Getting your tires balanced and aligned are key components to keeping your tires and vehicle in optimal shape. Both can help you experience a smoother ride and better tire wear. However, it can be difficult to determine which fix needs to be done since the symptoms are similar. Yet, fixing the associated problems requires separate services.
Keep reading to learn what both balancing and alignment mean, the problems associated with each, as well as how these services will help improve your drive.
What is Tire Balancing?
Tire or wheel balancing helps correct the uneven distribution of weight between the tires and wheel assemblies. Imbalance wheels can cause problems that lead to excessive tire damage, damage to the suspension, and other related tire issues.
Imbalance can occur due to uneven tire wear over time. Or you may lose some weight in a wheel due to a run-in with a pothole or a curb. Wheel imbalance may occur if you leave a vehicle parked for a long period of time, causing flat spots in the tire and uneven weight distribution.
What Signs Should You Look Out For?
There are two main signs that will tell you your wheels require balancing.
- You experience vibration or trembling in your wheel, seat, or the floorboard.
- Your tires have uneven wear.
You may be able to tell which wheels require balancing by which part of the vehicle is vibrating. If you feel a vibration in the steering wheel, the main issue is likely between the front tires. If the back seats are rumbling, then the back wheels are likely imbalanced.
What You Can Expect from a Wheel Balancing Service
Often, wheel balancing and alignment services happen congruently, though you don’t want to confuse them as being the same thing. Just know that you can get them done together if you like.
Typically, during a tire balancing service, a technician uses a balancing machine to spin the wheels and assembly to determine where the heavy spots are. Weights are added to the wheel to even out imbalances and help the tires and wheels to spin smoothly even at high speeds.
What is Wheel Alignment?
Wheel alignment does not involve an adjustment in the tires themselves. It is an adjustment made to the car’s suspension – the system that connects the wheels to the vehicle. Wheel alignment affects how the tires come into contact with the road.
A correctly aligned wheel will be angled in just the right way to keep the vehicle driving straight and smooth, and discourage increased wear and tear to the tires. It will also help improve the handling of your vehicle and driving, and stop strange vibrations while driving.
Your tires’ alignment can get knocked off center by driving over potholes, running into objects such as a curb, or after an accident.
What Signs Should You Look Out For?
If you notice these issues, your vehicle’s wheels may need an alignment.
- Your tires squeal.
- Your tire treads are wearing out unevenly and prematurely.
- Your vehicle pulls to the side when you try to drive straight.
- Your steering wheel pulls to the side while driving.
- Your steering wheel vibrates as you accelerate.
What You Can Expect from an Alignment Service
A technician will make sure that the alignment of the tires is at the proper angle, and if not, will make adjustments to get them pointed correctly and centered on the wheel wells. This service does not take a long time, but you can expect about an hour’s wait.
How Do Wheel Balancing and Alignment Services Benefit Your Tires?
Both wheel balancing and alignment services are vital to the care of your tires and optimal driving. Bad road conditions and normal wear and tear can knock your tires off center or create various imbalances.
The main benefit of a balancing service is that this will prevent excessive damage and wear to the tire tread. Performing these maintenance services at regular intervals can help your tires last longer. Take a look at what is recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer, but generally, it is accepted that a balancing service every 5,000 or 6,000 miles will go a long way to extending the lifespan of your tires and give you a smoother ride.
Other benefits from a regular biannual wheel alignment service include improved fuel efficiency and overall improved vehicle handling. Left on their own, balancing and alignment problems can significantly cut a tire’s lifespan, and critically damage components of the steering and suspension systems.