Wheel Alignment & Tire Balance: Costs, Benefits and Information
What is the difference between wheel alignment & wheel balance?
Wheel alignment is the position of the wheels relative to the car body. It is part of standard maintenance which consists of adjusting the relative angles of the tires so that they are set to the manufacturer's optimal specification. The names of the most common alignment adjustments are camber, caster and toe. A car out of alignment may pull to one side or the other, quickly cause premature tie wear and loss of fuel economy.
Most European cars on the road today should have a Four Wheel alignment. A four wheel alignment adjusts and aligns all four wheels. Getting all four tires aligned is especially important when buying 4 new tires. A Two Wheel alignment only adjusts and aligns the front tires.
What do you do? What does it mean? Is it safe to drive? Is the car going to break down immediately? Is more damage going to occur the more I drive it? Is it going to blow up? It can be an anxious and stressful time when you don't understand what is happening with your car and don't know what to do about it.
Wheel balancing is a procedure that ensures that the weight of the tire is distributed evenly to improve performance and reduce wear. Wheels are balanced individually on a machine with lead weight added to the wheel to balance it. Unbalanced tires can cause vibration in the steering wheel or may be felt in your seat. Typically you will feel unbalanced tire vibration between 40-45MPH and 60-65MPH.
Benefits of Wheel Alignment
Properly aligned tires will save you money especially when today’s high performance tires can cost as much as $500 each. When tires are properly aligned the car will handle better and improve traction. Correct wheel alignment reduces tire wear, improves driving control and braking performance. Most of the time, for less than the cost of a single tire, you can have a wheel alignment performed on all four wheels, greatly extending your tire life and gas mileage. Most importantly proper wheel alignment ensures your vehicle operates safely.
Benefits of Rotating and Balancing Tires
When tires are rotated they should also be balanced, if not the car likely will develop a shimmy. Rotating and balancing the tires extends the life of the tires and allows them to wear evenly.
How Often Should You Get Your Wheels Aligned?
If the tires show abnormal wear on the edges, the steering wheel is off center or you feel the car wanders to one side or the other at highway speeds, then you should have the wheels aligned.
In general every 10,000 miles, although we suggest more frequently if you drive on roads that have pot holes or uneven payment.
Over time, a vehicle will go out of alignment. The steering tie-rod ends, suspension ball joints and suspension control arms either wear out or fall out of adjustment. Moreover, hitting a pothole or banging into a curb can often throw a vehicle out of alignment as well.
How Often Should You Get Your Tires Rotated and Balanced?
A rule of thumb would be every other time your car comes in for an oil change if the oil change interval is 3,000 miles or for cars that use synthetic oil with longer intervals have the tires rotated and balanced with each oil change.
Overall wheels that are aligned and tires that are rotated and balanced at regular intervals will save you money and keep you safer. Keep in mind that a set of four tires can cost as much as $1,500 installed. With regular maintenance of wheels and tires you should save money in the long run.