Auto Wheel Alignment Explained

Unfortunately, a lot of car owners don’t really care about wheel alignment. They feel that as long as their car’s wheels are turning, then there’s no problem. Yes, the wheels will continue to turn even if there’s an alignment issue. However, it’s not really a good idea to continue driving a car with an alignment issue.

What is Wheel Alignment?

This process is also called tracking or breaking. It’s a very important maintenance procedure that all cars will have to go through regularly. What’s this process? Basically, it’s the process of aligning or adjusting the wheels’ angles to make sure that they’re at an angle specified by the manufacturer. Basically, it’s resetting the alignment to the factory setting.

What is the Purpose of this Process?

Your car should be driving straight, right? It shouldn’t swerve to the right or to the left. By aligning the wheels, you’re making sure that your car will be driving straight provided that there are no other factors involved like a flat tire or an uneven road.
Now, it’s important to note that wheel alignment can also be done to control the handling of your car. This is usually done on off-road vehicles since they require different angles to be more effective off the road.

What Happens if Your Wheels are Not Aligned?

Here are the effects of wheels that are not properly aligned:

• Your car will swerve left or right, even if you’re driving straight.
• Tire wear will be accelerated, and it will be uneven. Think of it as walking with only the inside or outside edge or your shoes. The said edge will suffer from wear quickly while the rest of the shoes will still be okay.
• Your miles per gallon will suffer.
• Other parts of your car will also suffer, including the suspension and the steering.

Obviously, the effects are very expensive. This is why wheel alignment is necessary. It’s a very small investment especially considering the fact that you can avoid these potential expenses.

It’s a Safety Issue

If expenses are not really an issue, you have to know that not only are improperly aligned wheels expensive; they’re also a safety issue. As mentioned, your car can swerve left or right with improperly aligned wheels. This is a huge safety concern. You could be driving straight and before you know it, you’re already swerving left or right. This is very dangerous.

Remember, your wheels are the only things connecting your car to the road. This is why you have to make sure that the wheels and everything around them are in top-notch condition.

How to Determine if Your Wheels Need to be Aligned

A lot of drivers don’t really know when alignment is necessary because there are no prompts or light indicators, unlike if gas is low or the car is overheating. This is why you have to learn how to spot the need for alignment.

Generally speaking, a brand new car needs to travel 32,000 miles before there’s a need to replace the tires. As soon as the tires are replaced, that’s a good time to have the wheels aligned.

Here are other instances wherein wheel alignment is necessary:

• When your car has been in an accident.
• When your car suffered an incident on the road, like if you had to brake and/or swerve violently. Bumping a curb may also require alignment.
• When you replaced the suspension or any of its components.
• Changing the tires usually doesn’t require the alignment of wheels. However, secondary angles may be affected. Have the alignment checked just to be sure.

Also, your car’s wheels need to be aligned if you’re experiencing the issues listed above namely swerving left or right even when driving in a straight line, uneven tire wear, and more frequent trips to the gasoline station.

What to Do

You need specialized skills and equipment in order to align the wheels. With that being said, this is something that you can’t do yourself. You need to take your car to a specialist.

The specialist will attach a camera unit to a clamp that’s attached to the wheel being aligned. This camera will “communicate” with the computer by showing its position. The computer will then determine if wheel alignment is needed and how it’s supposed to be aligned.
If you feel that your wheels are not aligned, take it to a professional so that it can be checked. Do it right now to avoid any safety issues as well as expensive effects of non-aligned wheels. The whole process of wheel alignment normally takes less than an hour anyway, so it shouldn’t be a hassle.