effect on your braking distance. A tyre and suspension inspection is all part of an alignment check at Tyre City, therefore potentially allows worn parts to be spotted before they cause a more costly problem.

How do I know if my wheel alignment is out?

Misalignment problems are not always that obvious but there are clear signs of an issue that you can look out for:

  • Uneven tyre wear – Inspect your tytrs to see if there is any unusual tyre wear particularly where one side of the tyre appears to be more worn than the other. As well as a visual check, run your hands over the surface of the tyre -you’ll soon feel where the rubber has worn excessively on the inside or outside edges. Be careful, in extreme cases of excessive wear, fine wire may be protruding from the rubber casing.
  • The car pulls to the left or right - When driving along a straight flat road and you notice the car drifts or you need to compensate by steering to keep the car driving straight it may suggest your alignment is out. If the car pulls to the left / right when braking, this also indicates a possible alignment issue.
  • A crooked steering wheel - The steering wheel is not straight when the wheels are in a neutral position for driving in a straight line.

What's the difference between tracking and four wheel alignment?

If only the front wheels are aligned this is known as tracking. It is also sometimes referred to as two wheel alignment or ‘toe and go’). Tracking is uncommon nowadays as it does not take into account the position of the back wheels which is recommended in order to achieve the best levels of comfort, performance and safety. If you have the front wheels adjusted and set straight, but the rears are out of alignment and not checked, the car may still pull to one side and tyres could still wear prematurely.

Today, four wheel alignment is the norm and is a much more comprehensive geometry check. Four wheel alignment measures a minimum of 12 angles and compares them to the alignment data specified by the vehicle manufacturer. Wheel rim run-out compensation is taken into account, which gives accurate and repeatable readings. With such accurate readings, Four wheel alignment allows toe adjustments of individual wheels which ensure the steering wheel is set straight. Further adjustments of camber, caster and other angles (where necessary) can ensure optimum performance and extend the life of tyres and steering components.

How frequently should the alignment be checked?

We recommend that you have your vehicles wheel alignment checked:

  • Every 12,000 - 15,000 miles or at the vehicle’s recommended service interval
  • At least once a year
  • You knowingly hit a kerb or pothole
  • You experience steering drift or pulling to one side
  • After new tyres are fitted
  • If any Steering or suspension components are replaced
  • If the vehicle has been involved in any form of accident or collision (If the vehicle has been to a repair centre it may have had the alignment checked - just ask for the printout).

What does wheel alignment terminology mean?

Wheel alignment is quite technical and requires a high level of expertise. To help you understand exactly what your technician is referring to, we’ve provided an explanation of the common terms used and items that are covered during a wheel alignment check at Tyre City.

Toe

Toe is the angle of the wheels in relation to the vehicles centre line (an imaginary line straight down the centre of the vehicle, when viewed from above). Imagine the pair of wheels (front or back wheels) as a pair of feet. When you turn your toes inwards and your heals out, this is known as ‘Toe-in’. When you turn your toes out and heels in, this is called ‘Toe-out’.

  • Toe-in or Positive Toe causes your tyres to wear excessively on the outside edges.
  • Toe-out or Negative Toe causes your tyres to wear excessively on the inside edges.

 

Camber

Think of Camber as the amount of ‘tilt’ of the wheel, one way or the other. Positive Camber is when the top of the wheel leans away from the car. Negative Camber is when the wheel leans in at the top. The amount of tilt doesn’t have to be much and not always noticeable to the eye, but it is enough to cause undue tyre wear and make the car pull.

 

Cross Camber

Cross camber is the difference in camber from one side to the other, if each wheel is itself correctly in tolerance, but at opposite ends of the scale, then the cross camber will be high, resulting in vehicle pull which may need attention. Cross camber is often overlooked and some manufactures now specify this value. The car will tend, as a general rule, to pull to the side with the least negative or most positive camber.

Caster

The easiest way to understand Caster is to look at a bike (viewed sideways on). If you draw a line down from the centre point on the handlebars down the forks to the ground (on a car this would be the suspension strut), this indicates the ‘pivot point’. Then draw a second line vertical through the centre of the wheel and where this touches the ground shows the ‘tyre contact point’.

The top angle that has been created is what is known as the Caster Angle. If this top angle is reduced then stability is less, therefore it is important to get the Caster set to its optimum angle for the best possible control.

Centre Line and Thrust Angle

The Centre Line is an imaginary line running down the centre of the car, from the front to the rear and equidistant from the sides. Thrust angle is the direction the rear wheels are pointing in relation to the centre line. If the thrust angle is not zero the vehicle will ‘crab’ – move sideways from the back.

Is wheel alignment the same as wheel balancing?

No, although they sound similar and can be easily confused, wheel alignment and wheel balancing are two very different practices. While wheel alignment addresses geometry and the position of the wheels in relation to one another and the road surface, balancing ensures that weight is distributed evenly around the wheel so that the tyre rotates smoothly to provide optimum road comfort. Both services are available at your local Tyre City centre and wheel balancing is included in the price of every tyre we change.

Where should I go for an alignment check?

Most garages will provide an alignment check however at Tyre City we use state-of-the-art four wheel alignment equipment at all our centres to give you the best and most accurate wheel alignment. Our Hunter Hawkeye wheel alignment equipment uses a series of lasers to measure 14 key alignment angles on your vehicle so we can quickly identify even the slightest alignment issue.

Not only do we boast the best alignment centres around, you will also receive a before and after printed report. Your print out will provide details all of your car's alignment values and our helpful staff will go through this with you to explain any wheel alignment issues and how these can be rectified.

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What’s included when you purchase four wheel alignment at Tyre City?

A standard Hunter wheel alignment check at Tyre City includes the Hunter Hawkeye four-wheel alignment inspection and the front toe adjustment. If further adjustments are required, including any adjustments to the rear wheels, an additional charge will apply. However, you will be advised at the time of inspection prior to any work being carried out. Should we find that your wheel alignment requires no adjustments, we will happily refund you – that’s the Tyre City difference.