Driving around without paying attention to the tracking of your car's wheels can lead to an exceptional amount of wear and tear on your tyres. By continuing to motor on with improperly aligned wheels, the tyres will wear out and you will have to replace them much sooner than you would otherwise have had to. Furthermore, tyres that have worn down either on the inner or outer side of the rim – depending on how the tracking has become misaligned – can make you more susceptible to a blowout if you run over road debris. This is a potentially serious problem if you happen to be driving at high speed. Therefore, it is important to check your tracking regularly from the points of view of both safety and economy.
Most motor mechanics can do a tracking check for you in just a few minutes. This is a service that is usually offered when you have a tyre inspection and, unless you have had it done recently, is something you ought to pay for. Many car makers recommend that you have the tracking checked at 10,000-mile intervals, but if you usually drive over rough tracks or bump up and down lots of kerbs, then it is worth doing it more frequently.
Most professional mechanics have specialist equipment that allows them to confirm whether the tyres and wheels of a vehicle are either 'toe-in' or 'toe-out'. This means they can assess how parallel the wheels are with one another. A car with good tracking will have wheels that are not more than about 4mm out of alignment. Once an adjustment has been made, the wheels should be no more than 1mm away from being parallel. In order to carry out checks, cars must be on level ground, but most mechanics raise a vehicle up in order to make their inspections nowadays. Given the small distances involved, a visual inspection is simply not enough to tell whether the tracking is correctly adjusted or not.
A good mechanic will not simply look at the wheel alignment without making other checks first. This is because problems with the steering mechanism can lead to false tracking readings. In addition, if the front suspension is out of kilter, then the tracking cannot be accurately measured. Bear in mind that some modern testing equipment will offer readings for the steering, suspension and tracking in a single go.