Truck Repair: Essentials of Wheel Alignment
What is wheel alignment?
Wheel alignment is done during truck repair to ensure the wheels are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to one another. If the wheels aligned perfectly, the vehicle will move straight even when the steering is held idle. If you find the truck tends to veer to the right or the left side, it is an indication that the alignment is not proper and that it needs to be checked and corrected immediately.
What is wheel balancing?
This is an altogether different procedure, which involves the balancing of the wheels properly in the disks after truck repair. Even experienced people are found to confuse these two items. While both of these procedures are equally important truck repair jobs, in this article I propose to discuss only about “wheel alignment.”
The importance of wheel alignment
1. Faulty wheel alignment results in uneven pressure on the tires and increased frictional resistance from the road surface, leading to higher fuel consumption.
2. Improper wheel alignment causes uneven wear and tear on the truck tires and therefore needs frequent retreading or replacement of the tires.
3. More fuel consumption, which means more environmental pollution. This is an important consideration for today’s “Green” world.
4. Improper wheel alignment puts more strain on the truck driver, as the vehicle tends to pull to one side all the time.
5. Faulty wheel alignment makes it riskier to drive on roads which are wet or covered with thin ice.
6. Bad wheel alignment leads to problems in other systems of the truck like steering, suspension, brakes and so on. There is therefore so much more strain on the vehicle’s performance and longevity.
When should you do wheel alignment?
Checking and correcting the wheel alignment on the truck becomes necessary under any of the following conditions:
1. When steering becomes a problem due to the truck pulling to one side while pointing straight forward.
2. When one side of the tires is found to be wearing out more quickly than the other.
3. When a new set of tires is being fitted on the truck.
4. When the vehicle has hit something on the road.
5. When worn out or damaged suspensions or struts are replaced with new ones on the truck.
Choice of 2-wheel or 4-wheel alignment:
Until about a decade ago, 2-wheel alignments (only the front wheels) were the norm, because proper equipment or trained persons for doing 4-wheel alignment were difficult to come by. However, this situation has changed now with the availability of computerized equipment for 4-wheel alignment. Also, many truck repair shops have installed the latest state-of-the-art laser alignment systems, which are simpler, portable, more accurate and easy to operate. It is better to opt for 4-wheel alignment, even though the costs may be marginally higher, as all the wheels of the truck will get the advantage from this arrangement.
Where to get the wheel alignment done?
Truck owner-operators, as well as fleet owners, should bear in mind that wheel alignment should be done only by trained professionals and with the correct equipment. Quite often, even after the wheels have been aligned strictly as per the vehicle manufacturers’ specifications, some fine tuning by the experienced technicians is required to “complete” the job. Hence, it is not advisable for them to attempt such wheel alignment work by themselves. They should get the work done only in an up-to-date, well equipped truck repair shop, if they wish to get the maximum benefit out of the exercise.
Gary Allen is the co-founder of Southeast Truck Center Inc. He specializes in Truck Repair and its related services. His company serves Sagamore Beach, Cape Cod and Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.southeasttruckcenter.com