Imagine yourself driving down the most picturesque road in the world. Now picture yourself again cruising down that same road—only this time your wheels are pointing in the wrong direction. Not the most beautiful road in the world anymore, right?
This scenario is what any driver would never want to experience, and what tyre alignment is supposed to prevent.
Tyre alignment, or also known as wheel alignment, refers to a process in which a car’s suspension, the system that makes the connection of a vehicle to its wheels, is brought to its proper configuration, positioning and adjusting components in order to make proper contact with the road. It is not an adjustment of the tyres or wheel, per se.
Alignment helps your tyres perform properly and prevents them from early wear. Aside from improving handling, it also ensures that your vehicle travels straight and prevents it from vibrating on the road.
Signs That You Need Tyre Alignment
There are a lot of signs that indicate you need a tyre alignment. These are:
- Uneven tread wear
- Vehicle pulling to the left or right
- Your steering wheel is off centre when driving straight
- Steering wheel vibration
When you observe one or more of these signs, have your car checked right away by a licensed service technician.
Major Tyre Alignment Parameters: Camber, Toe and Caster
Camber, Toe and Caster are the main concerns of a technician in checking for tyre alignment.
Camber, as viewed from the front of the vehicle, is the inward or outward angle of the wheel. A negative camber has a tyre that has an exaggerated inward or outward tilt. A positive camber on the other hand indicates an improper alignment. Other factors that contribute to wheel misalignment are the worn-bearings, ball joints and other wheel-suspension parts.
Toe alignment is different from camber alignment in which the latter is viewed from above. When tyres of your car are angled inward, it’s called a toe-in alignment. Conversely, if it is angles outward, it’s called toe-out alignment. Adjustments are required for both.
Aside from the two mentioned above, caster is the angle of your steering axis that is viewed from the side of your vehicle. It helps in balance steering, stability and cornering. A positive caster means the steering axis is tilted towards the driver. While a negative caster means the steering axis tilts toward the front of the vehicle.
Why Tyre Alignment Matters
When the tyres are improperly aligned, it can cause it to wear earlier than expected and unevenly. Specific types of undue tread wear are due to misalignment such as Feathering, Camber Wear and Heel/Toe Wear.
Unwarranted Tread Wear Explained
- Poor toe alignment can cause tires to feather which means the tread is smooth on one side and sharp on the other.
- A positive or negative camber causes the inside and outside of the tread to wear more than centre.
- When one tread blocks wears down rapidly than the other in a circumferential direction, heel/toe wear happens. It will feel like saw teeth when you run over it with your hand. It can be a sign of under inflation and/or lack of rotation.
When you observe all these odd wear patterns, a check with your technician for the alignment is probable. Tyre alignment has an impact in your overall vehicle performance. Therefore, it is better to always keep it in check.