There are many different types of tires. Some are built to handle high speeds, some for short trips, and others for long drives. Regardless of the tires you have, they need to be balanced. If yours are unbalanced, they will wear out faster.
The difference between balancing and alignment is confusing for most people. Many car owners ask:
“Should I balance my tires before an alignment?”
This post discusses everything about balancing and alignment to get you up to speed.
Should I Balance My Tires Before an Alignment?
It will help if you balance your tires before every alignment service.
Why? Because an unbalanced tire can throw off your car’s alignment and make it more difficult to align.
The best way to check for a balanced tire is with a simple wheel balancing machine. You can buy these at any auto parts store. This device allows you to adjust the weight distribution in each tire so that they’re all on the same level.
How Do I Know if My Tires Need Balancing?
Unbalanced tires can cause vibrations in the steering wheel. You may also hear a humming sound coming from the wheels.
The easiest way to determine if your tires need balancing is by looking at them. If one side of the tire tread is wearing down faster than the other, then that’s a red flag they are unbalanced.
Wheel Balancing Vs. Alignment
It’s crucial to know wheel balancing and alignment work to prevent damage to your vehicle or improve its performance. Let’s explore the differences between wheel balancing and alignment to understand better:
An alignment is a set of adjustments to your car’s suspension. The angles of the wheels are adjusted so that they’re perpendicular to each other. Alignment ensures your car drives straight without pulling to one side as you turn. Misalignment can also lead to:
- premature tire wear
- poor gas mileage
- increased stress on suspension components.
All these may lead to expensive repairs or replacements down the road.
Wheel balancing is an adjustment on each wheel to avoid vibration when driving at speed. The process involves using a machine known as an electronic balancer. This tool spins each wheel, measuring its weight through sensors. It spots any imbalance due to wear and tear.
A tire out of balance might cause vibrations while driving at high speed. Such vibrations can cause damage to other parts of your vehicle, e.g.:
- exhaust system
- fuel tank
- other wheels.
In extreme cases, it could lead to severe accidents whenever a driver loses control.
How Much Does it Cost to Balance and Align Tires?
The cost of balancing and aligning tires depends on a few factors:
- your car type/brand
- where you go to get the alignment done
- whether you have a discount card or insurance that covers the service.
Nevertheless, expect to pay at least $100 for an alignment. However, some shops charge as much as $250-$300 for this service — so be sure to shop around.
This fee should cover visual inspection of the tread depth, pressure, and sidewall damage. Your mechanic should also check for any signs of irregular wear or damage due to potholes.
In short, the price should cover both balancing and alignment services.
Do Tires Need to be Balanced When Rotated?
Tires are balanced when they are new. But they lose their balance over time due to normal wear and tear. The weight on each tire can also affect its balance.
So, if you have rotated your tires and still feel a vibration when driving, try rebalancing them.
To rebalance your tires, you’ll need to bring them into a service center for an inspection. The technician will check the weight falling on each wheel. They can then tell whether they need rebalancing or replacement.
In most cases, technicians caution against rotating your tires without balancing them.
Remember, doing a total dismount/mount/balance is safer than an off-the-car balance. Incomplete service may cause new problems soon after you hit the road.
When Should You Balance Wheels and Do an Alignment?
The answer depends on several factors, but generally speaking:
- Wobbling or vibration
If you notice any vibration or wobbling while driving at speeds over 30 mph, it’s time for wheel balancing.
Vibrations tend to damage your tires and suspension components if left unchecked.
- Uneven wear
Uneven wear signifies that tires aren’t rotating smoothly. They will need rebalancing to compensate for this error.
- Car pulling you to one side
Tires should balance to run smoothly. So, if you notice your car is pulling to one side when driving, one of your tires is likely out of balance. Aligning them ensures the wheels line up with each other and the road.
How Do Balancing and Alignment Help My Car?
A well-balanced tire rolls straight down the road without vibrations or wobbles. An unbalanced tire will cause extra wear on the inside/outside edges as it moves over bumps in the street. So, all four tires must balance before hitting the open road again.
Mechanics tend to use a wheel balancer to inspect wheels. This machine uses centrifugal force to ensure equal weight distribution on each spin.
Remember, if one side of the wheel has more weight, it will rotate faster than the other when spinning. The slower-rotating side will touch the ground first, causing steering pull and vibrations.
Here are the pros of balancing and aligning your tires.
- Reduced tire wear
- Improved gas mileage
- Less noise and vibration
- A safer ride.
In a nutshell, balancing and alignment are essential for a car’s performance and the longevity of its tires.
After How Long Should I Balance and Align My Tires?
This depends on:
- how many miles you drive
- where you drive
- your driving habits
It’s advisable to balance and align every time you rotate your tires. Remember, each tire wears differently. That’s why rotation is vital in maintaining their lifespan.
If you do not rotate your tires regularly, one of them will wear out much faster than the others. This will force you to replace it sooner than expected.
If you’re going over 50 miles per hour, you must balance and align every 3-6 months. If you’re driving at lower speeds (under 30 mph), then once every six months should be good enough.
For a performance vehicle that you drive on the track, balance and align your tires before every race. High speeds can cause much wear on your tires, causing them to wear out faster than usual.
As you can see from the above, balancing your tires before an alignment isn’t essential. But, it can still be a good idea. Though it might not help speed up the process, it can ensure your vehicle runs smoothly.
The last thing you want is your car developing problems soon after a visit to the mechanic. So it makes more sense to balance and align your car’s tires simultaneously.