What is Wheel Alignment and its Importance: Expalined
Wheel alignment is the setting of the axle geometry and tracking of all axles on a vehicle. The car manufacturers set different alignments for each car make and model to influence the performance and handling accordingly.
The basics of wheel alignment comprise 3 adjustments, namely- camber, caster and toe and each of these have specified functions. However, due to several reasons, these arrangements may get misaligned, affecting vehicle responsiveness. Keep reading to know them!
What Are the Causes of Misalignment of Wheels?
Before understanding the causes of wheel misalignment, let us first understand the different angles of the steering axis. When viewed from different positions, your car wheels make the following angles with the steering axis:
Camber: A camber is an inward or outward slope of your car’s front tyres if viewed from the front of it.
Caster: If viewed from a side, the caster makes a slope of an imaginary line intersecting a vehicle's upper and lower steering pivot points.
Toe: It is a measurement that informs how much the front or rear wheels are tilted in or out from a bird’s-eye view.
These wheel angles can get skewed over time, leading to various changes to your driving experience. Below are some of the most common causes behind the alignment discrepancies.
- Worn-out suspension components
- Extreme torque and friction exerting pressure on shocks, springs, struts and tyres
Apart from these, a few drastic reasons behind wheel misalignment are:
- Parking vehicles roughly against pavements
- Frequent drives over potholes and hitting curbs while driving at speed
- Driving in large road obstructions
What Are the Signs of Misalignment of Wheels?
You will come across the following signs if your car’s wheels are out of alignment:
1. While Driving
- You will experience bumpy rides.
- When the steering wheel transmits excessive vibrations, it indicates steering misalignment. In such events, your car will tilt to either side, making it challenging to drive in a straight line, even at low speed.
- Your car tyres emit a squealing sound while the vehicle makes a turn.
- You will notice uneven and premature tyre wear and tear across the tread, especially on the shoulder rib and inner and outer shoulders.
2. When Stationary
First, park your vehicle and stand at a distance in front of it. Then, notice both sides of your car to detect if the wheels are standing up or tilted inwards or outwards.
As the wheel or tyre alignments significantly impact safety and accelerate tyre wear and tear, it is crucial to opt for routine servicing to steer clear of any unforeseen circumstances.
What Issues Do Misalignment of Wheels Cause?
Misaligned wheels can cost you a fortune, from costly replacements such as tyres and suspension components to compromised fuel economy. Here are the issues you may experience while driving due to wheel misalignment.
- Excessive Juddering of the Wheels: You will face difficulty in making turns in either direction due to any discrepancy in the wheel alignment of your vehicle. This also affects the tread-life of the tyres.
- Diminished Vehicle Handling: Maintaining optimum control and contact of the vehicle with the road becomes difficult.
- Susceptible to Blow Outs: Driving a car with inaccurate wheel alignment at high speeds exerts excessive pressure on the tyres, exposing them to punctures.
- Compromised Braking Efficiency: As misaligned wheels fail to turn or travel in the same direction, you will be unable to brake evenly.
Hence, accurate wheel alignment is necessary for responsive steering and improved tyre tread life. To ensure the alignments remain intact as per the manufacturer’s specifications, always check the air pressure levels of the tyres. In addition, you must drive carefully to avoid sudden impacts from curbs, bumps, and potholes to confirm maximum road safety.