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Wheel Alignment: How it’s done

Vehicle wheels must be aligned regularly to ensure safety and prolong the service life of various automobile components.

When talking about the process, the most common questions are “What is wheel alignment?”, “When should wheels be aligned?” and “How can I tell if my wheels are misaligned?”.

To get the answers to these questions, read on, as we’ll be explaining how to align your vehicle’s wheels, how important wheel alignment is, and how much it costs.

 

What is wheel alignment?

Wheel alignment is a process that aims to align vehicle tyres in terms of their angle, both in relation to the car body and to each other.

These two parameters must be adjusted according to the manufacturer’s specifications and tyre needs. Therefore, your car’s wheel alignment should be performed in a garage or by a retreading specialist.

 

How can you tell if your wheels are misaligned?

To detect any alignment problems, run your hand over the tyre tread from the outside in. If you notice that there is any unevenness, it may be a sign that you need to get your wheels aligned.

 

 

When should you get your wheels aligned?

All vehicle owners should get their wheels aligned once a year or every 20000 km. It is also recommended that car owners align their wheels when fitting new tyres or replacing suspension or steering parts.

They should, however, be aware of the following signs and get their wheels aligned early if they spot any of them.

If you’re wondering, “How do you know if your car wheels need aligning?”, be extra aware of your car displaying any strange or unusual behaviour.

 

What are the tell-tale signs that your car needs its wheels aligned?

Here are the main signs that your car needs its wheels aligned:

  • Your car steering wheel is not aligned when driving in a straight line;
  • Your vehicle “pulls” to one side;
  • The front wheels vibrate;
  • Increased fuel consumption;
  • Excessive, uneven tyre wear;
  • The steering wheel does not return to the centre as soon as it is released;
  • A poorly operational braking system that oscillates when braking.

If you feel that your steering wheel is too loose or you’re facing difficulties getting your car around corners, also check your tyre balance.

 

 

What are the advantages of aligning your vehicle wheels?

In short, aligning your vehicle wheels allows you to:

  • Extend the service life of tyres;
  • Increase your safety thanks to the stability provided by aligned wheels;
  • Save fuel, as aligned wheels will enable you to minimise rolling resistance;
  • Improve vehicle performance, as tyre grip is rendered more effective, and steering becomes lighter and easier to handle;
  • Reduce costs relating to preventive maintenance, as it prolongs steering components and suspension life spans.

 

How does the wheel alignment process work?

The process involves adjusting wheel angles:

 

Camber (vertical tilt) angle

The camber, or vertical tilt angle, is the angle at which the wheel tilts when viewed from the front of the vehicle. If the wheel tilt is too great, it will produce uneven wear.

When the tilt angle is positive, the top of the wheel is positioned away from the vehicle, and the outer edge of the tyre will experience more wear.

If the tilt angle of the wheel is negative, the upper part of the tyre will be closer to the car, leading to the inner part of the wheel experiencing greater wear.

 

Tyre convergence

Where tyre convergence is concerned, which is equally important when it comes to steering alignment, there are only two possibilities for failure: convergence and divergence.

These are expressed as the difference between the front of the wheels and the rear. The values of this parameter will influence the vehicle’s stability as it moves in a straight line.

  • When there is convergence, the front of the wheels on either axle are closer to the vehicle than the rear of the wheels. Under these circumstances, if there is considerable convergence, the amount of wear on tyre edges will increase;
  • Tyre divergence happens when the rear of the wheels of either axle are closer to the car body than the front. If the wheel angle exceeds that recommended by the manufacturer, the tyre will experience increased wear on its inner edge.

 

 

How is wheel alignment carried out?

Although guides are available that show you how to align your wheels manually, effective wheel alignment must be done by a professional who will be responsible for meeting the technical specifications applicable to your vehicle’s suspension.

 

Which tools and equipment are required to align vehicle wheels?

In addition to having the knowledge necessary, mechanics must have access to a range of wheel alignment equipment, such as a wheel alignment machine and a specific alignment lift (available in the KROFtools catalogue).

 

How long does it take to align vehicle wheels?

Wheel alignment procedures generally take about 30 minutes for each axle, that is, one hour for a car’s front and rear axles. However, the time taken may vary depending on how misaligned the wheels are.

 

How much does wheel alignment cost?

The price of aligning the wheels of light vehicles varies depending on vehicle wheel conditions and other factors, such as the vehicle manufacturer. However, generally speaking, prices range from 10 to 40 euros.

Although you may think it’s just one procedure, wheel alignment requires 2 different processes: aligning a vehicle’s wheels and steering wheel.

 

Is wheel alignment the same as wheel balancing?

Wheel alignment consists of ensuring the axles and wheels on each axle are parallel to one another.

Wheel balancing, on the other hand, is a mechanical adjustment process that prevents vehicles from vibrating no matter the speed they are driving at, regardless of driving style.

This optimises vehicle stability, reducing asymmetric tyre wear and loss of grip.

 

Why is it important to keep a vehicle’s wheels aligned?

Tyre pressure changes over time as a vehicle is used, as do wheel angles due to some suspension components becoming deformed.

To prevent these factors from worsening and to ensure a stable, safe ride, wheels must be aligned.

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