If your car has wheel alignment or balancing problems it will certainly not be a pleasure to drive. If the wheel alignment is out, you may find you develop uneven tyre wear, you could notice an increase in fuel consumption and the steering may not feel as positive as it should be. Balancing problems usually manifest themselves as vibrations coming through the steering wheel or vehicle floor at certain speeds. If either of the issues are present in your vehicle, you need to get them put right quickly by someone who really knows what they are doing, so that you can get a noticeable improvement in your driving experience.
The AutoMend network has access to more than 9,000 garages and mobile mechanics. They are on hand to solve all your car and van maintenance and repair issues. We have representatives across the whole of the UK, and we have made it so easy for you to find your nearest one. Simply input your post code and then pick your location from the suggested list. Once you tell us your vehicle type and the service you require, we will provide a list of all the local mechanics and garages, complete with their contact details and how far from you they are situated. You can ask for no-obligation online quotes for your wheel balancing or alignment, or you can call the mechanics direct to discuss your requirements and make a booking to get the job done.
Wheel alignment refers to the angle that your wheel sits in relation to the road and to the other wheels. A perfectly aligned wheel is totally upright and perpendicular to the road, and parallel and in line with the other wheels. Symptoms of alignment issues include:
Tyre wear patterns
The wear patterns on your tyres can give you a lot of information, and tyre wear is not always caused by an alignment problem.
First of all, you need to ascertain what type of wear you have, and you can check this out yourself using a pound coin or a 2p piece. Insert the coin into the tyre tread in three different places – on the outside edge, in the centre of the tyre tread and on the inside edge to measure the relative tread depth.
If the tread is more worn in the centre than on the edges, you have an overinflated tyre.
If the tread is more worn on the edges than in the centre, you have an underinflated tyre.
Neither of these conditions require an alignment check, you simply need to check your tyre pressures more often.
If the tread is more worn on one of the sides than the other, you need to get your wheel alignment checked.
Another check is to carefully run your hand backwards and forwards across the tread pattern (beware of sharp edges and inclusions when doing this check). If the tread feels rough and jagged in one direction, but smooth in the other, this is called ‘saw-tooth’ wear. It means you have a particular alignment problem called a ‘toe-in’. This pattern of wear occurs when one or other of the wheels is slightly pointing in towards the centre of the car and is a major cause of tyre wear which needs urgent action to correct.
The usual cause of wheel alignment problems is a collision of some kind. It doesn’t have to be a major impact, even dropping a wheel into a pothole or a tyre hitting a kerb can cause the alignment to be off. If your vehicle has been in a real collision, the wheel alignment should always be checked as soon as possible, even if no major damage was done to the bodywork, as the shock of the collision may have compromised your alignment.
The commonest (and least expensive) type of alignment check involves just the front wheels. The mechanic will ensure that the front wheels are set back to the manufacturer’s recommended angles which should ensure a smooth and balanced drive on a flat road.
A more complex check is called a ‘Four Wheel Alignment’ and as the name implies, this is a check on both pairs of wheels to ensure they are parallel. The check method involves the use of some high technology equipment which measures the alignment of each wheel via sensors’ This equipment needs to be operated by a highly trained technician, and the method of alignment tends to be more expensive. However, the end result should be perfect alignment and an improved on-road performance.
Wheel balancing refers to the way the wheel spins on the axle. A perfectly balanced wheel will spin smoothly with no vibrations, but a poorly-balanced wheel will cause the following problems:
Vibrations coming through the steering wheel, your seat or the vehicle floor when you drive at certain speeds (usually between 60 and 70 mph) regardless of the road surface.
The tyres show a distinctive scallop or cup-shaped pattern of wear.
As the name implies, if the tyre and wheel combination is not totally evenly weighted all the way around the perimeter, vibration will ensue. Amazingly, a weight difference of 28 Grams (1 Ounce) in one section of a tyre and wheel will cause a significant vibration at 60 mph. Most top-quality tyres hold their balance well, and if the balance does go out, it will be a gradual process. This means that if you suddenly notice that a vibration has started to occur, it is may be that one of your balancing weights (see below, ‘solving balancing issues’) has dropped off.
Vibrations felt through the steering wheel usually emanate from the front wheels. Vibrations felt through the seat are often coming from the rear wheels.
The mechanic will begin by removing a wheel and fitting it onto a balancing rig. The rig will spin the wheel and detect the source of the weight imbalance. A small lead weight will then be applied to the opposite side of the wheel rim from the heavier spot. The size of these weights are carefully calculated to ensure an even weight balance all around the wheel. The mechanic may then check out the other wheels if necessary. If balancing is done correctly, you will see an immediate improvement in the smoothness of the vehicle on the road.
Wheel alignment checks may not be on the top of your list of jobs to do, but getting a periodic check done can save you money and increase your safety on the road.
First of all, before doing anything on the wheel alignment, a mechanic will take a look at the condition of the front end of your car. If there are any problems with worn or loose parts on the steering mechanism, these will need to be put right before any further work is done. From a safety point of view, this is a useful check-up.
Secondly, if you notice uneven tyre wear, the chances are that those tyres have already gone too far to be saved and will need to be replaced. A pre-emptive check on your alignment can highlight problems before they are visually apparent and could save you having to replace tyres that have been worn out too soon.
Contact your nearest AutoMend van and car maintenance specialists and let them sort out any balancing or alignment issues you may have – they offer professional services at affordable prices.