Thursday Tip: Why is having your wheels aligned important?
Wheel Alignment Basics
Did you know? A wheel alignment service actually involves adjusting the vehicle’s suspension – not actually the tyres or wheels. That being said, the direction and angles that the tyres point after the wheel alignment is complete are critically important.
There are five key components to a good wheel alignment service: caster, camber, toe, thrust and ride height.
These are covered in detail below:
Caster is the angle of the steering axis (the part of the suspension that supports the wheel and tyre assembly). Viewed from the side of the vehicle, an imaginary line drawn between the centres of the upper and lower ball joints forms an angle with true vertical; this is defined as caster.
The illustration shows whether this angle is referred to as positive or negative. Caster is important to steering feel and high-speed stability.
Viewed from the front of the vehicle, camber describes the inward or outward tilt of the tyre. The illustration shows whether this tilt is referred to as positive or negative.
The camber adjustment maximises the tyre-to-road contact, and takes into account the changes of force when a vehicle is turning. Camber is the one adjustment that can be set according to driving habits.
Generally, if you drive more aggressively when concerning, a more negative camber can be set. If you drive on motorways and do very little hard cornering, more positive camber can be set.
Toe describes whether the fronts of the tyres are closer (toe-in) or farther apart (toe-out) than the rears of the tyres. The illustration shows this relationship, viewed from above.
To settings vary between front and rear wheel drive vehicles. In a front wheel drive, the front wheels try to pull toward each other when the vehicle is in motion, which requires a compensating toe-out setting. A rear-wheel drive vehicle works just the opposite, necessitating a toe-in setting.
Stated differently, toe is set to let the tyres roll in parallel (at zero toe) when the vehicle is in motion.
Put simply, ride height is the distance between the vehicle’s frame and the road. This is the reference point for all alignment measures. Vehicle customising very often will include raising or lowering the vehicle. If you do this, don’t forget to have a wheel alignment service afterwards. This also applies if you put a taller or shorter tyre on your vehicle.
Misalignment and Tyre Wear
By now you may have concluded that poor tyre wear and misalignment are closely related. That of course is true, but what can be done to minimise this condition?
Many of the above wheel alignment conditions can be easily determined, if you know what to look out for.
To help with this, take a look at the following chart:
Tyre Wear Symptom
Incorrect camber setting
Premature smooth wear on either inside or outside shoulder
Incorrect toe setting
Feathered wear across tread; raised tread block edges
Incorrect caster setting
Excessive shoulder wear; tread blocks show “heel-toe” wear pattern
Unequal caster setting
(either right or left side is out of specification)
Sharp pulling necessitates steering compensation and feather wear
Unequal toe setting
Sharp pulling necessitates steering compensation and feathered wear
Combination of two or more settings are out of specification
Irregular tread wear, with feathering and smooth spots
This chart is not exhaustive, but if you learn to spot these symptoms early, you can get a lot more tread wear from your tyres. Alternatively, you can always pop into your local Tyrepower and speak to a professional who will be able to diagnose your tyres.
It’s important to note that tyres take the brunt of a range of problems. Replacing the old ones is not always the solution. For example, in a lot of cases a worn suspension is the cause of a wheel alignment problem. If you simply replaced the tyres, you’d quickly find your new tyres begin to reflect the same problems you had before.
There are many other parts that can wear out and cause wheel alignment issues. On older vehicles, worn springs can lower a vehicle’s ride height, altering its geometry and creating a misalignment (as mentioned above, all alignment settings are dependent on ride height). Weak springs can also contribute to uneven or “cupped” tyre wear.
Another common problem is worn ball joints. The symptoms here are erratic handling, slow steering response and irregular tyre wear. Finally, worn tie roads can allow the tyre to wander left to right, effectively changing toe as the vehicle rolls down the road. Irregular feathering will develop on the tyre tread when this is the problem.
If your tyres haven’t been fitted properly, this can cause imbalances and lead to your wheels becoming misaligned. That’s why it’s always recommended you get a professional to complete your tyre fittings.
Again, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but if you stay alert to these common problems, it may help you schedule an early visit to your mechanic and save on tyre wear.
Get Your Tyres Checked!
If you get your wheels aligned then you will have given yourself the best possible chance to avoid any issues related to your tyres.
As we have seen, your car’s tyres are critical to road safety. Therefore, it is imperative that you check your tyres constantly. As with anything, if problems are left unchecked, no matter how big or small they are, they can wreak havoc on other parts of the car.
Book your tyre inspection in Gorey with Oliver’s Car Service Centre today!
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To the untrained eye, the side wall of a tyre can look like a meaningless set of numbers, letters and symbols. Hidden amongst these is the tyre size. But what does it look like and, more importantly, what does it mean?
One of the most important aspects of car maintenance, which is often overlooked, is tyre condition and safety. As, and it can’t be stated often enough, the tyres of your car are the ONLY thing that is on your car that connects with the road. So when you add to this that you have no control over the road condition, you must keep your car tyres in the best shape that you can. There is a 5 point plan that, if you follow, will give you the best chance to keep your tyres in good condition and you safe on the road.
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