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Does Alignment Matter? Wheel Alignment Cost And Consequences

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If your wheels are misaligned, can you get away with ignoring it? You shouldn't. Here are wheel alignment costs and consequences that can be avoided.

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Wheel alignment is one of the most routinely overlooked areas of car maintenance. In part, that's because it's a common issue that naturally happens to cars throughout the year, usually from:

  • Hitting kerbs, potholes, or speed bumps, especially at speed.
  • Road traffic accidents and collisions.
  • Height modifications made to your vehicle, if the suspension has not also been adjusted to match.
  • Worn parts such as suspension springs.

Getting your wheels realigned is a straightforward task at a qualified garage. On average, it costs no more than £45 and can be finished in less than an hour. With that said, if you're looking to minimise how much a trip to the garage costs, you might think it wise to skip an alignment check.

This is highly discouraged. Real consequences to your driving performance, the lifespan of your vehicle, and your safety on the road can occur if your wheels remain misaligned. Let's explore wheel alignment cost, consequences, and how you can avoid them:

What Can Happen If Your Wheels Are Left Misaligned?

If your wheels are misaligned, you can tell based on these symptoms:

  • Your steering wheel doesn't easily return to its original position after you've finished a turn.
  • Your car's tyres seem to be wearing unevenly.
  • There's an unusual vibration coming from your steering wheel, or it seems crooked.
  • Your tyres are beginning to make a squealing noise.

If you ignore these signs and leave the misalignment in place, it can result in:

Bad Handling

Misaligned wheels can dramatically impact your vehicle's handling. This means you need to crank on the wheel harder when you turn, it will be more difficult to brake, and you have less control overall when driving. Your car may become unstable, making it extremely dangerous in urgent situations - such as swerving to avoid an obstacle or applying the brakes sharply to make an emergency stop.

Worn Tyres

Your tyres will start to wear unevenly and have a much shorter lifespan on misaligned wheels. A set that's intended to last for 5-10 years may only endure for 3-4 years, or even less. This uneven wear also boosts the chances of a tyre blowout limit's the vehicle's contact with the road.

Rising Fuel Costs

Misaligned wheels can hit your wallet in the form of poor fuel economy. You're likely to spend far more on petrol if you have misaligned wheels, because there will be greater resistance with the road. As such, more energy is burned to force their rotation – making your engine work harder and draw more fuel.

Damaged Suspension

If your wheels are constantly working against the rest of the car as you drive, this can upset the overall suspension over time. Wheel wells, axels, and even shocks in your car may become warped or unbalanced themselves. This can lead to costly repairs and the need for complex replacements.

How Often Should Your Wheels Be Checked?

Wheel alignment should ideally be checked once a year. A prime opportunity is when your car gets its annual servicing. Though not included in a basic or interim service, it's worth upgrading to a full or major service to ensure the wheel tracking is properly checked.

With that said, if you experience a jolt or collision on the road and have concerns over the way your car is handling, book in for a checkup. Autofusion offers free wheel alignment checks, where you won't pay anything unless an adjustment is needed. This can provide great peace of mind, even if it turns out that no work is necessary.

What Happens During Wheel Alignment Checks?

Wheel alignment should only be checked by an experienced technician. Most repair centres have a specialist wheel alignment machine, which can analyse and measure the four wheels in relation to each other. This equipment is highly sophisticated, using high-definition imaging sensors to ensure precise accuracy.

Your technician will check the manufacturer's specifications and make small adjustments to components until your wheels are in perfect alignment. They do this by looking at the following factors:

  • Toe-in and toe-out. These terms are used to describe the angles of the front of the tyres, in relation to the back of the tyres.
  • Negative and positive camber. This refers to the "tilt" of the tyre, either inwards (towards the vehicle) or outwards. This angle can be affected by the jolt of driving over a pothole, as that disrupts your suspension.
  • Negative or positive caster. This relates to the angle created by the pivot point of the steering. Think of it as a line stretching from the front to the back of your car. A caster is negative if this line is angled backwards, and positive if angled forwards.

If you're unsure about your wheel alignment or have noticed signs of misalignment, book for a check-up with Autofusion. We're happy to get your vehicle back into peak condition.