Wheel alignment, sometimes referred to as breaking or tracking, is part of standard car maintenance that consists of adjusting the angles of the wheels so that they are set to the car manufacturers specification. The purpose of these adjustments is to reduce tyre wear, and to ensure that vehicle travel is straight and true (without "pulling" to one side).
Under normal driving conditions many vehicles can go 30,000m+ before they need a new set of tyres which is a good interval to have the alignment checked as well. Any severe driving incidents, or changed suspension components would also warrant a check.
Incorrect wheel alignment can be caused by hitting a kerb, driving into a pothole in the road or by excessive wear to steering or suspension components. It is important to get your wheel alignment checked annually to ensure you get the most out of your tyres.
Wheel alignment involves checking the direction and angle of the wheels. The misalignment positions are often described as toe in, toe out, positive camber or negative camber.
"Toe" refers to whether the front of the tyres are closer or further apart than the rear of the tyres. Different types of vehicles need different toe settings to allow for the way that wheels pull either towards each other or apart.
"Camber" is the inward or outward tilt of a tyre. The camber is set by the vehicle manufacturer, and can be affected by potholes in the road and may need to be adjusted periodically.
It's worth keeping an eye out for unusual wear on your tyres, such as premature wear on the inside or outside edges, which could be a sign of incorrect alignment.
Correctly aligned tyres can add 000,s of miles to the life of your tyres and fuel efficiency will increase due to the reduced rolling resistance with the road – saving you pounds at the pump.