Tire balancing and alignment is important for a comfortable ride because misaligned and unbalanced tires are amongst the reasons why a car shakes. We will discuss the meaning of both tire balancing and wheel alignment below.
Driving comfort is not s function of the suspension system parts only. However, undertaking tire balancing and alignment reduces the strain on the suspension especially when you’re transporting a heavy load.
Further, undertaking this car service improves vehicle handling and control capacity. It is important to perform balancing and alignment whenever you change old tires for new ones.
Whether the tire change is due to tire sidewall damage from tire bulges or tire tread wear. Incase of uneven tire tread wear caused by unbalancing or misalignment, you can undertake tire rotation. Tire tread wear affects the tire grip which causes the vehicle to skid.
Tire rotation can be done after balancing and alignment. Below we are going to define all of these terms.
Is tire balancing and alignment the same thing?
Wheel balancing is done in a manner that’s different from wheel alignment. Further, they are both done to serve different purposes. But both tend to have mutual balancing and alignment benefits in relation to tire maintenance.
Wheel alignment equipment is also different from what is used during the process of balancing. Here is the difference between wheel balancing and alignment.
There are a number of wheels on a vehicle and each wheel assembly holds one tire or more, depending on the type of vehicle. The load’s weight on the vehicle is distributed amongst all the wheels such that the suspension system doesn’t strain one wheel assembly more than the other. Wheel balancing ensures that every tire supports an equal amount of weight.
Wheel balancing equipment.
This is the equipment used to ensure that the tires assume the correct balancing metrics. The equipment measures the current balancing and suggests corrections for imbalance. These equipment include;
a]. Wheel balancer.
Its a machine that’s made up of a motorized spindle for holding the wheels, sensors to detect imbalance and a screen monitor. Wheel balancers usually detect imbalance through these tire balancing techniques;
- Dynamic balancing
- Static balancing.
- Spin balancing
Therefore, once the reading is made, it is displayed on the screen monitor. Further, the screen also displays any balancing problems and tire adjustments that are necessary. Next, the technician reads the metrics and undertakes corrective measures.
b]. Tire balancing weights.
Their function is to adjust any deviation in weight balancing across all the wheel assemblies. Tire balancing weights attach onto each tire rim.
c]. Collets or cone sets.
Their function is to hold the vehicle in place on the wheel balancer machine. Therefore, they prevent any damage that could result from the vehicle adjusting its position while on the machine.
Wheel alignment affects the tire lifespan because of the angle at which the tire comes in contact with the road. Perform a coin test to see the tire tread depth by placing the coin inside the tread marks.
Wheel alignment ensures that tires are aligned parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground. This ensures proper tire grip, tire pressure maintenance and steering stability.
Further, alignment is one of the methods of reducing fuel consumption. According to technicians, the following are the proper wheel alignment angles.
- Camber angle. This is the inward or outward tilt of tires when observed from the front side of the car.
- Toe angle. Secondly, toe angle means you observe the inward or outward tilt of tires from above.
- Caster angle. This refers to the steering axis angle.
Tire rotation is one of the best tire maintenance techniques because it interferes with the tire wear pattern. It involves a systematic tire rotation pattern that moves tires from one position to another.
Different types of vehicles exhibit unique tire wear patterns given their general set-up. This is in relation to engine position, suspension system, steering input and braking force.
Tire rotation counters the effects that those issues have on tires. Further, it ensures the even distribution of tire tread wear. Undertake tire rotation during different tire alignment intervals.
Tire balancing ensures that the wheels and tires sets are equal in weight. It involves mounting the vehicle’s tires onto a balancing machine.
Then the machine spins the tire and wheels setup to measure the imbalance.
Afterwards, a technician observes the measurement and assigns the correct tire weight for individual wheel and tire set up.
How do I know if I need an alignment or balance.
a]. Uneven and faster tread wear.
You may observe that the inner side of your tires wears out faster than the outer or middle parts.
And the other parts could also be wearing out unevenly.
Then this is how to know that you need tire balancing and alignment.
b]. Poor fuel economy.
In case you have driven your vehicle for a while then you know how much fuel you need to cover a specific distance.
Now, you may notice that the same amount of fuel does not cover the usual distance as usual.
A wheel imbalance could be among the issues that are causing the poor fuel consumption.
c]. Vibrations in the steering wheel.
This is common where the wheel imbalance is on the front wheel.
But if the rear wheels are imbalanced, the vibrations will be felt on the floor of the vehicle.
The vibrations usually get worse as the speed increases. The wheels usually wobble up and down.
This involves the correction of the tire’s angles to ensure that the tire’s circumference hits the road evenly.
Both alignment and balancing can be done at a go in the same instance.
Alignment helps in ensuring that tires are long lasting and serve over a longer mileage.
Alignment is done for the front pair of tires in relation to the rear pair.
If you notice vibrations as you drive, tire balancing and alignment, a bent wheel or a worn out suspension system could be the issue.
Should you get an alignment before or after balancing tires?
You’re probably asking this question because you’re aware of the difference between balancing and alignment. One of them should be done first before the other.
For you to understand this, first you need to know which of the two has a greater effect on the other. Tire balancing is more likely to affect alignment.
Therefore, you should first take care of balancing. Because any changes done to the balancing after alignment was done will affect the good job.
Therefore, requiring you to repeat the alignment process. However, different technicians have varying opinions about this. As long as they do a good job on both, whichever they choose to do first isn’t important.
Car tire balancing and alignment price.
The cost you incur for this procedure will be worth it. However, different technicians offer varying packages for tire balancing and alignment. What we give hear is an estimate.
Therefore, costs vary from one technician to another. There is the option of doing alignment on all the tires or choosing either front or rear wheels.
This will definitely affect tire balancing and alignment pricing. The estimate is that it could cost approximately $100 to $200 for this service.
When to do wheel balancing and alignment.
We have seen the differences between these two terms and their effects. However, they are both done during the same visit to the technician’s shop. There are some occasions that might require you to undertake balancing and alignment.
a]. New tires.
The vehicle needs new tires once in a while. New tire installations have a slight effect on weight balance. Ensure that technicians perform balancing and alignment when you visit their shop for new tires.
b]. Vehicle is shaking.
Balancing and alignment affects the driving comfort. Therefore, when there is a problem with either of them, the steering wheel starts shaking.
c]. Car pulling to one side.
Park the vehicle on a level ground and walk a few meters in front. Look at the angle at which the vehicle is sitting. Check whether it appears to be slanting towards one side.
If so, the issue could be coming from unbalancing or misalignment. Further, a stuck brake caliper could be causing the issue. Therefore, investigate these two issues.
d]. Tire replacement.
The best practice is doing balancing and alignment after undertaking tire replacement of either of your tires.
e]. Uneven tire wear pattern.
Ensure that you inspect your tire’s tread wear patterns. Look for any uneven tire wear pattern around the interior edges and exterior edges.
Imbalance and misalignment affect tire lifespan by causing uneven tire wear patterns. Further compromising the tire grip or traction which in turns reduces control.
f]. Suspension upgrade.
Whatever change you make to the suspension system parts will affect balancing and alignment. Therefore, it is important to get the technician to perform balancing and alignment afterwards.