Wheel Alignment: information and Tips to get the Car Back on Track

Wheel Alignment
Wheel alignment ,Grid sensor sets mechanic on auto. Car stand with sensors wheels for alignment camber check in workshop

Did you drive through a big pothole or rough touch the curb and suddenly your car is no longer in the right lane? The reason can be a distorted steering geometry. With a wheel alignment, you can check the alignment of your vehicle and, if necessary, have it optimally adjusted. Everything you should know about wheel alignment and its process and when and why it may be necessary is explained in our guide.

When should I have a wheel alignment carried out on my car?

Wheel alignment is usually not a standard service in the workshop. However, there may be reasons to have them carried out. It is especially important if you have a distorted steering geometry and your car is no longer “on the right track”. You can recognize the changed driving behavior of the chassis, for example, by the fact that:

  • your vehicle has a right or left turn
  • you have to constantly take countermeasures when steering
  • the road situation deteriorates
  • the brakes no longer react optimally and your braking distance increases
  • your tires are worn irregularly
  • the fuel consumption suddenly increases without increased driving performance
  • you hear loud rumbling or squeaking noises in your car

How does a distorted steering geometry come about?

The most common cause of distorted steering geometry is vibrations that occur while driving. This is the case, for example, when you drive roughly through potholes, over larger stones or other bumps. 

Even if you have taken the curb with you in an unfavorable way, for example when parking or leaving a parking space, the risk is high that the steering geometry will warp and wheel alignment will be necessary.

When can wheel alignment still be worthwhile?

Even if you have not yet noticed any effects of distorted steering geometry on your vehicle, measuring the axles may still be useful, for example

  • after changing tires (e.g. from winter to summer tires) if the tire size changes
  • after an accident and major vibrations
  • when your car has been lowered
  • when the steering has been repaired
  • when new shock absorbers have been installed
  • at regular intervals, for example after driving around 30,000 kilometers

How is the axle geometry of the tires measured on the chassis?

If you want to have your axle geometry measured, you are well advised to contact a workshop. Basically, it is possible to carry out a manual wheel alignment at home, for example with the help of a cord, a straight edge or other measurement accessories, i.e. without a professional technical device. 

However, you will never get such exact results as with a professionally carried out wheel alignment. You should also have a good understanding of mathematics. Nowadays, wheel alignment in the workshop is only carried out with special high-tech diagnostic devices. A distinction is made between the

  1. Laser wheel alignment: With this common method, tire pressure sensors are attached to the tires of the chassis in order to determine both their position and their relationship to one another.
  1. 3D wheel alignment: This method is a little more expensive, but also more precise. A special camera takes a three-dimensional image of the position of the reflectors attached to the tires and reveals incorrect lane settings.

Both methods of wheel alignment result in actual values ​​that the specialist compares with the target values ​​specified by the respective car manufacturer. If there is a discrepancy, it is necessary to set the steering geometry of the chassis correctly again.

What are the differences in wheel alignment?

With an axle measurement, two different measurements are made – on the one hand the track and on the other hand the camber is calculated.

  1. Fall measurement: Here the angle that the tire has to the vertical of the ground is considered. With a slight outward inclination, this is referred to as a positive fall. If, on the other hand, the wheels are inclined inward, it is a negative camber. Both deviations must be corrected.
  1. Toe measurement: The position of the front to the rear wheels is relevant for this measurement – ideally this is parallel. If this is not the case, because the distance between the front wheels is smaller or larger than that of the rear wheels, a wrong track is created.

Note: For exact results it is important that the wheel alignment is always carried out for all wheels or axles on the vehicle.

How can the axles on the vehicle be correctly adjusted again?

The specialist also uses technical equipment to set the optimum steering geometry and adjust the axes. 

Usually this is the finest precision work that would not be possible without modern technology. In addition, it may be necessary to replace tires, rims or even the complete bike if the exact setting is no longer possible.

Why is wheel alignment worthwhile?

If the axles of the vehicle are measured and brought back on track if necessary, you benefit from several advantages. These are:

  1. increased driving comfort, as you don’t have to counter-steer while driving, 
  2. more safety in road traffic through a good and safe road situation
  3. an extension of the service life of the tires through less wear and tear
  4. less fuel consumption due to lower rolling resistance on the road.