What is a Wheel Alignment and Why is it Important?
In order for your car's wheels to function properly and safely, they need to be aligned. But what exactly is a wheel alignment and why is it so important?
What is a wheel alignment?
Despite the name, a wheel alignment doesn't involve adjusting the tyres, but instead correcting the car's suspension so that the wheels align properly and function as they should. A wheel alignment is different to a wheel balance, where the wheel is removed from the vehicle and is placed on a machine which tests to see if the wheel sits in a balanced position as it spins. Both wheel alignment and balance are important for your vehicle.
Signs your car needs a wheel alignment
There are four main signs that your car needs a wheel alignment:
- if the steering wheel shakes as you drive;
- if the steering wheel appears off-centre as you drive straight;
- if vehicle pulls to one side when driving;
- if there is uneven wear on the tyre tread, which indicates that the tread is not contacting correctly with the ground.
Camber, Toe & Caster
You'll often see the above three words mentioned when discussing wheel alignment, which can all influence how the wheels are aligned.
Camber refers to inward or outward tilt when viewing the vehicle from the front. It's also known as negative and positive camber, respectively, and it can often be a sign of worn ball joints or bearings. Positive or negative camber will result in the tread not sitting flush with the road, which can then trigger uneven wear on the tread and even issues with safety.
Toe refers to whether the tyres, when seen from above, face inwards (toe in) or outwards (toe out). Like camber, it can result in uneven tread wear, as well as create comfort and safety issues.
Finally, caster refers to the alignment between the upper and lower ball joints in relation to the steering axis. Negative caster is when the steering axis is tilted towards the vehicle's front, whereas positive caster is when the steering axis is tilted towards the driver. The degree of caster can influence steering feel and comfort, as well as the ability to drive at high speeds.
The ride height of a vehicle refers to the amount of clearance it has between the bottom of the car and the road. Ride height will be directly determined by the camber of the vehicle and it can affect the comfort of your drive. While some sports cars will be able to alter the ride height with the push of a button, most other vehicles will need to have it changed manually. Having the ride height either too high or too low can create safety and comfort issues for your vehicle, so it's worthwhile checking what the manufacturer's specifications are.
While it's possible to conduct the wheel alignment yourself, many drivers prefer to leave it to the professionals, due to the equipment needed and the level of expertise. The benefit of having professionals like Pedders conduct the wheel alignment is that you are guaranteed to have stellar service and have your car operate afterwards as it should, with the wheels perfectly aligned.
For more information on the services available at Pedders, please visit their website: www.pedders.com.au.