Off roading is kind of a special outdoor activity because we can do it throughout the year regardless of the seasonal changes. Whether it’s summer, winter or rainy season, off -roading never stops. It only gives new types of challenges to off roading enthusiasts.
With those every aspect of challenges of off roading, our off roading jeep or truck also have to face lots of abuse. So frequent check ups is a privilege when doing off roading.
In this guide we’ll look at one of the very important aspect, how wheel alignment affects when doing off roading.
Does off-roading mess up alignment?
Yes, off-roading can mess up the alignment and there are fair enough reasons to misalign your wheels after a hard off roading adventure.
Because when you wheel on off roading trails while crawling over rocks, roots and humps you are putting lots of stresses on the wheels from different directions throughout the expedition.
Those stresses can cause sheerings, wearing and loosening of the suspension and steering components, that can cause misalignment of the wheels.
What causes alignment to be off in an off-roading vehicle?
Stress to the steering and suspension components caused due to impacts of wheels, with rocks, logs, patholes, roots and uneven ground surfaces in off road trails can lead to throw away the wheel alignment of an off roading vehicle.
According to the above explanation any hard impact of wheels with an external obstacle can lead to misalignment of wheels.
It’s because wheels keep straight with the use of different types of rods and bolts under the chassis.
If you take a look under a jeep wrangler from the frontend , you can see different types of rods are running side to side connecting different components.
Those rods are the ones that keep wheels straight and turn front wheels side to side when you turn the steering wheel.
As an example, under a wrangler the long rod you can see very clearly from the front, that runs from one wheel to another is the Tie Rod.
It is the Rod that connects the front wheels together and turns the both wheels from the same amount when we steer side to side.
Tie rod connects with the wheels through steering knuckles. If any loosening or failure happens to those knuckles due to an off road impact to a wheel, alignment of that wheel compared to the other wheel can change. That means misalign can happen. I think you got my point.
Here we just talked about Tie rod. But as I told you earlier, there are many other components that work together to keep wheels in line.
Drag links, Pitman arm, Track bars, upper and lower control arms, steering stabilizers and sway bars all work together to keep wheels in proper angles and turn the wheels side to side.
So now you can imagine, with a huge impact on wheels how many components can affect and misalign under your vehicle.
What are the signs of a bad alignment?
After an off roading expedition if you notice one or couple of the following symptoms, that can be sign of a misalignment of tires.
Vehicle pulls to the left or right when driving.
This is a pretty common sign drivers can feel if there’s some sort of misalignment. When you drive on a straight flat road without steering left or right, you will feel like the vehicle pulls to one side.
This is due to your wheels not properly aligned to the front. so that you have to check your wheel alignments.
Your steering wheel pulled to one side when you driving straight
When you drive in a straight road and your steering wheel is rotated to one side, even if you drive straight. It is also due to a misalignment of wheels.
Massive uneven tire wear
This is also a common sign on wheels. But a small amount of uneven tire wear may not be an indication of mal-alignment every time.
Because according to road conditions also there can be small differences in how the tire wears.
But if there are massive differences in wear on the tire surface that likely be due to tire alignment problems.
Hearing a squealing sound from tires
It’s sometimes normal to hear a squealing noise from tires when slowly manuring in place like a parking lot.
But when getting a turn on a regular road with some speed or when driving on a straight road, if you hear a squealing noise from the tires that may be a sign of your wheels out of alignment.
That squealing sound may be due to rubbing of tires with the road due to improper positioning.
Feeling excessive vibration from steering wheel (wheels point against each other)
Normally you can feel a bit of vibration on the steering wheel when driving at high speeds. But if you feel a significant amount of vibration when driving at high speeds and it gets worse when speed increases that may be a sign of wheel misalignment.
This excessive vibration can occur due to positioning of front wheels against each other.
Types of alignment problems in off – road vehicles
There are mainly 3 types of wheel alignment problems that can happen in a vehicle. They are,
Camber angle is the angle of the wheel relative to being straight top. There can be two types of cambers according to the positioning of the wheel.
They are positive cambers and negative cambers. The diagram below shows how the wheel is positioned in each of those camber types.
How to fix camber : To fix a positive camber, negative camber should be introduced to the wheel and vice versa.
Toe is comparing each of the back and front wheel distance to the center of the car.
Toe also has two types called Toe in and Toe out. Below diagrams show how the wheels are positioned on these two types.
How Toe alignment adjust : This is done by adjusting the sleeves of tie rods of a vehicle. Because these are changes of small measurements it’s not easy to adjust with naked eye.
In alignment shops they can adjust these kinds of alignment issues with highly accurate computer equipment.
This refers to the angle which the steering axis operates on. It also has 2 types called positive and negative caster. Below are two diagrams showing how these two types are seen in a vehicle.
How to adjust caster angle : Actually adjusting caster angle is not possible at every time. Many vehicles come with fixed caster angle settings. Because the degree of caster angle is a fixed value for the relevant vehicle.
But sometimes we can adjust the caster angles of a fixed setting vehicle also by doing some modifications.
How much does it cost to fix alignment?
Normally for a four wheel drive off roading vehicle, wheel alignment will cost you between $100 – $200.
This can be varied depending on the place where you live, type of vehicle and parts you may have to replace during alignments.
Periodic alignment check ups are recommended even if you haven’t seen any sign of misalignment in your jeep/truck
Normally it’s better to check up your wheel alignments for every 10,000 miles for safe driving.
So far I have covered how wheel alignment can be changed with off roading activities, what are the signs of misalignment, Types wheel alignment problems, brief description about those problems and average costs for a wheel alignment of four wheel drive vehicle.
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Have fun and safe off roading!!