Wheel Alignment - Why is it so Important?
While keeping up with car maintenance can be costly and tiresome, it is undoubtedly one of the most important things that any driver must do to ensure a vehicle is safe and roadworthy. Wheel alignment is a vital aspect of regular car maintenance. Making sure your wheels are aligned is something that you need to be regularly checking. It’s especially crucial if you start to notice the signs of wheel misalignment in your vehicle.
Why is wheel alignment necessary?
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about wheel alignment and why it’s so important.
What is wheel alignment?
We’ll start with the basics. Wheel alignment is the process of adjusting the angle and directions of your car’s wheels, ensuring that this is in concordance with the specifications pre-set by your car’s manufacturer. These are established to ensure that your vehicle performs at an optimum level for ease of driving and, most importantly, safety.
What causes wheel misalignment?
Even when you get a brand-spanking-new car, it’s very possible for your wheels to become misaligned even within the first few weeks. It doesn’t matter how old, or new your vehicle is; no vehicle is exempt from the possibility of wheel misalignment.
Your wheels can become misaligned from things like driving down poorly maintained roads, hitting potholes, or even just hitting the curb. With an older vehicle, your wheels might become misaligned from wear and tear over time of parts of your car, such as suspension springs. Frustratingly, one relatively common cause of misalignment is simply that whoever last aligned your wheels did so incorrectly.
What are the signs of wheel misalignment?
Usually, you will be able to tell if your wheels need an alignment check. You’ll notice that something is wrong. Here are a few of the common signs that your wheels need to be aligned:
Uneven tyre wear - All tyres wear over time and with age, but usually, they last a fair amount of time, and the wear is even on both sides of the car. When your wheels are misaligned, one will be much more worn than the other, which you’ll either be able to see or feel.
Pulling - Wheel misalignment often causes your vehicle to pull either to the left or the right while you’re driving or braking.
Steering - When your wheels are misaligned, it can make steering more complex; you may have to concentrate more to ensure you are driving straight. A crooked steering wheel may also be an indication of wheel misalignment.
Why is wheel alignment so important?
Correct wheel alignment is essential for a number of reasons.
Wear and tear
Firstly, let’s talk about wear and tear. This is particularly relevant for your tyres. Misaligned tyres can cause rapid wear and tear as well as premature ageing which will ultimately decrease the life of your tyre. This is because when your wheels aren’t aligned properly, more pressure and weight is put onto certain areas of the misaligned tyre, rather than being spread evenly. It’s not just tyres, though; wheel misalignment can also wear your suspension and even your brakes.
Misalignment will cause your wheels to drag, which will lead to an increase in your fuel consumption. Cars are already costly - think about how much more you may end up spending unnecessarily! While many are put off wheel alignment because they perceive it to be too expensive, it’ll actually save you money over time in fuel and maintenance costs.
But the number one reason why wheel alignment is important comes down to safety. Misalignment isn’t just irritating or costly - it can put lives in danger, too.
Wear and tear isn’t just a maintenance issue. As tyres wear over time, they reduce their level of tread. This happens to every car, but normally, this is spread evenly across your wheels over time. When your wheels are misaligned, tread can become massively reduced on only one tyre or only on specific parts of the tyre - which really limits your control over the vehicle. It has a huge impact on braking distance, which is problematic at the best of times but could genuinely put your life in danger if you needed to brake suddenly due to a hazard.
Likewise, the difficulty steering, which can be caused by wheel misalignment, can be far more dangerous than it can be irritating. If the car is rolling to the left or right and it’s making it more difficult for you to control the car, this could pose a severe problem should you be required to make a sudden manoeuvre to avoid a hazard or collision.
It’s absolutely vital to ensure that you are considering wheel alignment as a standard part of your car maintenance programme. Not only will doing so give you financial savings in terms of wear and tear and fuel consumption, but it’s a pivotal part of keeping your car roadworthy and ensuring the safety of you and other road users.
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