All You Need to Know About Vehicle Wheel Alignment
Wheel alignment in cars should be a part of your standard maintenance plan. It can improve the overall performance of a car by reducing wear on tyres, enhancing braking capability and increasing fuel economy. However, it is important to understand what alignment is all about and when your car might need it.
This guide covers everything there is to know about car wheel alignment. Let’s start with the basics.
Understanding Wheel Alignment in Cars
When you take a look at the car from the front, the wheels may look vertically aligned. However, these wheels are set at predefined angles by the manufacturers to offer ideal performance. Wheel alignment is the adjustment of these angles in proportion to the optimal requirement.
For better understanding, we need to take a look at three main angles that impact the car’s wheel alignment: camber angle, caster angle and toe angle.
The camber angle can be inward or outward when seen from the front of the car. In technical terms, it is usually defined as positive and negative camber by tilting the wheel outward and inward respectively.
The negative camber angle tends to improve the cornering performance of the car. To understand how it works, consider a car making a corner. During the circular motion, the car exerts a centripetal force due to the frictional force between the tyre and the road.
Since the outer wheels exert more force than the inner wheels during cornering, it will have a higher frictional force as a reaction. The problem arises when the outer tyre deforms due to friction force, which in turn reduces the contact area of the wheel with the road.
This effect is countered by a negative camber angle by tilting the wheel inward. Of course, reduced friction force means reduced traction in the outer tyres. However, since the outer tyres already have maximum friction, some loss of outer traction is usually not an issue.
The caster angle is related to the steering axis of the wheel. It is the pivot angle that helps balance the stability of the car. The caster angle is visible from the side of the vehicle. In practice, it is not fully vertical and usually inclined.
If the steering axis is tilted towards the driver, it is referred to as the positive caster. If the axis is tilted the other way (front of the vehicle), it is known as the negative caster. One of the important roles of a right caster angle is the returnability of steering to the original position after making a turn.
Toe angle is probably the most sensitive of them all. Since you cannot normally view it, you have to look at the car from the top. If the tyres are aligned inward from the front, it is known as ‘toe in’ whereas outward alignment is referred to as ‘toe out’.
A zero toe angle means your tyres are in perfect contact and leads to minimal wear. However, in practice, that is not the case. A lot of testing by the manufacturer is required before establishing a predefined angle for any car. Although very minute, it serves to reduce the sensitivity of the steering.
It may raise the question as to how intentionally reducing the steering’s sensitivity is beneficial. It all comes down to safety concerns. When driving straight, the steering wheel goes into unintentional movements. To prevent these movements from affecting the straight motion of the vehicle, toe angles come into play.
Toe out position can lead to a higher steering response, which can become a safety issue. Toe in position is preferable as it increases the straight motion stability.
Causes of Poor Wheel Alignment
There are various signs that can point out the need for wheel alignment in cars. Some common indicators include:
If you feel your car pulls out of a straight line when releasing the steering wheel or you need a firmer grip to keep the car in line, you probably need a wheel alignment service to get toe angles checked out. However, be sure to check the tyre pressure, as underinflated tyres could also be the culprit.
Off-Centred Steering Wheel
If the steering wheel of the car does not return to its original position or centre up at the manufacturer’s emblem, your caster angles may need alignment.
Worn Out Tyres
If the wear pattern of your tyres are uneven or different, you might need to get your wheels aligned. Uneven tyre wear can also result from over or under inflated tyres or even a worn-out suspension. A professional inspection will help diagnose the right cause.
Steering Wheel Vibration
The vibrations in the steering wheel could be the result of uneven tyre or due to alignment issues as your vehicle tyres are pulling in opposite directions.
It is evident that a vehicle with bad wheel alignment might have other issues leading to the cause. Hence, an expert opinion is ideal to rule out alignment issues.
Since wheel alignment in Dubai can cost up to AED 150, many drivers might prefer to ignore the indicators. However, ignoring such issues may lead to additional problems with steering wheels and suspensions as well as worsen the car fuel economy.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I know my car needs wheel alignment?
There are various signs that can indicate problems with wheel alignment like pulling of car on one side, vibrating steering and uneven tyre wear. However, since such problems can also be due to over or under inflated tyres, check the tyre pressure before considering the option.
What is the cost of wheel alignment service?
The wheel alignment service in the UAE can cost anywhere between AED 80 to AED 150. The rates may vary from car to car.
If your car faces regular maintenance problems, check out our listings for used cars for sale in Dubai. You might just find a newer model at affordable rates. Stay tuned to the UAE’s leading auto blogs for more information on car parts, market trends and automotive technology.