By Rodgers Bunduki
In our busy daily lives, it is easy to overlook the importance of car wheel alignment. Yet, this seemingly minor aspect of vehicle maintenance plays a significant role in enhancing the driving experience while saving money in the long run.
Proper wheel alignment involves adjusting the angles of the wheels to ensure they are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. When done correctly, it not only keeps the car driving straight and smoothly but also extends the lifespan of the tyres.
There are three types of wheel alignment: front-end, thrust, and four-wheel alignment. The specific type required depends on the suspension system of the vehicle. Front-end alignment, also known as “toe-in” or “toe and go” alignment, focuses on adjusting the front axle of a vehicle, making it suitable for cars with a solid rear axle. However, many tyre fitters consider this type of alignment inadequate for modern cars due to its incomplete nature.
Thrust alignment, on the other hand, ensures that all four wheels are precisely aligned with each other. It is highly recommended for vehicles equipped with a solid rear suspension, as it significantly improves on-road performance, tyre durability, fuel economy, and overall safety. This type of alignment is important especially following accidents or severe impacts on the suspension – such as hitting a curb.
For cars or 4WDs with four-wheel independent suspensions, as well as front-wheel drive vehicles with adjustable rear suspensions, the four-wheel alignment is ideal. This comprehensive alignment process combines the features of front-end and thrust alignments while also measuring and adjusting the rear axle angles. It ensures that all four corners of the vehicle adhere to the manufacturer’s specifications, delivering superior handling, durability, fuel economy, and safety.
There are several indicators that suggest your vehicle may require a wheel alignment. Firstly, if your car tends to pull to one side while driving, it is likely experiencing misalignment. Wheel alignment corrects this issue, enabling optimal contact with the road surface. Secondly, non-aligned tyres cause uneven wear on the tread. For instance, when the front wheels are misaligned, the tyres may wear out more on the inside edges.
Another sign of misalignment is when your tyres squeal during turns. This noise indicates that the tyres are sliding instead of gripping the road, leading to a loss of traction. Lastly, if you notice steering wheel vibrations while driving, it is essential to have your vehicle inspected by a mechanic. They can check the alignment of your wheels and make any necessary adjustments to ensure proper alignment.
But why is wheel alignment so crucial? Consider this: the portion of your car’s tyre tread that maintains contact with the road at any given moment is only about the size of your hand. When the wheels are misaligned, it causes uneven wear on the tyres, further reducing this contact area. As a result, the grip on the road is compromised, posing a risk of losing control of the vehicle.
Moreover, misaligned wheels not only affect the tyres but also lead to premature wear on other vital components, including the suspension and braking systems. Just as poor posture affects the entire body, misalignment can have a detrimental impact on your vehicle’s overall performance and longevity.
To ensure optimal wheel alignment, it is recommended to have it checked annually or every 10,000 kilometers, whichever comes first. However, frequent driving on rough roads may necessitate more frequent checks. If any signs of misalignment, such as uneven tyre wear or the car pulling to one side, are observed, it is crucial to have the alignment checked promptly. By addressing alignment issues promptly, you can avoid additional costs and potential safety hazards in the future.
Proper car wheel alignment should never be underestimated. It not only enhances the driving experience by ensuring a smooth and straight ride but also saves money by extending tyre life and preventing premature wear on other crucial components. By prioritizing wheel alignment as part of regular vehicle maintenance, drivers can enjoy improved performance, increased safety, and long-term savings.