Wheel Alignment vs Tire Balancing: Which Service do I Need?

Wheel Alignment vs Tire Balancing: Which Service do I Need?

1st Jun 2017

Do I need a wheel alignment or tire balancing? This is a common question asked by drivers.

Some drivers assume the two services are the same. While wheel alignment and tire balancing share a few similarities, they are two unique services with their own unique purpose. To better understand the nuances between wheel alignment and tire balancing, and which service is best suited for your vehicle, keep reading.

Wheel Alignment

Most automakers recommend checking your vehicle's wheel alignment once every 10,000 miles. Also referred to as "tire alignment," this service involves adjusting the angle at which the tires point as per the manufacturer's recommendations. The goal is to achieve specific angles for the "caster" and "chamber." The caster is the angle at the pivot line running from the front to the rear of the vehicle, while the chamber is the angle running from the top to the bottom of the vehicle.

Common signs that you need a wheel alignment include the steering veering to either the left or right (when driving on a flat surface and not moving the steering wheel), as well as uneven tread wear and uneven wear on the ball joints or tie rods.

It's important to note, however, that veering isn't always indicative of misaligned wheels. Other problems that can mimic this symptom include low tire pressure, faulty brakes or a bad suspension.

Tire Balancing

With tire balancing, weights made of composite materials or metal are applied to the inside and exterior planes of the rim. The purpose of tire balancing is to ensure all four tires are equally balanced. If one tire is higher than the others, it can increase wear and tear of the associated components.

It's not uncommon for tires to lose balance over time. So, how do you know if your tires need balancing? The most tall-tale sign is vibration or shaking at high speeds.

During a tire balancing service, the mechanic will apply a calibrated spin balancer to adjust for proper balance. Weights are applied to the rims, and the spin balancer allows for proper balance across all four tires.

If you believe your car needs a wheel alignment or tire balancing, consult with a trusted mechanic in your area.