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How To Know When it’s Time for a Wheel Alignment

12 Sep How To Know When it’s Time for a Wheel Alignment

If you’re driving and feel your car drifting to one side and you’re forced to turn the steering wheel from its usual center position for driving straight ahead, your wheels are most likely out of alignment. This may have been caused by hitting a curb while trying to park or maybe a deep pothole while driving.

Before heading off to your local mechanic or tyre store for a wheel alignment, which could cost you anywhere from R871.44 – R1,452.40 for most makes of cars, you might want to first get your tyre pressure checked. When tyres are underinflated, this too can cause a car to pull towards one side, so it’s a good idea to first eliminate this as a possible cause.

It would also be smart to inspect all your tyres for uneven wear, looking to see if the tread is worn down or completely off along one edge. This too signals an issue with wheel alignment. However, for most people it’s not easy to tell if their tyres are wearing down normally or excessively. Unless you’re a mechanic or change tyres for a living, you will probably need an expert to advise you.

If your wheels are vibrating, that wouldn’t be caused by them being out of alignment. Vibrating wheels are usually caused by them being bent (from potholes maybe), out of balance or due to worn out suspension parts. Having your wheels aligned won’t take care of these types of problems.

Certain types of vehicles only require the front wheels to be aligned, but many models of cars must have all four wheels in alignment. The specifications for an alignment differ by make and model of vehicle, so it’s not just a matter of having all four wheels pointed straight ahead.

wheel alignment

Depending on the make and model of a vehicle, accurate alignment requires setting the camber, which is the inward or outward tilting of the wheels when you look at them head on. It also involves setting the caster, which is the tilt of the wheels front or back when you look at them from the side, as well as looking down on the wheels from above, which is called “toe-in/toe-out.”

To get more out of your tyres you will have to check your car’s wheel alignment regularly – and not just when you feel a shudder or a shake.

Vehicle manufacturers do not usually list wheel alignment on the maintenance schedule they recommend to owners, so it remains an open question as to how often the wheels on a vehicle should be checked and/or realigned. Arrive Alive recommends that alignment should be checked every 10,000 km or 6 months, whichever occurs first, unless you know that you have hit a pothole, or some other object, in which case it should be done immediately as a precaution. If your vehicle drives easily in a perfectly straight line, your wheels are most likely properly aligned. However, it would still be smart to have your wheels checked annually to see if they’re out of alignment, like when you go in to get your tyres rotated.

You should definitely have the wheels aligned on your car when you have new tyres put on, otherwise you run the risk of your new tyres starting to wear down unevenly. Many repair shops guarantee their alignment work for a year, so take your vehicle back to have your wheels checked before the guarantee is up, assuming they would realign them for free.

Read more about wheel balance, wheel alignment on arrivealive.co.za