What is wheel alignment?
If your front wheels are out of alignment, it means that they are not fitted into the correct position and do not point in the exact same direction.
If the front wheels are not aligned, your car will be more difficult to steer and a range of other issues may arise as a result.
Getting your front wheels aligned is not a costly service and does not take a huge amount of time. However, if you ignore the issue, you will likely cause damage to your steering and suspension.
Front Wheel Alignment
Front wheel alignment is a service which is carried on out the front wheels of a car exclusively. The service is completed by moving the car into position where a machine in a garage can determine whether the front wheels are pointing in the exact same direction.
It is critical that they are because a range of problems will arise if the front wheels of your car are not aligned.
Front wheels are more likely to be knocked out of alignment because of an impact as they take the biggest brunt of speedbumps and hitting curbs.
4 Wheel Alignment
4 wheel alignment is a service in which every wheel of a car has its alignment checked. A mechanic will make use of a specialist machine to check to see if all the wheels are pointing in the correct direction. If they are not, the same machine will manipulate the wheels to resolve the issue.
Why do cars need to get alignments?
A huge range of problems can arise if your car wheels are not aligned. This is because different parts of your car will be placed under undue stress because of the wheels pulling in the wrong direction. The steering and suspension systems will be at most risk and if you do not get your wheels aligned, there is a high chance that a part of the steering and suspension system will also break.
Do I need to get my wheels aligned?
If you notice any of the following symptoms, there is a good chance that the wheels on your car are out of alignment.
- Your car pulls to the left or right
If you are driving straight and your car starts to pull to the left or right, this is a clear sign that your front wheels are out of alignment. There may be other issues to cause a car to pull to the left or right, however alignment is a common cause.
An easy way to check if your car has a small pull, is to drive along a quite road slowly and have a loose grip on the steering wheel, if the car consistently moves to one side of the road, there is an issue.
- Squealing tyres
Your tyres should not squeak at every turn. If they are then this is a clear sign that there is something wrong, most likely it is wheel alignment.
- Uneven or rapid tyre wear
A clear sign that your front wheels are out of alignment is an obvious wear down of the tread on one of the wheels at the front of the car.
If this is happening, there will be more weight or pull on one side which will cause the rubber to wear down quickly.
Is a wheel alignment necessary when replacing tyres?
If your wheel is being replaced because the alloy wheel is damaged, a mechanic will check the alignment. An alloy wheel will usually pick up damage if it has suffered from a high impact and cracked, if this has happened, there is a strong chance that the alignment has also been affected.
A mechanic will ensure that any new wheels fitted are correctly aligned anyway so the car handles properly on the road.
Why does my car shake when I drive?
One of the most obvious signs that your front wheels need aligning is that your steering wheel will be shaking. Even a slight vibration is a tell-tale sign and as soon as you feel a change in the steering wheel, you should take your car in for a check.
How long does it take to do a front end wheel alignment?
Front wheel alignment is a straight forward service and the work will not take long for a mechanic to complete, however, the length of time your car will be out of action is completely dependent on how busy the mechanic is.
If they are able to work on your car immediately, the work should take less than an hour and you should be able to drive your car on the road safely once the work has been completed. However, if more work is required, such as a wheel replacement or a steering and suspension repair, the car may be out of action for longer.
How long does it take for a 4 wheel alignment?
A 4 wheel alignment will take a couple of hours to complete in a garage though it may take longer if more problems are discovered by the mechanic. However, if there is nothing wrong with your car apart from the wheel alignment, you should be able to drive your car safely on the road on the same day of the alignment.
What does ‘toe in’ and ‘toe out’ mean?
If wheels are ‘toe in’ this means that the wheels are pointing inwards whereas if they are ‘toe out’ they are pointing away from each other.
An easy way to understand is by using your own feet, if they are both pointed forwards perfectly, they are in alignment, however, if you pointed them both outwards, they would be ‘toe out’ and if you pointed the inwards they would be ‘toe in’.
If this is the case with the real wheels on your car, the vehicle will likely pull to one side while being driven.
What does ‘chamber’ mean in wheel alignment?
‘Chamber’ is another term which you may hear mentioned, which refers to the tilt of each tyre.
What can I do to reduce the risk of front wheel alignment problems?
There are some basic things you can do to avoid wheel alignment problems;
- Don't drive your car into curbs hard
- Do your best to avoid potholes
- Remove unnecessary weight from your car
- Maintain the right tyre pressure
- Drive safely
What if I don’t have my wheels aligned?
If your front wheels are out of alignment for a long period, your car tyres life could be reduced by thousands of miles and further problems would be caused to your steering and suspension.
What causes wheel alignment problems?
Bad roads are the most common cause of front wheels getting knocked out of alignment. If there is a sudden impact as your car hits a pothole, there is a good chance that your wheels will be impacted.
If you hit a curb hard, then you are also running the risk of knocking the front wheels out of alignment.
We work with a network of over 10,613 mechanics and garages across the UK so we can find competitive wheel alignment prices for you. To find the best front wheel alignment offers in your area;
- Enter your car registration number
- Give us a few details about your car and your requirements
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You can then compare the quotes and read reviews from previous customers to find the best front wheel or 4 wheel alignment deal before booking the local garage online.