Sunday, October 27, 2013

What is tyre alignment?

In order to preserve a car's tread life and safety, it's mandatory that people consider maintaining the proper alignment of their wheels. Proper tyre alignment ensures that each of the car's wheels is optimised for maximum contact with the surface of the road by being consistent with each other. The way a tyre is oriented on a vehicle is broken down into 3 large components, including the toe, the caster and the camber. So What is tyre alignment?

Getting alignment right

For those who want to get the most performance from their tyres, they should know that they can easily get it through proper and periodic tyre alignment. Wheel alignment provides many benefits and some of them include:

1. Better gas mileage.
2. A comfortable and smooth ride free of vibration or pulling.
3. A predictable and safe car control.

Many cars these days have complex suspension systems which require a very precise 4-wheel alignment which can only be achieved through modern tyre alignment systems. This is valid for both rear and front wheel drive cars.

Alignment Basics

In order to align a truck or car, people should know that this doesn't involve the wheels and tyres, but actually the adjustment of the vehicle's suspension. The angles and direction the tyres will point in after the process is complete is extremely important. With that in mind, the guide below will offer more information on the tyre alignment process and spotting potential problems.


Having a correct toe is mandatory to extended tyre life and even tread wear. The toe is probably the simplest concept to visualise and it describes the angle derived from pointing the tyres outward or inward from a top-down view. If the tyres are pointed outward or inward, they will eventually scrub against the road's surface and wear will start to appear on the edges of the tyres. There are some cases though when tread life can be sacrificed for stability or performance.

When the front of both tyres begins to face each other, that's when positive toe occurs. When it happens, it allows both wheels to generate force against each other constantly and as a result, this will reduce turning stability. What drivers need to keep in mind is that a positive toe will create straighter driving characteristics.

In general, due to rolling resistance, rear wheel drive cars have a slightly positive toe in the rear which will cause outward drag in the suspension arms. When using a positive toe, drivers will easily be able to prevent excessive tyre wear, because the wheels are straightened at high speed and evened out.

For the opposite reason, a negative toe is mostly used in front wheel drive cars. Cars that have negative toe have a better cornering ability and when the car will start turning inward towards a corner, the angle of the inner wheel will be more aggressive. And since the turning radius will be smaller compared to the outer wheel because of the angle, the car will be pulled in that direction. However, drivers need to keep in mind that having negative toe will decrease the straight line stability and if there'll be even the smallest change in direction, this will cause the vehicle to easily hint towards the chosen direction.


It's a bit hard to conceptualise the caster, but it's basically defined as being the angle created by the steering pivot point from the front of the vehicle to the back. The caster is negative if the line is angled backward and positive if it's angled forward. In general, a car will have more stability at high speeds and will have increased tyre lean when cornering if the caster is positive. On top of that, a positive caster may also increase steering effort.

The majority of cars on the road feature what is known as a "cross caster" and such cars have a slightly different camber and caster, which makes them drift a bit to the right when they're rolling. The reason for this is to ensure safety on the road, because drivers who lose steering control or un-manned cars will not drift into oncoming traffic, but actually to the right side of the road.


The camber basically describes the outward or inward tilt of the tyre. When adjusting the camber, drivers will maximise the tyre-to-road contact and this is one of the adjustments that can be set based on the individual's driving habits. For example, aggressive drivers can set a more negative camber, which would be very useful when cornering. On the other hand, for those who do very little hard cornering and drive on the highway a lot, going for a more positive camber is a good idea.

Misalignment and Tyre Wear

Readers may have already reached to the conclusion that misalignment and poor tyre wear are very closely related, which is actually true. But what can drivers do in order to minimise this condition as much as possible? The good news is that plenty of these misalignment conditions can be diagnosed by the tyre dealer and he will be able to come up with the right solution which is always a tyre alignment.

Car owners need to be aware that their vehicle's tyres take the brunt of many problems. The solution doesn't lie in replacing the old ones with a new set of tyres, because soon after that, the new ones will experience the same problems. This means that as long as a car's tyres are not misaligned, the problem will not be fixed.

Worn Parts

In many cases the cause of an alignment problem is a worn suspension part. For example, on older cars, misalignment can be due to worn springs which will alter the car's geometry and lower its height. If the springs are worn, they can also cause "cupped" or uneven tyre wear.

Ball joints are yet another common problem. Some of the symptoms a car will exhibit when it has problems with these joints include irregular tyre wear, slow steering response and erratic handling. Lastly, the tyres can wander right to left because of worn tie rods which will basically change the car's toe. When this is the problem, drivers will notice irregular feathering on their tyres.

As everyone can see, tyre alignment is very important for everyone who owns a car and doesn't really want to have any steering and performance related problems. In terms of how often one should align his car's tyres, they should consider it when something in the suspension gets damaged or wears out. Other than that, unless they hit something hard enough to bend metal, tyre alignment won't be necessary.

About The Author:
James Goodings is a car lover from Alice Springs, Australia.
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  1. We bring our car to our trusted car maintenance company when we reached a certain mileage that it has to be check for maintenance and all of the listed above are already covered by that company.

  2. Tire alignment is very important. I leave all the car maintenance to my husband lol.

  3. I'm sorry if I can't relate to this one as I haven't experienced doing the tire alignment and its importance. If my sister were to read this one, I think she can relate to this since she drives our car most of the time.. :)

  4. This must be a coincidence article to what are we needing to do with our car today... car alignment, that's what exactly what my husband explained to me in short terms. thank you for the very informative article.

  5. My husband should read this! Back in the Philippines, he would just call his friend who is a mechanic to do some car fixing, but because it is so expensive here for such service, he should learn to do some fixing himself. I can't relate so much because I don't know how to drive.

  6. You have a nice car :-) How I wish that I know more about tires and all the stuff for the car :-) Thank you so much for these helpful tips :-) My husband will try to fix car but if he lost his patience, then he will go to the auto shop :-)

  7. Safety should always be the first priority. Thanks for the information about the importance of proper wheel alignment for cars.

  8. I know nothing about car alignment. I don't do the maintenance for my car kasi. My brother is always the one in charged for car alignment and any other works related with cars :D

  9. Ah, I've not driven a car for 2 decades or so. But I do know some basic tips in tire maintenance. Here kasi, most car owners content themselves to buy recapped tires as replacement to worn out ones. Much more cheaper daw but you can't trust the tire's performance.

  10. I am only learning mechanical stuff through the husband's knowledge but even he doesn't have enough, too. He's been looking at a class schedule on auto mechanic at a community college here because he's interested to take up some lessons but so far, no schedules yet that matched his. As for me, tire maintenance is but a very minor thing in my vocabulary. I am very dependent on our vehicle's manual whenever I see any warning signs, Lol. I am thankful I married a very handy man. But of course, for professional expertise on car maintenance, we always seek the help of the car experts! :D

    I love that image Ms. Betchai of the red sky surrounding you! :)

  11. Hi Te Betchai! I' ve missed being here! :-)

    I am not too knowledgeable about cars. I don't drive probably that's why I am not very interested anything that has to do with cars. Haha!

    Reading through the entire post, it is very enlightening to know a little bit on how to alig tyres. But I have to admit, my car vocabulary is very limited if you know what I mean. This post is very helpful especially to those car lovers out there.

    Love and hugs!

    P.S The images provided were stunning! :-)

  12. totally illiterate about cars, it's always good to learn new things and terms though. ;)

  13. Every vehicle owners should check their tyre alignments regularly. Not only will it save them from paying for expensive car maintenance but it will also prevent them from having accidents while on the road.