Wheel Alignment or Tire Balance, Which Do You Need?

When you have work done on your tires, your mechanic might recommend you get either a tire balance or wheel alignment or both. For many drivers, these terms are interchangeable. There is, however, quite a difference between the two.

Tire Balance

New tires are put onto your vehicle and balanced, but as you drive, the balance slowly changes. If you drive on roads with a lot of potholes, for example, the balance of one or more tires can be knocked out in comparison with the other tires.

Balance is achieved by adding weights to the inner and outer portion of the tire rim. The type of weight you need is unique to your vehicle's rims and model. When a tire (or tires) is knocked out of balance, one or more of the following symptoms will occur

  • Seat or wheel vibrations
  • Tire wear that is not even
  • A humming or whirring sound from the tires
  • A shimmy when the vehicle speed exceeds 60 MPH

Alignment

Every vehicle starts off with a specific alignment. Over time driving, that alignment slips. When that happens, the vehicle is misaligned and pulls to one side or the other when you drive. Your wheel alignment should be checked about every 6,000 miles and obviously when you purchase new tires.

Signs you need a new alignment include, but are not limited to:

  • Extreme tire wear,
  • A vehicle that drifts one way or another when you have the steering wheel in the straight-ahead position,
  • Tire squeals, particularly when turning,
  • Your vehicle steering wheel is cockeyed when your tires are in the straight position,
  • Your vehicle seems to eat up more fuel than usual.

Is One Better?

Both a wheel balance and alignment are vital to keeping your vehicle running smoothly. A vehicle that is out of balance or alignment also can pose a safety risk. Neglecting one over the other can lead to excess wear and tear and negatively affect the lifespan of your vehicle's tires.

If you need a wheel alignment or tire services performed, we invite you to bring your vehicle into our auto repair shop today!

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