What is Wheel Alignment? | How to Align the Car Wheel?

Wheel or tire alignment helps to retain the wheel at the optimal angle so that the wheels can grab the road firmly. The deviation of the alignment angle from its actual value may cause the tire to wear and drift towards one side of the road.

The alignment of the wheels enhances the durability and performance of the tires. Wheels usually become misaligned due to uneven surfaces or bad roads like bumpy roads or roads with holes and curves. This article explains the causes and symptoms of wheel misalignment.

What is Wheel Alignment?

Wheel alignment, also known as “tire alignment” or “tracking,” is a mechanical adjustment process of the car suspension at the optimal angles to ensure the proper angle of the car tires with the rod.

Wheel Alignment

The suspension system connects the wheels of the car to its body. Accordingly, the wheel alignment helps your car to grab the road firmly at some suitable angles and avoid unnecessary drifting, vibrations, and unstable conditions.

The main purpose of the wheel alignment is to ensure the proper angle of the car wheels so that they run smoothly and consistently. Since it ensures that both front and rear wheels should connect from the road at the same aligned angles.

Why is Wheel Alignment Important?

Wheel alignment helps to protect the wheels, brakes, suspension, and steering of your car from slow damage and maximize their life. 

Tire alignment also improves the durability, stability, and overall performance of your vehicle.

It also ensures your safety from any unpleasant incident due to the car’s one-sided drift.

Sometimes your car vibrates or shudders while driving along the road. It’s because of the poor alignment of your car’s wheels. So, to experience a smooth ride, the proper alignment of wheels is very important.  

How to Align the Wheels

For the inspection of your car’s alignment, these three angles are analyzed by the technicians:

  • Caster
  • Camber
  • Toe

This analysis is done with the help of an alignment machine and also through visual inspection.

So, let’s find out about these three checkpoints.

1) Caster

The angle between the lower ball joint and the upper ball joint of the steering mechanism is known as the Caster angle.

Caster

In other words, the Caster is to see at what angle the steering axis is tilted. Usually, the steering axis of the car is titled more towards the driver seat, which is known as the “Positive Caster.”

Similarly, a “Negative Caster” is when the steering axis is leaning against the driver’s seat. The caster angle keeps the steering at an ideal height and helps the car to be stable at high speed. 

2) Camber

The angle between the road and the wheel of your car is known as “Camber .”It is the angle of the wheel to the car’s body. It may be outward or inward. Camber deals with the tire connectivity from the road and determines its life and durability.

Camber

3) Toe

The term “Toe” refers to the angle between the tires. It helps in evaluating if the wheels are pointing straight or not. There are two types of Toe angles:

  1. “Toe In” is when the tires are pointing towards the car.
  2. “Toe Out” is when the wheels of your car are pointing away from the car. Toe affects the stability of the car through turns and curves.

Toe angle for tire alignment

Usually, mechanics check the wheel alignment through the test drive of the car. The vibrating steering wheel and the leaning of the car toward one side are their major concerns. 

Symptoms and Causes of Wheel Misalignment

Let’s discuss the causes and symptoms of wheel misalignment.

Causes of Wheel Misalignment

Various factors can cause the wheel misalignment of your car. Here are the major causes of tire or wheel misalignment:

  • Hitting on road debris and curbs
  • Vehicle collisions
  • Vehicle mods like lifting
  • Structs, bad shocks, and other suspension parts 
  • When you drive your car across Texan road, all those debris, small holes, pits, cracks, and bumps may cause the misalignment of your car wheels. 

causes of wheel misalignment

Symptoms of Wheel Misalignment

As the wheel alignment of the car goes bad, it gives one of the below-given symptoms:

1) Vibration in Steering Wheel

Vibration in the steering wheel can be due to the unbalanced tires, but it can also be a symptom of wheel misalignment. Vibration in the steering wheel originates when both the tires pull in the opposite direction.

Steering Wheel

Read More: Working of Axle

2) Uneven tire Wear Patterns

The tires of your car must have similar wear patterns. Check your car’s front and rear wheels if they have the same wear pattern or not.

If both tires have the same, then your car is most possibly properly aligned. Always insist your mechanic inspect the tread whenever you go for car service. This process will help the mechanic to find the tire misalignment issues of your car.

Uneven tire Wear Patterns

3) Sharp pulling in one direction

Sharp pulling of your car in only one direction is one of the clear symptoms of wheel misalignment. However, if the tire is at perfect pressure and your car still drifts at one side, then it may be due to wheel misalignment. 

Sharp pulling in one direction due to wheel misalignment

4) Crooked Steering Wheel

While driving your car, always keep notice of your steering wheel. There are chances that you are driving with a little twisted steering wheel as a correction of your car’s misaligned wheels. The wheel may be unaligned from its central axis. If it’s happening, that is a major symptom that your car needs to be aligned.

Crooked Steering Wheel

5) Minor Pulling

Despite sharp pulling that led your car to a noticeable drift, the car can have a minor pulling while driving.

One method to check this slight pulling of your car is to drive your car slowly in a vacant place and release the steering wheel. If the car drifts in either direction, it indicates your car needs alignment.

Read More: Signs and causes of a bad MAP Sensor

Advantages of Wheel Alignment

  1. The gas mileage of your car can be decreased by 10% in case of misalignment. Hence, wheel alignment helps you to save fuel and money.
  2. Wheel or tire alignment helps you to get a smooth ride. Else you may experience some vibrations, jarring, and a bumpy ride.
  3. In the case of misaligned tires, a minor jolt can be a reason for a big problem. Spending a little on wheel alignment can save you from spending a lot on big damages. 
  4. Wheels alignment help to keep your steering wheel in a stable and perfect position. In case of misalignment, you should have to grab the steering wheel at a little tilted position all the time. That can be a little awkward sometimes. 
  5. Misalignment decreases the life of your tires and leads to uneven tire wear. In case of delays in wheel alignment, it may result in buying brand-new tires for your car.

Wheel Alignment Cost

The cost of a wheel alignment depends on the car’s model and the cost of your mechanic labor services, including the cost of the tools they used. The average cost of the alignment of the front or rear wheels may range from $40 to $110.

Similarly, in the case of all four-wheel alignment, you have to spend about $110 to $210. The experts always suggest a four-wheel alignment to get the best results.

Factors affecting the Wheel Alignment Cost

The cost of your car’s wheel alignment highly depends on the following factors:

  1. Wheels Count: Front-end alignment includes the alignment of only two front wheels of your car and can be aligned for about $45 to $110. In contrast, the four-wheel alignment may cost from $90 to $160. So, by increasing the number of wheels, the alignment cost also increases.
  2. Suspension Condition: In case of any damage to any part of your car’s steering and suspension, you may need to spend more money to get your car aligned correctly.
  3. Car Type: Wheel alignment also depends on the car you are driving. Usually, luxury cars cost you more to get that wheel alignment job done than normal casual cars. These luxury cars need some specialized equipment and more time to get aligned.
  4. Labor Cost: Labor costs for wheel alignment may vary from mechanic to mechanic. Skillful mechanics can cost you more than others. Similarly, labor costs may vary from location to location; it depends on where you are.
  5. Extra Service Charges: Some extra services like tire balancing repair and replacement can cost you more.

FAQ Section

How does wheel alignment be helpful for my car?

Wheel alignment is helpful for your car in many ways: It helps you to have a smooth ride by eliminating vibrations and bumps. Proper alignment also increases your tire’s life and gas mileage. It helps you in saving both money and fuel.

How do I find out if my car needs a wheel alignment?

If you notice one of the below-given symptoms, it means your car wheels need alignment:

  1. One side drift off your vehicle
  2. Uneven tire wear
  3. Bumpy and vibrated ride
  4. rooked steering wheel
  5. Squealing tires

What is important wheel balancing or wheel alignment?

Wheel balancing and wheel alignment are both different. Many of us confuse them with each other. Wheel balancing is balancing the weight of your tires.

In contrast, wheel alignment is to correct the alignment of your car tires. Both are necessary to attain the maximum durability and life of the tires. Your car needs tire balancing frequently in contrast to car alignment.

What is the purpose of four-wheel alignment?

A four-wheel alignment is to align all four wheels of your car. The technician has to work on the caster, camber, and toe of the front and the rear wheels. Misalignment of rear wheels causes the same problems as the front wheels do. Hence it is recommended to get four-wheel alignment for your car.

Is it safe to drive a bad-aligned car?

Generally, you can drive any car which is facing some alignment issues, but it can be dangerous. One of the major concerns is that it may cause a car to drift towards only one side, which may result in huge damage.

What is the life of the car tires?

On average, people used to drive about 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year. Thus, the life of a wheel can be from three to five years. Its life also depends on the driving style maintenance and some other external conditions.

What are the signs of Wheel Misalignment?

  1. Minor pulling in one direction
  2. Vibration in the steering wheel
  3. Crooked steering wheel
  4. Sharp pulling in one direction
  5. Uneven tire wear patterns

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