Correct wheel alignment is crucial for safe handling and long tyre life. If you are experiencing hard steering, poor driveability and premature failure of suspension parts, there’s a good chance your alignment needs to be checked. Aligning a car involves the adjustment of the vehicle’s suspension, and the direction and the angles that the tyres point in after the alignment is complete are critically important. There are four main factors involved in setting the alignment to specification: caster, camber, toe and tracking.
Toe and Tracking
The two most critical alignment settings for front-end tyre wear. Toe describes whether the fronts of the tyres are closer (toe-in) or farther apart (toe-out) than the rears of the tyres and is the most commonly needed alignment adjustment. Having too much toe, either in or out, will make the front wheels fight each other, resulting in instability at higher speeds, and substantially increased tyre wear. Tracking, or thrust, is gauged relative to the vehicle centreline, and tracking misalignment also causes inside and outside tyre wear.
Camber is the tilt of the top of the tyre according to how it sits on the road and is important for several reasons. Its main purpose is to keep the tyre flat on the road while the vehicle is loaded and in motion. If you are looking at the wheels on a vehicle, having the top of the tyre tilting in towards the vehicle is called negative camber, and if the top of the wheel is tilting out from the vehicle, this is positive camber. To allow for even tyre wear, most vehicles are set to neutral or slightly negative camber. Having too much negative camber will wear the inside of the tyres, and having too much positive camber will cause the outside of the tyre to wear quicker. Camber is the one adjustment that can be set according to driving habits.
Caster is the angle of the steering axis and is only set on the front suspension of a vehicle. Caster is important to steering feel and high-speed stability, and it does not usually affect tyre wear. On most vehicles caster angle is set in a positive manner which assists in steering and vehicle stability at higher speeds. Caster also helps the steering wheel return to the centre after turning,
Signs You Need a Wheel Alignment
There are some noticeable signs that could indicate your vehicle needs a wheel alignment. You may be able to spot poor alignment by sight, but there are other common signs including:
- The vehicle excessively pulls to one side – A vehicle should drive straight ahead with very little effort on the steering wheel. If your vehicle pulls to the left or the right, it’s time to have your alignment checked and corrected.
- The steering wheel is not straight/centred – If you’re driving straight down a flat, level road, the steering wheel should be sitting close to perfectly straight. If the wheel is off centre by more than a few degrees, you need a wheel alignment.
- Uneven tyre wear – Wear on only the inside or outside edges of tyres indicates a problem with the camber adjustment. Feathering of the tyres often indicates a problem with the toe adjustment.
- Loose handling – If your steering feels a bit unstable or loose while driving, you should have the alignment checked.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, then book your vehicle in for a wheel alignment with a qualified mechanic. Incorrect wheel alignment can create a host of problems, so it’s best to get the vehicle inspected as soon as it’s noticed.
AME Auto are Perth’s leading vehicle servicing specialists. We can provide a full range of vehicle maintenance services including wheel alignments, tyre repairs, replacement tyres, log book servicing and more. Contact us today to make an appointment with our experienced and professional automotive team.