Wheel alignment is an essential aspect of vehicle maintenance which should not be overlooked.  

The condition of your tyres can have a real impact on your vehicle’s overall performance, safety and handling.  

By making sure that your wheels are properly aligned, you can enjoy a smoother ride, improved fuel efficiency and even extend the lifespan of your tyres.  

Read on and find out what wheel alignment is, and why it is so important for your vehicle.  


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Front Wheel Alignment


What Is Wheel Alignment?

Wheel alignment – sometimes known as tracking - is a process in which the wheels on your car are aligned with each other, in line with the manufacturer’s specifications.  

When wheel alignment is carried out by a professional garage, it can ensure that the car drives straight and the tyres wear evenly.  


Why Is It Important?

Proper wheel alignment has several benefits for your car.  

Accurate alignment can extend the lifespan of your tyres by reducing the likelihood of uneven wear. This can save you money on premature tyre replacements.  

Not to mention that wheel alignment can improve handling and control, making for an improved driving experience.  

Steering response will be more predictable as a result, with your car being better equipped to maintain stability during turns and whilst driving over uneven road surfaces. 

You can expect improved fuel efficiency when you invest in wheel alignment when needed, as well as a noticeable improvement in the performance of your vehicle’s suspension system.  


What Happens During a Wheel Alignment?

You cannot do a wheel alignment yourself – this job must be accurately carried out by a trained technician with specialist equipment.  

During a wheel alignment, a professional mechanic will perform a mechanical adjustment of your vehicle’s suspension. This can influence the direction and angle of the tyres, ensuring that they come into contact with the road surface in the right way.  

There are three main angles which are adjusted during a wheel alignment: 

  • Camber 
  • Toe 
  • Caster 

With the steering wheel in its most central position, a mechanic attaches clamps to each wheel.

A computer uses reflections from the clamps to calculate what adjustments are needed. When the steering wheel is pointing straight, your front wheels should do the same. 


BookMyGarage wheel alignment infographic showing negative camber (where the wheel points inward), positive camber (where the wheel points outward), toe out (where the tyres are turned out away from the chassis) and toe in (where the tyres are turned in towards the chassis)

The machine can measure the alignment much more accurately than the human eye to catch even the smallest misalignment. It checks your wheel's camber (the angle of the wheel) and toe (how straight the tyre sits on the wheel). When set correctly, both improve handling and stability. 

The camber is the inward or outward tilt of the wheels when viewed from the front of the car. If the top of the wheel leans inward or outward – negative camber or positive camber – then this can lead to uneven tyre wear.  

Toe alignment is the angle at which the front of the tyres points towards each other. A tyre that is ‘toed in’ will have worn on the outer shoulder of the tyre, whilst a tyre that is ‘toed out’ will wear on the inner shoulder.  

The caster angle is the forward or backward tilt of the steering axis when viewed from the side of the vehicle. It helps to provide stability and steering control.  


What Is 4-Wheel Alignment?

Unlike a 2-wheel alignment – which only adjusts the front wheels - a 4-wheel alignment includes both a front-end alignment and a rear suspension adjustment.  

A technician will adjust any camber, toe and caster angles on both the rear-end and front-end of your vehicle – if applicable.  

Most modern vehicles – such as family cars and small 4x4s – will require a 4-wheel alignment.  

If your car is front-wheel or rear-wheel drive only, then you should book a 2-wheel alignment.  

You can check your vehicle’s handbook or ask a mechanic to advise you if you are at all uncertain about which type of alignment is right for your car. 


Are My Wheels Misaligned?

Your car may benefit from wheel alignment if any of the following circumstances apply to you and your vehicle: 

  • You notice the car pulling to the side while driving 
  • You recently had new tyres fitted 
  • You recently had the suspension replaced or adjusted 
  • You have hit the kerb or driven over a pothole 
  • It has been a year since the last alignment 
  • You notice uneven tyre wear 

Please know that a vibration whilst driving can be a sign that your tyres are out-of-balance too, so it is a good idea to ask a professional mechanic to find the cause of the issue for you.  


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Front Wheel Alignment


How Is Wheel Alignment Done?

A skilled technician will carry out your wheel alignment using the following pieces of equipment: 

  • A lift 
  • A computer module 
  • Cameras 
  • Sensors 

Once the vehicle is lifted into the air, a target is attached to the outside of each of the car’s wheels. The cameras are then used to record the measurements – this is the most accurate way to work this out. The measurements are displayed on the computer so that the mechanic knows how the wheels need to be aligned. 


How Long Does a Wheel Alignment Take?

Wheel alignment can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to complete. 


How Much Does Wheel Alignment Cost (UK)?

In the UK, 2-wheel alignment can cost around £40, whilst 4-wheel alignment can cost around £75. 


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Front Wheel Alignment


You can find a professional mechanic near you to carry out your wheel alignment when you use BookMyGarage.