It is important to get your wheel alignment (also called wheel tracking) and wheel balance checked on a regular basis. Why is that you may ask?
Well, correctly aligned and balanced wheels will give you a much smoother, less bumpy ride and your car will also handle better. Misaligned wheels will also reduce your fuel economy and wear your tyres out quicker, costing you more money…and that’s never a good thing!
Wheel alignment refers to the direction your wheels are pointed in and the angle they lean at. This will vary depending on your car and it is important to make sure that they are aligned to the manufacturer’s specifications. Correct wheel alignment will improve the handling and fuel consumption of your car and also reduce the wear and tear on your tyres.
There are three main adjustments for correct wheel alignment, toe, camber and caster.
Toe refers to how much the wheels point inwards or outwards. If the tow is not correctly aligned it can cause your tyres to wear unevenly on the outer or inner edge. The best way to imagine this is by looking down at your feet. When you walk if your toes point straight in front of you in the direction you are walking, the heel of your shoe will wear evenly all across. If your toes point out to the side slightly you will find that over time the soles of your shoes will wear out on the side of the heel first. This is exactly the same for the tyres on your car.
Camber refers to how far the wheels lean away from your car or towards your car. If a wheel leans away form the car too much (positive camber) it will cause the tyre to wear more on the outer edge. Likewise if it leans inwards too far (negative camber) the tyre will wear on the inner edge.
Caster is the amount of forward or backward tilt on your steering axis. If there is an imbalance between the two arms it can cause the body of your car to become misaligned down it’s length i.e. the back of your car won’t sit directly behind the front as you are driving. Again this can result in uneven tyre wear and in extreme cases cause dangerous instability.
Take a look at this great video from Hunter Engineering for a easy to understand visual of wheel alignment.
– If you notice that your car pulls to one side when you are driving on a straight, flat road this is often a sign that your wheel alignment is out.
– Also check to see if your steering wheel lines up straight when you are driving on a straight, flat road. If it is off to the side this could be another indicator that your wheel tracking is out.
– And check your tyre tread every couple of weeks. If you find that one side of a tyre is wearing out more quickly this is another give-away that your wheel alignment is out. See our useful post on how to check your tyres are safe for more info on this.
The wheels on your car need to be balanced correctly. If they are not it can cause your car to vibrate whilst driving. A wheel on your car may have one area that is heavier. This heavy area needs to be balanced with the opposite side of the wheel and this is achieved by attaching a small weight to it. This effectively balances the wheel and ensures it rotates smoothly. A sign that the wheels on your car need balancing is often a vibration and wobbling in your steering wheel when you travel at a certain speed, usually somewhere between 50-70mph.
The best time to get your wheels aligned and balanced is when you have new tyres fitted. Always ask them to check if your wheels need balancing and tracking. Most good tyre shops should do this check free of charge.
You should also get your wheel alignment and balance checked if you drive into a curb with any force or if you drive over a deep pothole or any other debris on the road that jolts your car.
If you are getting your wheels balanced and tracked most tyre fitters around Derby charge between £6-£8 per wheel for balancing and around £25-£30 for wheel alignment. Depending on your car the wheel alignment may need to be done for both the front and the rear axel so you will be looking at roughly double this amount.
While this may seem like another cost you could do without it may cost you more money in the long term. Misaligned and unbalanced wheels will wear your tyres out quicker which means you wont get as many miles out of them and will need to replace them sooner. Don’t be afraid to haggle on the price though. There are lots of tyre fitters competing for your custom and you’ll often get a discount if you just ask.
We hope this post has been useful and if you have any questions drop us a comment below.