We like to draw your attention to underappreciated improvements you can make to your car and few are more underappreciated than a good four-wheel alignment. While it’s probably not at the top of anyone’s list of desirable modifications for their car, getting it properly aligned can save you money, enhance handling, and make you both safer and faster.
Wheel alignment is pretty much what it sounds like – making sure your wheels are pointed in the right direction. Your car will have been delivered from factory set-up to handle a specific way. If the wheels aren’t pointing where they’re supposed to be, it will no longer be doing that.
Common, and annoying, symptoms of misaligned wheels
There are a number of ways of spotting when your wheels aren’t aligned as they should be, including:
Unusual or uneven tyre wear
One of your tyres wearing much quicker than the others, or in an unusual fashion can often indicate that the wheel it is on is out of alignment. The inside shoulder of the tyre wearing out way before the rest of the tyre is a common problem on some cars. This type of wear is especially awkward because you don’t tend to notice it until the car is up on a ramp, which is often at MOT time.
This alone should be a good reason for getting your alignment checked regularly. A relatively cheap wheel alignment session can save you spending a lot of money replacing tyres.
Car pulling to one side
Your car should travel in a straight line when the wheel is straight. If you’re constantly having to correct your steering to keep travelling in a straight line, there is potentially a problem.
Steering wheel misaligned
The steering wheel should be flat and level when the car is travelling straight. If it’s not, it needs adjusting to match the wheels.
Vibration through the steering wheel
If you’re constantly getting vibration through the steering wheel this could be a symptom of poor alignment. It can also be the result of other problems too, which is why you ideally want a professional to look at the car.
Steering feels wrong
This one is a bit vaguer than the others but bear with us. You may notice that the vehicle just isn’t driving right in corners, without immediately knowing why. There can be several causes, but it’s worth considering wheel alignment.
What’s the difference between tracking and alignment
You will probably have heard people refer to getting the tracking of a car checked. This is slightly old terminology for something very similar. In the past, “tracking” often referred to getting only one measurement on the front wheels checked. We’re not sure that this is necessarily the case now, but it’s important to be clear when booking your car in.
As your rear wheels also play a huge part in the stability and good handling of your car it’s worth getting both axles checked. Whatever your chosen garage calls this process, it’s important to confirm that both axles are getting done on a modern alignment machine.
Here at Demon Tweeks, we have full four-wheel laser alignment kit from Dunlop or you can visit us and take advantage of our own four-wheel alignment kit from Hunter and we’ll sort it out for you.
How did my wheels get out of alignment in the first place?
Your cars suspension has a hard life. Potholes and the like mean it receives a daily battering. When you consider the state of the roads you drive on every day, you’ll probably wonder why you’re not having more problems with it!
Driving into the kerb can bend suspension components. This can include at low speeds while parking. Vehicles which get parked on street are more likely to suffer.
Potholes can cause all sorts of damage, depending on their depth and shape. Alignment is one of the things that can suffer. As there are several others, we’d always recommend getting your vehicle looked at if you’ve driven through a big pot-hole and something feels off.
Whatever suspension set-up your vehicle has, there will be bits of it that are intended to move, but only in a specified direction. These will be mounted using rubber suspension bushes. These are a special type of mounting that allows movement. They tend to include rubber, for purposes of insulating you from road noise.
This rubber will wear out over time and a control arm that only moved up and down can start to wobble from side to side (or vice versa!). Once your wheel is moving in directions it was never intended to, undesirable handling characteristics can result.
In extreme cases this can cause unsafe handling, so it’s definitely worth staying on top of replacing worn bushes. One popular upgrade here is replacing worn rubber bushes with polyurethane bushes. These do not wear or weather like rubber bushes. In some cases, bushes that alter suspension geometry for enhanced performance are available. These allow you to increase caster or camber.
Any time you modify your cars suspension, it’s worth getting the alignment checked. Taking your cars suspension to bits to fit new parts can result in it going back together slightly differently.
If you’re modifying your car a lot, you might discover that some additional parts are needed to correct the alignment. Drastically altering suspension geometry (by lowering your vehicle a lot for example) can completely throw off how it was designed to work from the factory. If this is a common issue, there may well be a kit or modified suspension part designed to fix it.
One common example is roll-centre correction. If you lower a vehicle a lot, suspension arms which sat more or less straight out will now be sat angled upwards. This in turn has a knock-on effect on how the vehicle corners.
Wheel alignment at Demon Tweeks
Here at Demon Tweeks we have a high-tech Hunter Four Wheel Alignment machine. Unlike some alignment rigs, ours caters to very low cars. The ramp is flush to the floor for even the lowest cars, and the mirrors go on the outside of the wheels which means that even if your tyres are snug to the arches they fit without touching bodywork.
We also have more experience than most of working on modified and competition cars. Whether your car is stock, lightly modified, or running a whole new competition suspension set-up, we have got you covered.