Wheel Alignment and Balancing: What You Need to Know

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TIPS OF THE WEEK

New tires do not solve every problem

At the service counter customers who purchased tires often asked, “Do I have to have them balanced?” And that was inevitably followed by, “Does it need an alignment, too?” Tire balancing coupled with wheel alignment can be expensive. So let us look at why balancing new tires and performing a wheel alignment are necessary.

Tire Balancing

Despite advanced tire manufacturing processes and advanced rubber compounds used today, some weight imbalance can still be evident in new tires.

Therefore they should be balanced with wheel weights to achieve smooth rolling of the tire. An imbalanced tire expresses itself as a wheel shimmy (rocking back and forth of the steering wheel while driving, usually at a specific speed).

To balance a tire, it must first be mounted in the proper rim and then inflated to the proper air pressure and a new valve stem installed. Next, the complete tire/wheel assembly is affixed to a machine that is designed to spin the tire and identify the location and severity of the imbalance. The tech must then affix the proper weight to the rim in the location designated by the machine. Finally, the wheel is spun again to ensure that the tire is properly balanced. A tire is balanced based on the mass of rubber present at the time of its first balance. As the tire rolls down the road, rubber wears off, causing the tire to become imbalanced again. For this reason, when tires are rotated on the vehicle every 5-6,000 miles or 6 months, they should be checked and rebalanced if necessary.

Wheel alignment

Those who have new tires would lose money if they do not have their vehicle’s wheel alignment done. So how could you lose money by not having an alignment done? By significantly decreasing the life of your new tires you will be losing money.

The steering and suspension of your vehicle have wear points: bushings, ball and socket joints, and miscellaneous mechanical links. When the steering and suspension system is new and adjusted according to factory specs, the rate at which the tires wear is minimized and the vehicle corners and handles smoothly.

Over time, the steering and suspension systems are jostled and hammered, often a result of America’s deteriorating infrastructure. This produces wear in these parts, causing the alignment to deviate from factory specs. And that variation results in poor cornering and handling, and a significant increase in tire wear.

There are three alignment angles that must be in line for the vehicle to handle properly and for minimal tire wear. Carmakers have built adjustment points into the steering and suspension that allow for re-alignment of the front end.

(Source: Autoblog)

Did you know?

It is estimated 71% of large truck accidents occurred as a result of the driver doing something other than only driving the truck.

(Source: MasterDrive)