Car wheels quite literally take you from A to B, so it is useful to learn how to maintain them, and prolong their life. Not only this – if you don’t maintain your wheels and suspension system, you can end up in a sticky situation or worst case scenario, a dangerous crash.
Here is your basic guide to wheel maintenance. Over time, we’d recommend learning more technical wheel information to help you further your knowledge and understand warning signals.
Check tyre pressure often
Checking your tyres is critical for your safety, and the overall maintenance of your car.
Inadequate tyre pressure makes you at risk of getting a flat tyre, which can be dangerous, especially at high speeds. Driving fast with a flat tyre will likely do irreversible damage to the metal beneath the wheel, and may even cause you to lose control of your car. In addition to risking your safety, needing to change tyres more frequently will cost you more in the long run.
Some free petrol stations allow you to check and alter your tyre pressure for free. Tyre rotation and wheel balance are also important, and can be checked when you take your car in for servicing. These two concepts ensure your control is equally balanced among all four wheels.
In order to better understand your vehicle and be aware of when there are issues, it’s important to learn the difference between wheel alignment and wheel balancing. Essentially, each concept has diverse warning signs when they need amending. Let’s jump right into the notable differences between the two.
Clean brake dust off alloys
It’s important to clean brake dust for the very reason that it can be corrosive. In an ideal world, a clean after every car trip would optimise your wheel’s life, however, cleaning them every two weeks is sufficient.
Brake dust is the particles of your brake pads that fling off when you brake, building up on the rim overtime. Due to the material consisting of carbon fibres and metal filings and the area being high temperature, it results in staining and eventually corrodes, if left untreated.
Ideally, you’d want to use a pressure washer to clean the alloys, however, an alternative is a soft-bristle brush and a substantial amount of water to avoid scratching.
If you don’t clean your wheels, you simply aren’t protecting the finish. Cleaning wheels is simple in comparison to other wheel maintenance methods. You can begin by blasting the tyres with either a hose or pressure washer, then cleaning with soapy water and a cloth or soft brush then drying with a towel.
To polish wheels and get them looking like new, you can evenly apply a tyre-dressing item once you have finished cleaning. This is optional, although many products have an all-in-one purpose, designed to protect and preserve your tyre, further maintaining them.
Ensure wheels are aligned
This concept is more to do with your vehicle’s suspension system, instead of the wheels. In simple terms, wheel alignment is the way in which your wheels are angled.
Wheel alignment entails three different elements:
- Toe – This is essentially the angles of the tires in comparison to each other. It is more common to have one wheel misaligned to the remaining three, than any additional form of misalignment. For this reason, you should keep aware. If you feel your car is being dragged either left or right when you are steering straight, you most likely have misaligned wheels.
- Camber – Your car has misaligned the camber if one or more wheels tilts to one side instead of being level, when you view your car from the front.
- Caster – If one wheel is either forward or back in the wheel well when you analyse your vehicle’s side profile, the caster angle is displaced. This causes the wheel to rub when you drive over large bumps.
You can maintain wheel alignment by slowing your speed when driving over bumps as well as avoiding speeding and turning sharply. However, do not worry if you do notice warning signals as it can happen simply as a result of driving your vehicle often. Avoiding such actions only prolongs the amount of time in between needing to align your wheels.
Car mechanics should usually cover basic servicing, including wheel alignment – read more about the wheel alignment service on mechanic or diesel engine reconditioning sites.
Ensure wheels are balancing
Wheel balancing differs from alignment as it refers to the balancing of the amount of tire material around the whole wheel. This is important as minimal tread means minimal grip, consequently causing crashes. The one main warning sign is when your wheel vibrates.
Mechanics will be able to fix the issue by utilising machinery that pinpoints which area of the wheel needs to be levelled. Using bonding cement and lead weight, the wheel is then balanced.
Most mechanics will automatically undertake the wheel balancing process when changing your tires, however, it isn’t always the case. To avoid having to purchase the service at a later date, request they do it in the initial service.
Wheel maintenance knowledge will no doubt be of use throughout your life. Not only will it save you money in the long run, but more importantly, it could avoid life-threatening accidents from instances such as the vehicle pulling or wheel vibrations.
Vehicles can be confusing, therefore the first place to start is stripping it back to the basics. From here, it is recommended you research additional car basics to help you notice warning signs.