Why tracking is only half the job


FOURWHEELALIGNMENT.fwAs with most things in life, time never stands still and wheel alignment is no exception. Modern four wheel alignment equipment, such as the Hunter imaging aligners used by all AlignMyCar centres, is capable of providing incredibly accurate results by measuring all 14 primary alignment angles comparing them against the vehicle manufacturer’s factory settings, in an incredibly quick time. What’s more, you get documented proof of your alignment results, rather than just having to take the word of the mechanic.

However, despite the advances in wheel alignment technology, many drivers still call into one of our centres asking for their ‘tracking’ to be checked, believing they are still getting the same service. Thankfully, modern wheel alignment is a far superior service to old-fashioned ‘tracking’ and customers get a much better job. So just what exactly are the main differences between tracking and four wheel alignment?

Tracking – an outdated technology

'Tracking' is of a bygone era and is not approved by motor manufacturers

‘Tracking’ is of a bygone era and is not approved by motor manufacturers

Tracking is a service that used to be performed on cars when only the front axle was adjustable. Nowadays most modern cars have adjustable settings on both the front and rear axles, which means that a front-only tracking check will be insufficient. If the rear wheels are set incorrectly then the rear tyres could still wear quickly, pull the car to one side or increase your fuel consumption.

As well as not measuring all of the car’s alignment angles, tracking systems are typically much less sophisticated, meaning they simply cannot measure cars as accurately. Modern Hunter systems use live cameras and complex targets to give technicians a continual live measurement of the cars settings, whereas with many older tracking systems, the technician is required to look through a scope or view a light on a scale to see if the wheels are aligned. Clearly this approach fails to produce similar levels of accuracy or repeat-ability.

Many tracking systems simply hang on to the car’s front wheels. This is another source of potential problems as any errors in the wheel rim could then be built into the tracking reading. However, with four wheel alignment, technicians are able to carry out a rolling compensation. This important stage removes any errors in the wheel rim from the measurement, helping to further increase the accuracy of the check.
The table above gives a quick summary of the main differences between tracking and four wheel alignment. Now you’re armed with this important information, you’ll be able to ask your local workshop with confidence about the level of service they provide and from there, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about why your car really ought to have a proper four wheel alignment.

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