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I was under the impression that tracking and wheel alignment are the same thing. However it has occurred to me they are not. Tracking only looks at toe but wheel alignment does more.

Please explain the difference and when would I choose tracking and when would I go for a wheel alignment? If you're steering wheel doesnt feel straight is it a tracking you need or a 4 wheel alignment?

  • Your steering wheel won't "feel straight" if both wheels are "toed" in the same direction (even if the difference between the toe angles is correct), so it's not an either/or situation. – alephzero Dec 1 '18 at 9:56
  • Wheel alignment and Wheel Tracking are the same thing – user38183 Dec 1 '18 at 10:13
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Although some use the term interchangeably they aren't the same thing - tracking is one element of the overall wheel alignment (essentially the whether the "toe" angles for both wheels match)

The issue of whether the steering wheel is "straight" or not is separate -but-related. It's possible to have the alignment 100% correct but the wheel position off-centre. Which is basically what happens when whoever is doing the alignment doesn't lock the steering wheel in a centered position while doing the alignment.

A good four-wheel alignment costs more than a simple "tracking" check - because it's more involved. All the possible alignment variables are checked (so toe, camber, castor etc).

FWIW I would say that 99/100 I'd be going for a proper alignment from a reputable shop. Especially when you consider that what most places will sell you as a "tracking" check is only done on the front wheels (as if the rears have no effect on handling!)

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