Many drivers will use the phrases “tire balance” and “wheel alignment” interchangeably. They certainly sound similar, and they are both essential to maintaining your vehicle. However, they are two different procedures, and you need to seek both regularly so you can always rely on your car.
When tires are new and installed they need to be balanced, but due to natural wear and tear, they slowly alter. Some of the ways this imbalance occurs include frequently driving over potholes or hitting the brakes too hard. If you regularly drive off-road, then it is also possible those conditions will result in an imbalance.
A tire balance is carried out by applying weights to the planes on the inner and outer portion of your tire rim. Since all rims are different, various weights are available to ensure there is something for every car. You will know it is time to take your vehicle to a service center for a tire balancing because you will notice the following signs.
- Vibrations in the seat
- Vibrations in the wheel
- Uneven tire wear (cupping)
- Slight humming sound from tires
- Extreme shaking when speed exceeds 60 mph
Every car is made in a factory with a certain alignment. Over time, a vehicle can become misaligned, which causes vehicles to veer off to one side or the other and needs to be corrected. It is often recommended that your car get a wheel alignment checked by a professional technician once every 6,000 miles.
The wheel alignment is a series of angles of how the tires can be positioned on the ground. There are 3 different angles of an alignment: toe angle, camber angle, and caster angle.
Signs that it would be prudent to get your wheels aligned include:
- Extreme tire wear
- Car routinely pulling off to one side
- Squealing sound coming from tires
- Crooked steering wheel
- Poor fuel economy
Both services need to be obtained regularly, so schedule regular checkups at a service center. These services are typically done at the same time. Pay attention to any abnormalities or changes while driving, this will help you recognize potential problems sooner rather than later.