Understanding Car Wheel Alignment

A very big part of owning a four wheeler is its maintenance and proper care, things which can ensure your beloved keeps going for years and miles without much trouble. Its not even a very difficult task as all it takes is regular servicing at intervals specified by the manufacturer. It doesn’t just ensure your vehicle’s longevity, but also makes sure the ride and handling stays the way it should and the fuel efficiency figures are maintained. Keeping your car in good shape also comes in handy while selling it in the used car market. Proper servicing records add value to your vehicle and since most people insist on a test drive it will help if the car is in good shape. One such aspect of automotive maintenance is wheel alignment. Read on to find out what car wheel alignment exactly is and why it is necessary to keep your vehicle healthy.

Wheel Alignment setup 1

What is Wheel Alignment?

Wheel alignment, sometimes referred to as breaking or tracking, is part of standard automobile maintenance that consists of adjusting the angles of the wheels so that they are set to the car maker’s specification. The purpose of these adjustments is to reduce tire wear, and to ensure that vehicle travel is straight and true (without “pulling” to one side). At the time of production every car model gets certain settings for the wheels such as camber, castor, toe-in, toe-out, etc. These aspects of wheel alignment are fine tuned to give the desired output of performance, efficiency, ride and handling. With time and distance these settings might deviate a little affecting the aforementioned aspects; changes which are sometimes noticeable and sometimes not.

Wheel Alignment 4

How do I Detect Improper Wheel Alignment?

Bumps, potholes, hitting the curb or general tire wear due to usage can affect wheel alignment. It is not always easy to detect if something is wrong with the alignment of the wheels with your naked eyes. The aspects in question are just small angles and when deviated by even a fraction can affect the balance and performance of the vehicle. However, there are instances where you can tell if your tires need a check such as- when your car pulls to one side when you leave the steering wheel; when the ride feels a bit wobbly; when there is uneven tyre wear; drop in mileage.

Effects of Improper Wheel Alignment

  1. Fuel Efficiency: If the wheels of the car are not aligned properly they might experience uneven pressure. There might be instances where the wheels might push against each other while moving as they might not be pointing in the right direction. This will lead to resistance in motion of the vehicle making it harder to move forward. This will cause more fuel to be burned in order to overcome this resistance.
  2. Tire Wear: Resistance to motion will automatically release in increases and uneven tire wear. Improper wheel alignment can also lead to abnormal contact between the tires and the road causing increased tire wear. Tire wear directly affects ride, handling, fuel efficiency and braking. Also, you do not want to shell out a hefty amount of money to get a new set of tires to replace the old ones which got ruined due to improper wheel alignment.
  3. Ride and Handling: The most minute of adjustments to the wheels can affect ride and handling directly. If the wheels are not properly aligned they might result in a biased steering which pulls to one side. It will also affect braking which means it compromises the safety of the vehicle. A wobbly ride could also be a result of botched wheel alignment making the vehicle uncomfortable, especially at high speeds.

Improper wheel alignment can cause uneven tire wear
Improper wheel alignment can cause uneven tire wear

When do I get the Wheel Alignment Checked?

Usually, you do not need to go out of your way to  get your vehicle’s wheel alignment checked as it is a part of the regular servicing carried out by the car dealer. If your car is brand new it is advisable to get the wheel alignment checked after around 5,000 km. Otherwise, a check every 10,000 km is good practice. In case you have hit a big pothole or the tires have experienced a heavy impact then it is advisable to get a wheel alignment check-up immediately to ensure everything is alright.

Where do I get the Wheel Alignment Checked?

As mentioned in the previous section, since wheel alignment is a part of regular servicing the nest place to get it done is the authorised service centres. You can also get it done at other reputed multi-brand service centres or shops which deal in tires. Since the equipment required to carry out a wheel alignment check is fairly compact and easy to acquire, you might find a few petrol stations and other small workshops which might carry out the required checks. However, be vary of small workshops as the operator might not have the required training or skills which could ruin the wheel alignment instead of fixing it.

Wheel Alignment setup 2

So, there you have it. All you need to know about car wheel alignment. If you have any comments or questions feel free to post them in the comments section below.