The importance of correct wheel alignment

By Julia Freeman

Having a wheel on each corner of a vehicle is a good start. However, they also need to point in the right direction. That is more complicated than you might think; wheels can lean inwards or outwards (camber), extend forwards or backwards from the axle (caster), or deviate from parallel (toe). In fact, about 14 different angles and measurements are needed to ensure that wheels are positioned absolutely correctly.

Car wheel being inspected for alignment

Potholes and knocks against the kerb can easily put some of these angles out. Even small deflections from the correct angles will start to affect the handling of the car and lead to earlier wear of several components. Your braking will be less safe, your fuel consumption higher and your tyres will need replacing sooner.

Signs of poor alignment

The symptoms that develop as a result of wheel misalignment can also be caused by other issues with your steering system, suspension, or even your brakes. An inexpensive wheel alignment test is, therefore, a sensible way to rule out or avoid more serious problems. We suggest you get one annually as a matter of routine, but also whenever you notice any of the following symptoms.
 
Each time you check your tyre inflation, inspect your tyres for wear. The two leading causes of uneven tyre wear are neglecting your inflation pressures and poor wheel alignment.
 
Certain kinds of misalignment cause distinctive wear patterns. For example, if the outer shoulder is worn more than the inner one, it is likely the wheel is “toed in” (pointing narrow at the front) or has positive camber (leaning out at the top). Conversely, more wear on the inside of the tyre suggests a toe-out or negative camber problem.
 
Our tyre professionals can interpret the wear pattern on your tyres free of charge. Protyre garages do not charge for inspections that can be conducted quickly so there is no reason not to call in for regular free checks. Although we stock a full range of leading brand tyres including Pirelli, Bridgestone and Falken, we are just as happy to help you extend the life of those you already have.

 Problems with the steering wheel can also be a symptom of wheel misalignment, but also of other things. Any unusual sensations from the steering wheel should always persuade you to book a free safety check with your nearest Protyre garage. Things to watch for include vibrations at certain speeds, a pull to the left or right, a steering wheel that isn’t centred when you are driving straight forward, or loose play before the wheel turns the car.
 
Squeals or rumbles when you are cornering, or when you are travelling at a low speed can also be caused by alignment issues. However, you can have poorly aligned wheels and experience no symptoms at all - at least to begin with. Don’t wait for an expensive problem to rear its head – make an alignment check part of your routine maintenance.

Wheel alignment equipment

Wheel alignment equipment is quite bulky, high-tech, and expensive so many backstreet independent garages cannot provide a competent wheel alignment service. There are several types of machine made by manufacturers such as Hunter, Beissbarth, John Bean, and Hofmann, but most people agree that Hunter are market leaders. Most Protyre garages are equipped with a Hunter wheel alignment machine.

Hunter wheel alignment

Hunter alignment machines usually consist of an array of laser cameras that measure the precise location and orientation of each wheel and feed the information into a purpose-designed computer terminal. Reflectors are often clamped to each wheel, but this takes just seconds. Our tyre professionals can complete a sophisticated analysis in just minutes.
 
In addition to camber, caster, and toe, we can also check factors including chassis height, turning radius, steering axis inclination, rake, setback and frame angle.
 
A wheel alignment isn’t just a simple matter of setting everything parallel, vertical, and perpendicular. Manufacturers define the ideal orientation differently for each of their vehicle models and design them to be tuned in different ways (using shims, cams, threaded rods, or slotted frame adjustments). Many modern vehicles with electronic systems (adaptive cruise control, traction control, advanced driver assistance, electronic stability control, and so forth) also require resets after the alignment has been completed.
 
Protyre professionals and Hunter wheel alignment machines are your guarantee that everything is set up correctly.

Book a free tyre check

You can use our garage finder and online contact form to book yourself an appointment slot or make an enquiry with your local Protyre. Some manufacturers recommend swapping over (“rotating”) wheels once a year (or every 5000-7000 miles). If your vehicle is suitable, it could be a good routine to combine with an annual wheel alignment.

If you have already noticed tyre wear, we have a full selection of leading brands including Bridgestone, Pirelli, Michelin, and Continental, and plenty of top-quality budget options too. If you don’t need them yet, a wheel alignment will not only help you get the most from the set you already have, but it could help keep you safe too.

Share with your friends...

About the author

Article Author Photo
By Julia Freeman
Julia is Head of Retail Marketing for Protyre and loves engaging with customers and the business as a whole to make sure Protyre is more than just a local garage.
View authorArrow right
New Tyre Labelling Changes - EU Law from 1st May 2021
The new design is a result of the European Union introducing new tyre labelling legislation in Europe (EU reg 2020/740). This legislation will be applicable in the EU and Northern Ireland, but not in Great Britain. Great Britain will remain subject to GB REG 1222/2009.
Find out moreChevron
How to know when you need new tyres?
Your tyres are the only part of the car in contact with the road surface so play an enormous part in the safe running of your vehicle. Although many drivers believe they know intuitively when their tyres need replacing, this is always a dangerous assumption to make. Your tyres could develop a problem at any time and checking them monthly is essential.
Find out moreChevron
Tyre Care - Tyre Damage or Abnormal Wear
Many drivers aren't aware of when the optimum time to replace their tyres is, you may notice a deterioration of performance as your tyres wear but how do you know when you should actually replace a tyre?
Find out moreChevron