Correct wheel alignment is an important factor in the safety of your car. It also prolongs the life of your tyres and protects your wallet from unnecessary plundering.
If you notice your car pulling to one side or feel a slight vibration through the steering wheel, it could mean your car is in need of a wheel alignment. Misalignment can happen gradually as a result of everyday driving or more directly from potholes and rough surfaces.
Wheel alignment should be checked whenever your tyres are rotated or replaced. Otherwise, we recommend a check-up every 10,000 km.
The term ‘wheel alignment’ is a little misleading. When we perform a wheel alignment on your car, we’re actually adjusting the suspension so that your tyres are correctly aligned with each other and the road.
When we do this, we look at three main components:
Camber refers to the inward or outward tilt of the tyres, which can be viewed from the front of the vehicle. Negative camber occurs when the wheel is tilted inwards (towards the axle), and positive camber occurs when the wheel is tilted outwards. This alignment is all about maximising tyre to road surface contact.
We can also adjust camber based on the style of driver. For instance, if you’re one who tends to take corners aggressively, then a slightly negative camber might be appropriate. If the majority of your driving is on highways, though, we might set a positive camber.
Imprecise camber alignment can lead to excessively worn tread on the inside or outside of the tyre compared to the centre.
Caster angle provides stability to your steering. To calculate the angle, we draw an imaginary line between the upper and lower ball joints and compare it to true vertical. Caster angle will be either positive or negative, depending on whether the line is tilted to or away from the driver.
Incorrect caster alignment leads to ‘heal-toe’ tyre wear, which means one side of the tread block is wearing faster than the other circumferentially.
Imagine you have a birds-eye view of your car and can see through the body to the tyres. Toe describes whether the front of the tyres are closer or farther apart than the rear of the tyres. If it helps, stand up and look down at your feet. Point your toes inwards – that’s what we call toe-in. Splay your feet and you have what we term toe-out.
What setting is best can depend on the car. For instance, a front-wheel drive car tends to pull the front wheels together, so a toe-out alignment is best. On the other hand, rear-wheel drive cars push the tyres apart, so a toe-in alignment is appropriate. Whatever the case, we set the toe so the tyres roll parallel to one another when the car is in motion.
Poor toe alignment can lead to ‘feathering’, which is when tread is smooth on one side and sharp on the other.
Wheel alignment has grown more sophisticated over the years as suspension in vehicles has become more technically advanced. At Eastern Tyres, we have state-of-the-art alignment systems to make sure your car is in the best condition possible, to keep you safe and in the black.
Hi my name is Joe and I own Eastern Tyre centre.
Today I want to talk to you about wheel alignments. Did you know a badly aligned steering and suspension system is the main reason why tyres wear out prematurely. This is why wheel alignments are so important.
To give you an idea, a normal tyre should last about 40000kms, but if the wheels are out of alignment by as little as 2 mm, that life can be reduced to 20000kms. That’s half the life of the tyre.
Remember when you shopped around for that super cheap tyre price, you probably saved about $50 on a $250 tyre, well imagine if the alignment was badly out of specifications and the tyre wore out in half the time, that $50 saving just turned into a $125 loss over the life of that tyre, multiply that by 4 wheels and you have just lost $500!! This is why wheel alignments are so critical.
See this tyre, it’s worn more on one side than the other: 4mm on this side and 2mm on this side. This was directly related to the wheel alignment.
So what is the wheel alignment? This little video explains it quite simply. See how the wheels need to point straight ahead, well, when the left and right wheels are parallel to each other then they’re perfectly aligned.
However, if the wheels are pointing away from each other like this, they will wear on the inside edge and if they’re pointing towards each other then they will wear on the outside edge, and on most modern cars this applies to the back wheels as well.
The way we align the wheels is with a fancy machine naturally called a wheel alignment machine. These modern computerised machines takes the guess work out of alignments and is super accurate. Once the heads are mounted on the wheels like this, the computer can precisely see where the wheels are pointing, not only in this direction call toe-in, but also in this direction, called camber.
The readings appear on the screen and then the technician will make the necessary adjustments to ensure the wheels are pointing in the correct way.
Wheel alignments regularly go out of adjustment and so should be performed each time you have tyres replaced or as a minimum every 12 months.
The cost to carry out a wheel alignment varies greatly within the industry. Obviously a shop which has an experienced technician using a modern alignment machine will charge a bit more. A 4-wheel alignment normally costs around $65 to $125 and a 2-wheel alignment is usually around $45 to $75. A complex car like a BMW or Mercedes can take a bit longer to do and they’re normally priced in the upper range.
I hope this video on wheel alignments has been informative. Thank you for watching.