If you are driving your car and suddenly notice it is pulling to one side, or there is uneven wear on the tires, or the steering angle is not correct, it’s time to check the wheel alignment.
Many car owners are unsure how often wheel alignment should be done and how to check it.
Maintaining the car properly and knowing the wheel alignment are important.
Otherwise, misaligned wheels may cause damage to the car and increase the chances of an accident.
In this article, I have written all the necessary information about how often wheel alignment should be done and why.
What is Wheel Alignment?
Wheel alignment is a process that adjusts the angle of each wheel to ensure that the wheels are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground.
The auto mechanics use special alignment tools to measure the three main angles of the wheel:
- Toe angle
- Camber angle
- Caster angle.
01. Toe Angle
The toe angle is formed by the longitudinal axis of a vehicle’s wheel and its centerline.
Among the three angles, the toe angle is the most sensitive.
If the front side of the wheels is closer together than the back, it’s called toe-in.
If the front side of the wheels is further apart than the back, it’s called toe-out.
Zero toe angle is perfect for wheels.
02. Camber Angle
The camber of a wheel is defined as the angle formed between its vertical axis and the plane in which it rotates.
There are usually two types of camber errors: positive errors and negative errors.
If the wheel tilts outward, it’s called positive camber.
If the wheel tilts inward, it’s called negative camber.
Balanced camber is essential for minimizing tire wear and maximizing the patch contact between the road and the tire.
03. Caster Angle
An angle between the wheel’s steering axis and the vertical axis on the side of the car is called a caster angle.
The caster is critical for wheels because it is responsible for steering precision, returnability, and stability.
Positive and negative caster errors can be seen here as well.
It’s called a “positive caster” if the steering axis is pointed at the driver.
A negative caster is when the steering axis points forward.
How Often Wheel Alignment Should Be Done?
You should check the wheel alignment every 6,000–8,000 miles, and a wheel alignment should be performed every 2-3 years.
But it is a general recommendation.
Wheel alignment time varies depending on the vehicle’s model year and trim level.
The best way is to check your owner’s manual for proper recommendations.
However, you should check and adjust the wheel alignment if you notice your car pulling to one side, uneven tire wear, or an incorrect steering angle.
After replacing the suspension parts or the central steering, wheel alignment is required.
Can You Do Wheel Alignment at Home?
Yes, technically, you can do wheel alignment at home, but the procedure is quite complex.
The process requires experience and special tools for a perfect result.
Doing wheel alignment at home requires the following 06 tools:
- Camber measurement gauge
- Toe measurement gauge
- Caster measurement gauge
- Misc wheel alignment
- Bump steer measurement
- Jac stands, etc.
Improper wheel alignment causes excessive tire wear, unsafe handling, and reduced fuel efficiency.
How Long Does It Take to Do a Wheel Alignment?
Generally, an experienced car mechanic can perform wheel alignment in 50 to 60 minutes.
But in the case of 4WD wheel alignment, it takes around 90 minutes.
In addition, if there are damaged or worn suspension parts, then the wheel alignment may take 120 to 150 minutes.
How to Do a Wheel Alignment
There are three types of wheel alignment.
- Front-end wheel alignment
- Four-wheel alignment
- Thrust wheel alignment
Generally, all types of wheel alignment are done the same way.
The basic difference between front-end and four-wheel alignment is that the auto mechanic adjusts only the front wheel’s angles during front-wheel alignment.
While in four-wheel alignment, the mechanic adjusts the front and rear wheel angles individually.
And thrust alignment adjusts both the front and rear wheels together, as a group, rather than individually, like in standard wheel alignment.
Thrust alignment requires a laser alignment system, which takes more time to align wheels than usual.
Here are the basic steps of wheel alignment:
- Check your tires to see if any are worn out.
- Check the alignment specifications in your owner’s manual.
- The alignment specifications include toe, caster, and camber angles.
- Now, use a level surface and set all the alignment tools, such as the toe, caster, and camber gauges.
- Use a jack stand to elevate your vehicle.
- Now, using the camber gauge, check the camber angle.
- If the angle has positive or negative camber, adjust it.
- Use the toe gauge to measure the toe angle and adjust if needed.
- Use the caster gauge to measure the caster angle and adjust it if needed.
- After adjusting all the angles, recheck each angle.
- Take the car for a test drive to check the alignment and handling.
This is the general form of a two-wheel alignment.
In the case of four-wheel alignment, you will need to align each wheel separately in the same process.
But I recommend taking your vehicle to a repair shop for proper wheel alignment rather than doing it at home.
What Can Cause Wheel Misalignment?
Several factors are responsible for the wheel misalignment of your vehicle.
05 most common causes of wheel misalignment are explained below:
If you are a regular off-road rider, it can cause wheel misalignment.
This is why special packages come with off-road-ready models.
02. Wear and Tear
Suspension parts like ball joints, bushings, and tie rods wear out over time.
This can cause wheel misalignment.
Therefore, wheel alignment should be performed every 2–3 years.
If your car hits potholes, the suspension system may be damaged, and the alignment may move out.
An accident can damage the suspension system.
If your vehicle falls victim to an accident or collision, it can cause the wheels to misalign.
05. Inappropriate Customization
If you customize your car or change any suspension parts, they should be installed correctly.
If the installation isn’t done right and according to the manufacturer’s instructions, the wheels might not be in the right place.
06 Symptoms of Wheel Misalignment
Some common signs can determine wheel misalignment.
Proper wheel alignment is essential for safe driving, so take the misalignment symptoms seriously.
The 06 common symptoms of wheel misalignment are given below:
- At high speed, the car pulls to one side.
- Vibration or shaking.
- It may seem like the vehicle is unstable.
- Bumpy ride.
- The steering wheel is functioning inappropriately.
- Tires wear out excessively.
05 Benefits of Wheel Alignment
A proper wheel alignment will give you the following 05 benefits:
- Increases tire life expectancy.
- Better handling and stability at high speeds.
- Increase the lifespan of the steering components and the suspension.
- Get better fuel efficiency.
- Increase safety while driving.
You should align the wheels properly to get all the benefits mentioned above.
Is wheel alignment really necessary?
Yes, it is necessary to align your vehicle’s wheels properly.
Because proper wheel alignment provides you better stability, control, and safety while driving.
Incorrect alignment may cause uneven tire wear and many other problems.
Do I need 2 or 4 wheel alignment?
You need a 4-wheel alignment, even if you have a 2WD car.
The 4-wheel alignment will improve straight-line stability, fuel efficiency, and the overall performance of the steering.
Do I need alignment after new tires?
Yes, after installing new tires, you should align your wheels.
Alignment wheels will increase the lifespan of the new tires.
How often should rotate tires?
Generally, every 5,000 to 7,800 miles, you should rotate your tires.
However, you should check the owner’s manual for exact information.
Can I do alignment myself?
Yes, you can do the alignment yourself.
But I recommend having the alignment done at a certified repair center.
An auto mechanic measures each angle properly in the repair center with some special measurement tools.
Now you know how crucial wheel alignments are and when they should be done.
Generally, wheel alignment costs around $50 to $180.
So, if you notice signs of misalignment, you should take your car to an auto mechanic to get the wheels properly aligned.