Tire maintenance & safety
Regular upkeep of your vehicle reduces the chances of getting stranded in the middle of your journey. The most ignored aspect, the tire, needs your special attention as it is your only contact with the road. Thorough maintenance and periodic checks of a tire’s air pressure, wear, balancing, and alignment are vital to preventing further issues. But what is tire alignment, and why does it matter?
What is tire alignment?
Alignment of tires involves setting the angle of wheels in the right position so that they are parallel to each other and the ground. A vehicle’s suspension setup is altered to make this happen and not the actual wheels, and perfectly aligned tires provide optimum performance and balanced ride quality.
Signs that your car needs an alignment
Whether a tire rotation and alignment or tire balance and alignment is needed, there are signs that highlight and help you identify the exact tire problem.
Here are the signs it’s time for a wheel alignment:
- You notice uneven or unusual wear of tire/s
- When driving straight, the steering wheel seems crooked
- Keeping the car straight takes extra effort as it pulls to the right or left
- Too much vibration or noise from the steering wheel
- Tires are giving off a squealing sound
The importance of having tires aligned?
Timely wheel alignments ensure your tires are in the right shape and last longer. Here are the advantages of a wheel alignment:
- Misaligned wheels tend to wear faster and unevenly. Faster wearing reduces their service life and you need to replace them sooner than their estimated replacement time. Unevenly worn tires put pressure on the suspension, steering, and other parts, causing them to wear faster too. You can avoid this by taking a close look at your tires at least once a week.
- Aligned tires ensure you get optimum gas mileage from your vehicle. Improper car alignment resists the free motion of the wheel which puts extra pressure on the engine to move the car. All of this is to say, misaligned wheels and tires require more gas than a regular car with aligned wheels.
- The ride quality takes a big hit if the wheel alignment is not done for some time. The car will either pull to the right or left and the steering wheel will vibrate, making your drive uncomfortable and stressful. Quickly scheduling a tire realignment will allow you to regain your smooth ride quality as earlier.
How long does a tire alignment take?
In a standard setup, a tire alignment of a vehicle, either two-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive, should not take more than 60 minutes. However, if there are damages to the track rod, suspension system, steering bushing, and other related parts, the process may take longer than usual as some parts may require repair/replacement.
How often should you get your tires aligned?
Typically, a driver should have a wheel alignment completed every 1 or 2 years. That being said, this could vary depending on your vehicle, driving style, road conditions, wheels, and the condition of your suspension.
How to get your tires aligned
While you can align your tires yourself, it’s highly recommended that you consult a professional as the wheel and suspension are vital parts of your vehicle. Any minor hiccup may cause larger issues,so always take the assistance of a professional technician who is certified and trained to service your vehicle. A perfectly done tire alignment job will help you reap the benefits of a smooth drive, more gas mileage, and longer tire life.
The different types of tire alignment
There are three types of tire alignment – front-end, thrust, and four-wheel. Depending on the suspension system of your vehicle, the type of wheel alignment will differ. Your technician will be able to guide you on which one works best in your case.
- Front-end alignment/Two-wheel alignment: A basic alignment type, front-end alignment requires adjustments to the front axle of the vehicle. This is usually done in older vehicles as modern cars do not require this alignment. Leaving the thrust and rear wheels, only the front wheels are aligned towards the center of the vehicle.
- Thrust alignment: Combining front-end alignment, the thrust alignment is done to ensure all four wheels are squared with one another. If the centerline of the rear axle isn’t at the right angle, it’ll lead to the rear wheels deflecting the path of the front wheels and constant steering input will be required to keep the car straight.
- Four-wheel alignment: All four wheels on both axles are aligned in the four-wheel alignment process. It’s ensured the wheels are parallel to each other, the ground, and the centerline or thrust.
The tire alignment process
- Once you’ve parked your car at the service station, the technician will take a test drive to understand the ‘irregularities’ with the vehicle alignment.
- At the service center, your car will be hoisted up and the mechanic will examine the suspension and tires for any wear. If everything is working well, they will proceed with the alignment process. Otherwise, they’ll first fix or replace the damaged part.
- The tire pressure will be checked next, and if it’s fine, the tire alignment begins.
- Your vehicle will be hooked to an alignment machine and the professional will begin setting the suspension angles at the carmaker’s recommended settings. During the process, the mechanic will check the angles of the toe, camber, and caster.
- Toe: It’s the angle at which the tires turn when viewed from the top.
- Camber: It’s the vertical angle, inward or outward, when viewed from the front/back.
- Caster: It’s the steering axis, forward or backward, when viewed from the sides.
- A real-time computer notifies when the required angles are met.
- Your steering wheel is checked whether it’s centered, if not, it’s corrected.
- Lastly, a quick test drive to ensure the tire alignment is correct.
Often overlooked, getting a tire alignment is vital to maintaining or improving the performance of your car as it helps to prevent uneven wear to your tires, suspension, and vehicle. If you notice that your vehicle is pulling to one side of the road or another, then it’s time to schedule an alignment to get your ride on the right track!
After the alignment, you can take your vehicle to a straight road with less traffic and gradually lift your hands off the steering to see if it’s wandering left or right. If it does so, the tire realignment isn’t done correctly. If it drives straight without wandering, your alignment is perfect.
If you don’t get a tire alignment, your tires will wear faster and unevenly, your gas mileage will take a hit, and you will need to replace your tires faster than the usual time period.
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