Why Correct Truck Wheel Alignment Is Essential
As the number of vehicles on the road increases, it becomes even more important for those owning a vehicle to ensure that it is being properly maintained. Needless to say, wheels play a crucial role in keeping both vehicles and passengers safe on the road.
For this reason, Aspire Horseboxes stresses the need to thoroughly examine the wheels before the vehicle is taken out for a drive on the road. Wheel safety is something that every business should take seriously, especially those who heavily rely on fleets to get the work done.
In this article, we take you through the importance of aligning the wheels in order to ensure greater safety of automobiles.
The Dangers of Misaligned Wheels
When the wheels of a vehicle are misaligned, there are many risks that a vehicle is exposed to. Following are some of the dangers of driving a vehicle with misaligned wheels:
The alignment of wheels has a direct impact on the ability of a driver to steer the vehicle.
When the driver lets go of the steering wheel, a vehicle with misaligned wheels may naturally pull or drift to one side of the road.
Misaligned wheels subject the tread to a constant drag and as a result, they get worn out unevenly and prematurely. While in certain applications the tread life is sacrificed to achieve the desired performance or stability.
Due to uneven tear, tyres lose their grip over the road’s surface rapidly.
Vehicles with a greater drag tend to consume more fuel than those vehicles which have perfectly aligned wheels.
Misaligned wheels compromise the driver’s ability to turn around corners and also affect the braking system of the vehicle.
When the rotation of wheels is in line with the direction of travel, the wheel is said to be aligned. The process by which a misaligned wheel is made to rotate in a straight line is known as wheel alignment. When the calibration of a wheel is right, it becomes easier to steer the vehicle.
The factors that can affect wheel alignment are as follows:
Poor road conditions.
Wheels getting accidentally hit by objects such as parking blocks and curbs.
Miscalculations which bring the vehicle in close contact with road dividers.
Improper alignment at the hands of a non-professional.
A misaligned wheel can be easily identified as its orientation on the vehicle will be slightly off the centre. It may not be clearly visible to the naked eye, but the person sitting behind the steering wheel may find it difficult to steer the vehicle in the desired direction.
Following are the three major considerations that need to be taken into account when aligning the wheels:
Truck manufacturers usually specify the alignment angles that give the vehicle its handling characteristic. These angles can also be adjusted according to the purpose which the vehicle is expected to serve.
For example, vehicles that are used in motorsports need a specific handling and as a result its alignment angles will differ greatly from those vehicles that are driven on ordinary roads for non-racing purposes. The alignment angles are also different for vehicles that are used for off-roading purposes.
The important alignment angles of camber, caster and toe have been explained in detail below:
The alignment of a wheel must be perfectly perpendicular to the surface. The deviation from the perpendicular in degrees is known as the camber angle. A perfectly aligned wheel has a camber angle of 0 degrees.
A negative camber implies that the wheel tilts inwards with respect to the perpendicular. This brings the wheel closer to the fender walls and as a consequence, the wheel experiences uneven wear and tear. A positive camber on the other hand means that the wheel tilts away from the vehicle.
When looking down at our feet, we can either make the toes point inward or outward. Applying the similar logic to wheels, when the top view of a vehicle is considered, the wheels can either face inward towards each other or outwards away from each other.
When the wheels are not perfectly aligned, their alignment angle doesn’t run parallel to the centre line of the vehicle. Positive toe is an alignment wherein the tyres face each other. Negative toe on the other hand implies that the wheels are pointing outwards.
The presence of negative or positive toe causes the edges of the wheels to wear out unevenly. Positive toe reduces the turning ability of a vehicle, whereas negative toe increases the cornering ability of a vehicle.
The displacement in terms of the angle made by the steering axis with respect to the vertical axis of a steered wheel is known as Caster. If it is angled forward, the caster is said to be positive, while if it is angled backward, the caster is said to be negative.
Positive caster offers greater stability to vehicles at higher speeds by increasing the steering effort. Adjustments can be made to the caster and toe to prevent the vehicle from running into the oncoming traffic and drifting away to the right while rolling.