Your vehicle is a complicated system of interconnected pieces. When one of these pieces is damaged, it’s only a matter of time before the other sections that are connected are harmed. Incorrect wheel alignment is one such issue that can swiftly escalate. The alignment of your wheels has an impact on your suspension and tire health.
Road safety authorities always place a high value on areas of vehicle maintenance such as tire safety. Because vehicle difficulties lead to road accidents and wrecks, it is critical to pay attention to the vehicle’s components. Wheel balancing and alignment are two characteristics that many vehicle owners overlook. Most of the time, these aspects are misunderstood, and little to no emphasis is placed on the importance of wheel alignment and balancing. However, both add to tire life and are crucial aspects in ensuring road safety.
To improve a vehicle’s performance, each vehicle manufacturer provides specific preset angles to the wheels of their vehicles. Because of extensive driving, these angles might change significantly over time. Wheel alignment is a service process that adjusts these angles to be exactly parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground, as defined by the vehicle manufacturer.
This includes inspecting the tire tread as well as the three angles. Caster—the angle between the vertical and the steering pivot axis when viewed from the side of your vehicle; Camber—the inward or outward tilt of the wheel when viewed from the front; Toe—the angle derived from pointing the tires inward or outward when viewed from above.
Wheel alignment is generally suggested if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Drifting or pushing to one side of the road
- The steering wheel is off-center
- Accelerated or uneven tire wear
- Erratic braking
- The vibration of the steering wheel
The Importance of Proper Wheel Alignment
Out alignment wheels not only cause premature and uneven tire wear, but they also have a significant impact on your vehicle’s other critical systems such as the suspension, brakes, and steering. When the wheels are properly aligned, the extra stress generated on these systems is removed, resulting in less wear. When the angles are adjusted to the recommended specifications, you obtain greater straight-line stability, cornering performance, steering wheel returnability, and tire wear. And, most crucially, it improves vehicle safety. A wheel alignment saves money by reducing tire wear. A 2WD wheel alignment cost of one axle is $80 on average, and a 4WD wheel alignment on two axles costs $130 on average.
What Factors Contribute to Improper Wheel Alignment?
A common cause of a vehicle’s wheels coming out of alignment is a high-speed collision.
Potholes and manholes without covers can badly harm your car’s suspension, wheel alignment, and balancing, as well as drastically reduce your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and, more importantly, safety.
Small crashes and hitting a curb can also cause a car to come out of alignment, but because there is minimal obvious damage, drivers often disregard it.
Wheel balancing is inspecting the tire-wheel assembly for any heavy spots and correcting for the imbalanced weight by adding a measured weight made of lead, zinc, or steel on the opposite side of the heavy spot to even out the weight distribution.
Over time, the weight distribution around the axle fluctuates, resulting in an imbalance. This occurs as a result of your vehicle striking a curb, a pothole, or taking a sharp curve. This imbalance can put a strain on your steering system and wheel bearings, therefore it’s critical to have your wheels balanced to minimize extra wear on your vehicle’s systems. This treatment is often performed in conjunction with wheel alignment almost every 4350 miles. It is also done while purchasing new tires.
You can tell if your wheels are out of balance if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- seat, steering wheel, or floor vibrations
- accelerated and uneven tire wear
- tire noise
- issues with steering
The Significance of Wheel Balancing
Even minor imbalances can have a significant impact on your vehicle’s performance, especially while traveling at high speeds. Wheel balancing improves your vehicle’s performance by removing vibrations from the tire and wheel assembly, resulting in a smooth and comfortable ride. It also lessens the likelihood of premature tire wear.
The Risks of Driving on Unbalanced Wheels
The following are some of the most serious risks of driving an automobile with imbalanced wheels.
- Unbalanced wheels cause vibration, which can impair handling and make driving more uncomfortable.
- Unbalanced wheels can put a lot of strain on the wheel bearings and suspension components.
- In extreme circumstances, steering components can be destroyed, and the entire system may fail prematurely.
- It increases the need for extra energy and can reduce vehicle mileage.
It is important to note that not having properly aligned and balanced wheels can result in premature wear and a decrease in tire life. Furthermore, ignoring the symptoms can be costly and even dangerous.
When Should I Consider Wheel Alignment?
Alignment should be checked every 10,000 miles or six months, whichever comes first unless you know you’ve hit a pothole or other obstacle, in which case it should be done right away as a precaution.
Other information about wheel alignments that drivers should be aware of:
- A test drive is an ideal way to begin and end a correct wheel alignment.
- Before conducting an alignment, the front end and steering linkage should be inspected for wear.
- All of the tires should be in good condition with even wear patterns.
- If you have a tire that has high camber wear and you address the alignment fault that produced that wear, the tire will now only make partial contact with the road.
- Pulling issues aren’t usually caused by a misaligned wheel. Tire issues (particularly unequal air pressure), brakes, and power steering might all be to blame.
It is critical to highlight the importance of wheels and tires for safe driving. Tires are the only components that keep your car in physical contact with the road surface. They enable you to start, stop, and change course. If we jeopardize their capacity to do these essential responsibilities, we endanger ourselves and all other road users. On our crumbling roadways, ignoring wheel alignment and balancing is a major safety problem.