First Car Owners' Guide To Checking Wheel Alignment

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Knowing how to check if your car's wheels are correctly aligned is extremely important for a number of reasons.  If you're new to motoring or have recently bought your first car, you might not be sure just how to do this yourself.  Here's a step by step guide to help you through the process.

Why is correct wheel alignment so important?

Your car's wheels should be set so that the front ones line up with the back ones.  Your car's tyres are what keep you and your vehicle in contact with the road surface.  If the wheels are out of alignment, your car won't handle properly, meaning that you could lose control of it, especially when driving at speed or in the wet. 

In addition, if your wheels are not correctly aligned, the tyres will wear unevenly and more quickly, leading to expensive repair bills.  Other parts of the car's mechanics could also come under undue strain, potentially causing a break down.

Wheels can become misaligned for a number of reasons including:

  • structural damage
  • structural wear and tear
  • striking the kerb
  • driving over rough terrain at speed
  • driving through a pothole in the road

Signs of wheel misalignment

If you experience any of the following problems while driving, there's a good chance that your wheels are not correctly aligned.

  1. When you drive your car in a straight line, it feels as though the steering wheel is pulling to one side.  
  2. When driving your car on the straight and around corners, you feel that the steering is very 'heavy,' and it's difficult to carry out the manoeuvre, even at low speeds.  
  3. Your steering wheel feels as though it is vibrating in your hands as you're driving, especially at higher speeds.

It's a good idea to check for uneven tyre wear regularly, especially if you notice any of the above while driving.  This could not only indicate that your wheels are misaligned, it could also mean that your tyres are incorrectly inflated.

To check for misalignment, park your car up on your driveway and visually inspect the front tyres.  Start off by parking the car with the steering wheel turned hard to the right.  This will turn the right front wheel fully, enabling you to view the whole of the tyre's surface.  Look carefully to see if the tyre tread is worn unevenly.  This could occur on the inside edge, outside edge or even in the centre of the tyre.  Now repeat the process with the left front tyre.

Uneven wear is a sure sign that the wheels on your car are not correctly aligned.

Correcting the problem is something that should be undertaken by an experienced technician at a garage, and you're advised to get this done before continuing to drive your car.

In conclusion

If you're new to car ownership, you should visually check the condition of your car's tyres regularly as described above, even if you don't experience any problems whilst driving.  Not only will this keep you safe on the roads, it could save you money on repair bills too.