Potholes. A driver’s worst nightmare, right?

Before you know it, you’ve hit another one, causing an eye-watering shudder to travel through your steering wheel and straight to where it hurts most: your wallet.

If you’re lucky, you might escape damage-free, but for the less fortunate drivers amongst us, you could end up with a cracked wheel, puncture, or, in extreme cases, unaligned wheels.

So, to get you back on track (quite literally), here’s everything you need to know about wheel alignment – in three minutes.

What is wheel alignment?

Otherwise known as tracking, wheel alignment is the laser-led process of correcting the angle and positioning of your vehicle’s wheels.

At its core, it involves setting each wheel at its optimum degree, as per the recommended positioning outlined in your vehicle manufacturing specification.

How do wheels become unaligned?

There are many reasons why wheels become unaligned, but the main offenders include cold weather, driving over potholes, hitting a kerb, or excessive wear to suspension or steering components.

How often should I check my wheel alignment?

At a minimum, you should check your vehicle’s wheel alignment once a year, or every 6,000 miles – whichever comes first.

However, if it’s noticeable that your steering is drifting to one side, we strongly recommend you book a vehicle health check straightaway.

Leaving your vehicle unaligned can result in expensive repairs caused by additional stress to compensating components.

How can I tell if my wheels need aligning?

There are many tell-tale signs your vehicle has misaligned wheels, most noticeably:

  • drifting or pulling to one side
  • vibrating steering wheel
  • unsteady braking
  • rubbing noises at low speeds
  • uneven or premature tyre wear

In any instance, make sure you get your vehicle checked out before further damage is caused to other steering or suspension components.

How are wheels realigned?

Okay, here’s where things get a little more technical!

Following the specifications set out in your vehicle manufacturer handbook, laser alignment devices are clamped to each wheel to determine their angle and direction.

Once the system has shared your vehicle’s current mapping results, our mechanics isolate and reposition each wheel by reconfiguring the necessary suspension and steering components.

Unless additional repairs are required to correct your steering, the process usually takes an hour to complete.

What does ‘toe-in’ and ‘toe-out’ mean?

When it comes to understanding the meaning of toe-in and toe-out, the clue is in the name.

If your front tyres point inwards, this is known as toe-in (positive), and should your tyres point outwards, this is called toe-out (negative).

Depending on whether your vehicle is front- or rear-wheel drive, either toe-in or toe-out settings can be implemented to improve overall handling and stability.

(Whilst we’re discussing terminology, you might also like to know that the ‘shoulder’ refers to the area of a tyre where the tread meets the sidewall.)

What are the benefits of aligned wheels?

Apart from knowing your vehicle isn’t going to drift off the road anytime soon, other benefits for correctly aligned wheels include:

  • longer-lasting tyres
  • increased fuel economy
  • improved handling
  • smoother driving experience
  • fewer auto repairs

What’s the difference between wheel balancing and wheel alignment?

Understandably, these terms are often confused, so let’s clear this one up once and for all.

Where wheel balancing corrects the uneven distribution of weight in wheels, wheel alignment refers to adjusting handling components that connect a vehicle to its wheels, such as the suspension system.

Both can become unaligned or imbalanced by changes in air temperature, as well as driving over potholes, kerbs, and speed bumps at high speeds.

Where can I get my wheels realigned?

At C R Allen & Sons, we have the equipment to realign wheels on all types of vehicle – no matter the make or model.

Unless our mechanic identifies any other fault, our sit-and-wait alignment service usually takes one hour to complete.

How much does wheel alignment cost?

Our wheel alignment service costs £72 incl. VAT.

Once your vehicle has been realigned, you’ll receive a before-and-after printout detailing the angle and direction of each wheel in degrees.

If you want to know more about wheel alignment, or wish to book your vehicle in for a health check, get in touch with a C R Allen & Sons advisor today.

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