Your car is a complex system of inter-working parts. When one of these parts is damaged, it’s only a matter of time until the other connected parts are affected. One such issue that can get out of hand rather quickly is incorrect wheel alignment. The alignment of your wheels affects your suspension and your tyre health. Your car is a complex system of inter-working parts. When one of these parts is damaged, it’s only a matter of time until the other connected parts are affected. One such issue that can get out of hand rather quickly is incorrect wheel alignment. The alignment of your wheels affects your suspension and your tyre health.
What is Wheel Alignment?
Alignment refers to an adjustment to a vehicle’s suspension – the system that connects a vehicle to its wheels. It is not an adjustment of the wheels or tyres themselves. The key to proper alignment is adjusting the angles of the tyres, which affects how they make contact with the road.
When checking your alignment a mechanic is mainly concerned with three things:
- Camber – This is the inward or outward angle of the tyre when viewed from the front. Too much inward or outward tilt, also known as negative or positive camber, indicates improper alignment and will need to be adjusted. Worn bearings, ball joints and other wheel suspension parts may also contribute to camber misalignment.
- Toe – Toe alignment is the extent to which your tyres turn inward or outward when viewed from above. To understand this, look down at your own feet. If your toes angle inward, you have toe-in alignment; and vice versa for toe-out alignment.
- Caster – Your caster angle helps balance steering, stability and cornering. If you have positive caster, the steering axis will tilt towards the driver.A negative caster means the steering axis tilts towards the front of the vehicle.
What Causes Improper Wheel Alignment?
A common cause of a vehicle’s wheels going out of alignment is due to sudden impact when they hit something at enough speed.
Encounters with potholes and manholes without covers can seriously damage your car’s suspension, wheel alignment, and balancing, and will drastically impair your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, and more importantly, your safety.
Small collisions and hitting a curb can also take a car out of alignment, but because there is little visible damage, drivers tend to ignore them.
Symptoms of incorrect wheel alignment
Besides tyre wear and wear patterns, the more important reason why wheel alignment is important for safe driving is the need to reduce stresses and strains on vehicle suspension components and improve the handling of the vehicle.
If you suspect that you may need a wheel alignment, here are a few signs and symptoms to look for and what to do:
- Car pulling to either side – To check if you have an alignment issue, take your car to a flat parking lot or drive down the centre of a vacant road and pay close attention to how your steering responds.
- Vibrating steering wheel – Another sign that your alignment could be off is if your steering wheel vibrates at higher speeds. This can adversely affect tyre wear and lead to a flat or tyre blowout if not speedily addressed. You could also have a suspension-related problem.
- Uneven tyre wear – Tyre wear and tyre health are greatly affected by misalignment. If your tyre-wear patterns are off-centred or one tyre is more worn than the others. One of the common causes of tyre wear is a lack of smooth rotation. A tyre that is not aligned creates other wear patterns to show up, such as excessive wear on the inside edge and/or the outside edges of tyres
What is Wheel Balancing?
Wheel balancing is integral to smooth driving, safety, tyre wear, and stability, and allows the tyres to spin without causing vibrations.
Distinct from wheel alignment, tyre balancing refers to compensation for any weight imbalances in the tyre/wheel combination. It is often performed in conjunction with wheel alignment.
When balancing your wheels, wheels should always be balanced off the car, as the modern wheel balancer does both dynamic and static balance simultaneously.
If you have an out-of-balance condition on the steering, have all four wheels balanced, front and back. Unbalanced wheels on the rear can often be felt through the steering.
When Should I Consider Having my Tyres Aligned and Balanced?
On average, you should have your balancing and alignment checked every 5,000 – 6,000 kilometres and automatically every time you change to new tyres.
But don’t delay getting it done. Make sure you visit a reputable tyre fitment centre that specialises in every aspect of tyre performance and maintenance to achieve a successful, guaranteed outcome. Supa Quick is reconfiguring its operations to supply South African motorists with an altogether superior brand of tyre care.
Developing Trends in Vehicle Wheel Alignment and Balancing
Motoring experts now believe that two trends: lightweight suspension systems and lower profile tyres, have increased the need to have more regular balancing and alignment as these newer models are more sensitive to imbalance than older, heavier cars.
Improper wheel alignment and balancing can cause issues with how your vehicle handles. Besides being a safety hazard, it negatively affects your tyre tread and stability, markedly reduces your vehicle’s fuel efficiency, and greatly affects the overall performance of your vehicle.
Uneven tread wear, pulling, or an off-centre or vibrating steering wheel are all indicators that your safety on the road may be at risk. Visit your nearest Supa Quick and let the experts perform a safety check to ensure your car is as safe to drive as you think.
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