While both wheel alignment and tire balancing contribute to a smoother ride, they separate services that affect your vehicle in different ways. While an alignment will correct the way the tires come into contact with the road by correcting their angles, a tire balance will correct any weight imbalances that may impact performance of tire and wheel assemblies. Here’s how you can determine whether your car needs a wheel alignment or tire balance.
Wheel alignment is also known as tire alignment, and it helps your tires perform properly and extends their lifespan. When tires are properly aligned, your car won’t veer to the right or the left as you drive—unless, of course, you’ve jerked the wheel in either direction. Wheel alignment actually involves adjusting the car’s suspension rather than the actual tires or wheels themselves. It improves your car’s overall performance and handling, ensuring smooth driving and reducing any unusual vibrations.
There are three primary causes of wheel misalignment, including sudden, heavy impact, worn-out suspension parts and height modifications without adjustment to the suspension. Take your car to your local mechanic for an alignment if you notice any of the following problems as you drive:
- The car unexpectedly pulls to either side of the road
- Tires are squealing or making other unexpected noises
- Premature or uneven wear to the tread on your tires
- Vibrations in the steering wheel as you drive
Generally, tire balancing should be done every time you buy new tires, whether you invest in an entire set or just a single new tire. It also should be done at least every two years, or whenever you notice a change in your car’s performance. Imbalanced wheels lead to reduced performance in a vehicle, causing vibration, excessive tire damage, suspension damage and many other issues. During a tire balance service, the wheels are removed from your vehicle and are then mounted on a tire balancing machine, which measures any imbalance. Your maintenance technician will use the measurements to adjust to the correct tire weights to evenly distribute the weight of the complete tire assembly.
Tires usually become out of balance for two reasons: either uneven tire wear or the loss of a wheel weight if your rim has hit a pothole or curb. Here are some of the signs that your car may benefit from tire balancing:
- Uneven wear to your tires
- Vibration in your steering wheel, floorboard or seat (location of vibration indicates the tires that need attention)
- Decreased fuel efficiency
Both wheel alignment and tire balancing are simple fixes that are performed in countless mechanic shops every day. If you’ve noticed any of the symptoms described above, head to a trusted mechanic and get the issue resolved quickly, since any delay can impact your ability to safely operate your vehicle. Reach out to the team at Madison Muffler & Auto Repair to learn more about the differences between these two routine repairs and how you can determine which one is necessary for your car.