Get your wheel alignment on track

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If you’re tyres seem to be wearing down a little too quickly, it could be down to a number of reasons. Ask any Sunday morning mechanic what the problem is and, following a quick kick of the tyres, you’ll be met with a knowing nod and the exclamation: “That’ll be the tracking, that!”

And they might well be right – well, half right at least. Correcting a vehicle’s tracking usually only sets the two front wheels straight, so if the two back wheels remain out of alignment your car could still suffer from crooked steering, pulling and tyre wear.

Cars are becoming increasingly complex, but it makes no difference how sophisticated your engine, design and on-board computers are: your vehicle simply won’t work properly if the wheels don’t all point in the same direction.

That’s why it makes sense to have your wheel alignment checked and corrected as required.

The causes of wheel misalignment

There are a number of causes of wheel misalignment, such as worn suspension parts or incorrect adjustments, but the most common is the general rigour of everyday driving, particularly if you hit potholes or kerb the wheels. This is because joints and bushings in the suspension system slowly wear out, meaning the alignment is not properly held in place, and as the steering and springs gradually deteriorate, so the alignment is thrown out even further. Serious misalignment can occur within 12 to 18 months, but because the changes to alignment are slow and gradual, it’s easy for handling problems and tyre wear to become firmly established.

How to spot wheel misalignment

The most noticeable symptom will be tyre wear on certain areas of the tyre, particularly on the inside or outside edges of the tyre. If you can’t see any noticeable wear, run your hands over the tyre and feel for any worn areas - but take care in case the tyre is so severely worn that the wire is exposed. Another symptom is that your car may drift to the left or the right while driving on a straight, even road surface, meaning you have to compensate while steering, or it pulls in either direction while braking. You may also notice your steering wheel isn’t straight, even when driving straight.

When and how should you get wheel alignment checked?

You should make sure you get your alignment checked if your car shows any of the above symptoms, and even if not, you should have it checked annually or every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, perhaps as part of your car’s annual service. If you do get it checked as part of the car’s annual service, wheel alignment specialists AlignMyCar.co.uk recommend you ask your garage the following questions:

  • Do you offer a four-wheel alignment (some will only be able to track two wheels)?
  • Are all four wheels measured simultaneously?
  • How many primary angles does your aligner measure? (between 12 and 14 is best)
  • Does your aligner offer a ‘before’ and ‘after’ printout of the results? (so you can see the difference).

It’s also recommended you get the alignment checked if you hit a kerb or a pothole, are involved in any sort of accident or collision, or even if you have recently hade new tyres fitted. And if you want to find your nearest alignment centre, visit www.alignmycar.co.uk and enter your postcode.

What are the benefits of having wheel alignments checked?

The major benefit is that your car will be a lot safer to drive as misalignment reduces the stability of the car, particularly if you have to brake or swerve suddenly, and also increases tyre wear, meaning your car could be more susceptible to a blow-out. And when a tyre is worn, the effectiveness of the grip is reduced dramatically, which can lead to handling, accelerating and braking problems. It will also compromise the fuel efficiency of the car. So making sure your wheels are properly aligned will mean you have a safer and more fuel efficient car – and who doesn’t want that?

Do you have your car’s alignment checked regularly – and do you see the benefits? Let us know in the box below…

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