Wheel alignment is the adjustment of a vehicle's steering and suspension angles so that the wheels are perpendicular to the road surface and equidistantly running side by side. Proper wheel alignment service is important for various reasons. First things first, it is important to ensure vehicle safety, as wheels that are out of alignment tend to pull to one side of the road, putting the driver, his/her passengers and other road users at risk of getting involved in a road traffic accident. Second, it helps extend the life of tyres, as tyres fitted to improperly aligned wheels tend to wear out at a faster rate. Third, it may help rid of vibrations and noises coming from the steering and suspension system, ensuring the driver enjoys a smooth, comfortable ride.
Though the average car owner does not need to have a deep understanding of the wheel alignment process, a little basic understanding of the process can help them know what they actually pay for when they have the service performed at the car repair and maintenance shop. Here is a basic overview of what the wheel alignment process involves:
Determining the right wheel alignment
In ensuring correct wheel alignment, the mechanic measures, analyses and adjusts the various suspension angles, referred to as caster, camber, toe and thrust, which affect tyre position and movement. Caster adjustment is important to ensure steering stability when travelling at high speeds; camber adjustment maximises contact between tyres and the road surface, improving cornering performance and reducing irregular tyre wear; thrust-angle alignment is done to ensure the rear wheels and axle are parallel with the front wheels and axle; and toe is adjusted so that the tyres spin in parallel when the vehicle is moving.
Inspecting other steering and suspension parts
Once your mechanic is done making the caster, camber, toe and thrust adjustments, they will inspect other parts of the steering and suspension system, such as shock absorbers and struts, so as to ensure that everything is in good shape. If anything looks out of order, it will be replaced so that the wheels do not get misaligned shortly after being serviced.
Checking the condition of tyres
No matter how properly aligned wheels are, it is the tyres that will always touch the ground when the vehicle is on the road. Before taking your vehicle for a road test, your mechanic will inspect the tyres and check for tyre pressure. This is because worn tyres and/or incorrectly inflated tyres may lead to a bumpy ride or throw realigned wheels out of alignment again.