Every vehicle owner dreads hitting a pothole, especially when they are awfully large. Not only do they shake your vehicle like an earthquake, but they can also misalign your wheels over time. Getting a wheel alignment on your vehicle should be a monthly or quarterly routine – depending on the condition of roads in your city.
Getting a wheel alignment done as soon as possible is the only way to prevent even more damages to your vehicle. You also get to avoid possible accidents that this misalignment may cause.
How do I know when my vehicle needs a wheel alignment?
Want to know the signs that tell you when it’s time to get a wheel alignment done? Here are a couple of these signs;
When the wheels are not appropriately aligned to the angles designed by the vehicle manufacturers, the first sign you’ll notice is your tires wearing off. The tread of your tires begins to wear down more quickly than usual, and you’d be doing a lot of replacements in a short time.
Another sign to look out for will be how smooth your drive is. For vehicles with properly aligned wheels, you’ll only experience shakiness when driving on a bad road. The reverse is the case when your wheels are misaligned. You will always have a bumpy ride, even when the roads are perfectly fine. Another downside to this bumpiness is the effect it has on the gas mileage; you’d be pumping in more gas than expected.
Difficulty in steering
Your vehicle begins to pull to one side when the wear in your tires gets worse. It will almost feel like the steering and the tires aren’t on the same page.
These signs are extremely hazardous to your car, you, and other drivers. Hence, aligning your wheels should be done more often than you may think.
The whole wheel alignment process could take an hour to complete. Factoring in the time you spend waiting to be attended to, you will be aligning your wheels for a couple more minutes.
The Step by Step Process
Now to the main event. Here are a few steps that show how the wheel alignment process is done;
1. Take your vehicle for a test-run
Your vehicle is taken for a test-run before carrying out the alignment; this process is important in understanding the severity of the damage. So, the mechanic drives around the neighborhood and avoids busy streets while at it.
2. Lift your car
Your vehicle is elevated up in the air with a hoist and all wheels are clamped down with an alignment machine.
3. Determine what alignment is best
Before taking any other action, you need to know what type of wheel alignment your vehicle needs. The suspension of your vehicle usually determines this.
Types of Wheel Alignment
Here are the three main types of wheel alignment;
The easiest type of wheel alignment is the front-end alignment, as it primarily requires making adjustments to the front axle only. The front-end alignment is used on vehicles with a two-wheel drive. Hence, this method shouldn’t be used on modern vehicles.
The thrust alignment as its name implies focuses on aligning the thrust while aligning the front-end too; to make sure they are both squared up. For vehicles with a solid rear axle, this method is recommended.
The four-wheel alignment combines the thrust alignment and the front-end alignment technique. The angles of the rear wheels are also brought to focus. The four-wheel alignment is recommended for all four-wheel-drive vehicles.
4. Replace damaged components
While the vehicle is suspended in the air, all its components are checked. Damaged ones are replaced and the pressures of all four tires are adjusted with respect to the manufacturer’s specifications.
5. Connect to an alignment machine
Suspension angles are adjusted according to the manufacturer’s specifications with the help of an alignment machine. The thrust, toe, caster, and camber are the four suspension areas that are adjusted.
6. Centering the steering
The steering is checked to confirm if the angles were successfully adjusted. If the steering is centered then the alignment process has been completed and properly done.
7. Final test run
The mechanic hits the roads again to confirm that your wheel alignment has been successfully done. If any shakiness is experienced then the wheel alignment was not successfully done.