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How much does a wheel alignment cost?
Having correctly aligned wheels is a vital part of keeping your vehicle performing at its best.
When properly aligned, the wheels ensure your car handles properly, increases the life of your tyres, and will rid you of the irritating symptom of your car constantly pulling to one side.
It is recommended that a wheel alignment be performed every 10,000km or six months, whichever occurs first, or when you experience a change in the driving or handling of your vehicle.
A wheel alignment should be around $50 for smaller vehicles and up to the $120 mark for larger vehicles. The cost will be slightly more for 4WDs and SUVs.
What is a wheel alignment?
Alignment actually refers to the adjustment of a vehicle’s suspension – not just the wheels – and is designed to alter the angles of the wheels to produce the optimum contact between the vehicle’s tyres and the road.
It is quite a complicated procedure and involves perfecting a set of four separate angles known as camber, toe, caster and thrust.
1. CAMBER: Camber refers to the angle of the tyre when viewed from the front of the car. If tyres are angled too far in or out, this tilt, or camber, means they will need to be adjusted.
2. TOE: Toe alignment is the degree to which your tyres, when viewed from above, are angled inward or outward. Either way, they will require adjustment.
3. CASTER: Caster refers to the steering axis when the vehicle is viewed from the side, and specifically how far forward or behind the steering axis is to the vertical axis (the vertical axis being 90 degrees to the road surface).
Positive caster means the steering axis is tilted toward the driver. Negative caster means the steering axis is tilted toward the front of the car.
4: THRUST: The thrust angle is the angle of the rear axle in relation to the centreline of the vehicle. Checking the thrust angle will also reveal whether the rear axle is parallel to the front axle.
All these components and their angles will be adjusted to bring your vehicle back to its factory settings.
Symptoms of needing a wheel alignment
- Steering wheel is off centre
- Vehicle pulls to one side
- Uneven tyre wear
- Steering wheel does not return to centre after turning
- Handling feels loose
How is a wheel alignment performed?
A wheel alignment means bringing the car's suspension into its proper configuration.
To do that correctly will require the knowledge of an experienced mechanic and the use of an alignment machine.
An alignment machine includes devices that are clamped to the wheels of the car and which make precise measurements that assist the mechanic to make adjustments to correct the camber, toe, caster and thrust angles.
Tips to remember
• If your vehicle need a wheel alignment, then it would be wise to also consider other tyre and wheel checks. These include wheel balancing and, perhaps, tyre rotation. The need for a wheel alignment likely means the tread on your tyres is worn and uneven. New tyres may be required.
• It would also be wise to check suspension components for wear before carrying out a wheel alignment, as worn components may affect tyre wear and handling characteristics.
Why is it important to have your wheels aligned?
Incorrect wheel alignment can cause a number of issues that are potentially dangerous, including wear and tear to components of the suspension system and to tyre tread.
Uneven tread wear on tyres reduces their performance and ability to grip the road – a potentially serious safety problem.