Difference Between Tire Balancing and Alignment

You can easily get confused by tire balancing and alignment. After all, they both sound like they would do the same thing and contribute to a smoother ride. But in reality, they are very different services. A tire balancing corrects the weight imbalance on your tire and wheel assemblies, while wheel alignment corrects the angles of the tires so that they come into contact with the road in just the right way.

If you are wondering, “What is wheel alignment?” Or, “What does tire balancing mean?” This is the time to dive deeper into your car care practice. Here’s a quick look at which service you might need for your vehicle.

What Is Tire Balancing?

Tire balancing, also known as wheel balancing, corrects the uneven distribution of weight on the wheels. Imbalance wheels can cause vibration, excessive tire wear, suspension damage, and other problems.

Tire balancing is a tune-up for your wheel and tire set. It ensures that the weight is evenly distributed over the entire circumference of the device. The most common symptoms of unbalanced tires are uneven and faster tread wear, poor fuel economy, and vibrations in the steering wheel, the floorboard, or seat that get worse at higher speeds.

If all areas of the wheel-tire unit weigh as much as possible, the tire rolls smoothly. This helps ensure it wears evenly for the longest life. Balancing also contributes to driving comfort: unbalanced tires wobble or jump up and down, which leads to vibrations. If a front tire is not properly balanced, you will likely feel vibrations in the steering wheel. If the problem is in the rear, the tremor will be noticeable on the seat or floor.

Imbalance tires are easily corrected, but the work is precise. To do this, small weights, only fractions of an ounce, are attached to the wheel.

Related: What is Tire Balancing?

What Are the Signs That Your Tires Need Balancing?

Tire balancing is a tune-up for your wheel-tire set. It makes sure that weight is evenly distributed around the entire circumference of the unit. The common symptoms of out-of-balance tires are uneven and faster tread wear, poor fuel economy, and vibration in the steering wheel, the floorboard, or the seat that gets worse at faster speeds.

When all areas of the wheel-tire unit are as equal in weight as possible, the tire will roll smoothly. This helps it wear evenly, for the longest life. Balancing also contributes to ride comfort: Imbalanced tires will wobble or hop up and down, which causes vibration.

If a front tire isn’t properly balanced you’ll likely feel a vibration in the steering wheel. If the problem is in the rear the tremor will be noticeable on the seat or floor. Imbalanced tires are easily corrected, but the work is precise. It’s done by attaching small weights, just fractions of ounces, to the wheel.

How Do Wheels Get Out of Balance? Everyday wear on tires will contribute to imbalance. Normal manufacturing imperfections are also a cause: Tires and wheels don’t have precisely equal weight distribution. They’ll be slightly heavier in some spots. Just half an ounce in weight difference is enough to cause a vibration when you’re driving.

How Tires Are Rebalanced?

Rebalancing is done in a tire shop by putting the wheel-tire unit on a tire balancing machine that takes measurements to pinpoint lighter or heavier areas and making adjustments to account for these weight differences.

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The best time to get it done is when tires are being rotated, both for convenience and because you might have a tire out of balance on the rear of the vehicle and won’t feel it until it is moved to the front.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. A tire mounted on a wheel is attached to a tire balancing machine.
  2. The wheel is spun while vibration measurements are taken. This tells the tech if the weight is spread evenly, how much weight to add, and where on the wheel to attach it.
  3. If an imbalance is found, the technician may be able to rebalance and adjust the weights (adding more). But sometimes it requires the tech to also move the tire on the wheel and then rebalance. This is because a heavy spot on the wheel and on the tire can sometimes line up together, causing a greater imbalance that needs to be corrected.

When to Get Tire Balancing Done:

  • You feel a vibration in the steering wheel, the floorboard, or your seat.
  • You get them rotated, generally every 5,000 miles.
  • At the very least every two years, once yearly if you drive rough roads.
  • You get a flat and repair a tire.
  • You buy any new tire(s).
  • A weight that used to be on the rim falls off.
  • You notice uneven tire wear.

Tire balancing and rotation are often done at the same time, but they aren’t the same service. Tire rotation is when a vehicle’s front and rear wheels are switched to even out tread wear between them. Since both require removing each wheel, it’s convenient to do them at the same time.

Related: What is Tire Rotation?

What Is Wheel Alignment?

Wheel alignment, also known as tire alignment, refers to an adjustment of a car’s suspension – the system that connects a vehicle to its wheels. It’s not an adjustment of the tires or wheels themselves.

An alignment is a process of adjusting the angles of your vehicle’s wheels so they are all working together on straightaways and corners. Everyday driving can cause your wheels to get slightly out of sync with one another. Especially if you hit a few curbs or potholes.

When one or more of your wheels isn’t pointing in the same direction, your tires are essentially scuffing on the road as you drive. This can lead to faster tire wear, pulling to one side or the other, a steering wheel that’s off-center, and loss of fuel economy.

Tire alignment keeps your car from veering to the right or left. It also can improve the handling of your vehicle and stop unusual on-the-road vibrations.

If you can, it’s a good idea to get your alignment checked twice per year. We suggest early spring and early fall. If you can only, do it once per year, stick with early spring.

Related: What is Wheel Alignment?

What Are the Signs That Your Car Needs an Alignment?

Your vehicle might need an alignment if you notice any of the following:

  • The car is pulling to one side of the road.
  • The tire treads are wearing out prematurely or unevenly.
  • The tires are squealing.
  • The steering wheel tilts off-center when you’re driving.
  • The steering wheel vibrates when accelerating.
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Your alignment can get knocked out of whack after being in a car accident, driving over a pothole, or running into a curb.

How Much Do Tire Balancing and Alignment Cost?

How Much Does a Tire Alignment Cost?

The cost of an alignment depends on several factors:

  • The number of wheels: A front-end alignment, which involves only the two wheels on the front of the car, typically costs anywhere from $50 to $75. Four-wheel alignments cost more, usually $100 to $150.
  • Type of car: Luxury cars will have more expensive tire alignments, as will models that require specialized equipment or have a design that makes the job more difficult and time-consuming.
  • Extra services: Services like tire balancing or car suspension repairs, which the mechanic might need to complete before the alignment, increase the cost of the alignment.
  • Local labor costs: The cost of alignment depends on your location, and it can also vary mechanic to mechanic.

How Much Does a Tire Balancing Cost?

Many tire shops offer free balancing as part of tire packages that are purchased from them, but you’ll have to pay for it in other cases. On average, plan to spend between $15 and $75, depending on your vehicle, the tires, and the shop.

FAQs.

Do you need an alignment after balancing tires?

You don’t have to balance your tires before an alignment, it is completely up to you. They are 2 separate services aiming at different things. Tire balancing is done to restore tire balance due to uneven wear etc. While tire alignment is done to adjust the angle of your car’s wheels to the “proper” position.

Does wheel balancing affect alignment?

Not necessarily. However, because the symptoms of misalignment and lost balancing are so similar, it is difficult to know which one might be the problem leading to damaged tires, suspension problems, and steering problems.

How often should I do wheel balancing?

A good rule of thumb is that your tires should be rebalanced every 12,000 miles driven or every other time your tires are rotated. Having your tires rebalanced as part of tire rotation is a quick and easy process that could save you from costly repairs in the future.

Is wheel balancing necessary?

Wheel balancing is important because wheels lose their balance over time. Factors concerning the weight distribution of your vehicle, road conditions, and tread wear can cause an unevenness in the tires, which can then lead to further uneven tread wear. As a result, the vehicle might shake or vibrate while in use.

Should I get an alignment before new tires?

It doesn’t matter whether you get your alignment before or after having your new tires put on. Most experts agree that the only effect worn tires have on your alignment is a change to the vehicle’s ride height which, given today’s steering and suspension design, should be negligible.

How are tires aligned?

An alignment essentially requires squaring a car’s wheels and axles with each other so that they’re moving in the same direction. The mechanic adjusts the various suspension angles — known as toe, thrust, camber, and caster that influence tire movement and position.

Which is better wheel alignment or wheel balancing?

Proper balancing can lead to a smoother ride, less tire wear, and reduced strain on the drivetrain. An alignment corrects the angles of the tires so that they come into contact with the road in just the right way.

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Should I balance or alignment first?

You don’t have to balance your tires before an alignment, it is completely up to you. They are 2 separate services aiming at different things. Tire balancing is done to restore tire balance due to uneven wear etc. While tire alignment is done to adjust the angle of your car’s wheels to the “proper” position.

Is alignment and tire balance the same?

The Difference: Wheel alignment is the term for how your wheels sit when mounted to your car and wheel balancing is what’s done to perfectly balance the weight of a tire and wheel assembly so that it travels evenly.

How do I know if my wheels need balancing?

The common symptoms of out-of-balance tires are uneven and faster tread wear, poor fuel economy, and vibration in the steering wheel, the floorboard or the seat that gets worse at faster speeds. When all areas of the wheel-tire unit are as equal in weight as possible, the tire will roll smoothly.

Is tire balancing necessary?

Often confused with wheel alignment, tire balancing is important for assuring the best performance from a vehicle, and for gaining the longest service life from tires. Tire balancing provides a smooth ride and assures even tire wear by properly adjusting the tire weight distribution around the vehicle.

How often should tires be balanced?

A good rule of thumb is that your tires should be rebalanced every 12,000 miles driven or every other time your tires are rotated. Having your tires rebalanced as part of tire rotation is a quick and easy process that could save you from costly repairs in the future.

Do you need an alignment after replacing all 4 tires?

We recommend an alignment after the installation of new tires. This helps you get the most life from your new tires. Wheel alignment checks are always advised after a significant impact or uneven tire wear is detected. Also, get a check annually, or twice yearly if you typically travel on rough roads.

How long can you drive on unbalanced tires?

So, you can drive on unbalanced wheels for a couple of months at max. After that, the problems will increase progressively, and the damage to your vehicle will increase as well. To avoid all this trouble, it is good to get them fixed within the 1st two months of noticing the problem.

Why does my car vibrate at 70 mph?

Problems with inner CV joints will usually occur under hard acceleration and heavy load. Depending on how bad it is, it could manifest as a minor vibration or violent shaking. So, if your car shakes when driving over 70 mph and your tires check out, then you might have worn CV joints or a worse powertrain problem.

What is the cost of wheel balancing?

Service centers or tire shops charge for wheel balancing by the number of weights used on the wheel. The charge ranges from Rs. 200 to Rs. 500 on average for balancing a set of four tires.

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