Uh oh. There’s a weird vibration in your car that just popped up, or it’s veering to the left every time you loosen control of the steering. It’s worrying when your car starts to display symptoms that indicate problems with the wheels.
Do your wheels need to be aligned or balanced? And what is even the difference?
Check out our guide on wheel alignment vs wheel balancing and figure out which one your car needs.
What is Wheel Alignment?
Despite the misleading term, wheel alignment has more to do with your car’s suspension system than the wheels. So when your car requires wheel alignment, it will be the suspension that is adjusted.
By adjusting the part of your car that connects the vehicle to the wheel (the suspension), you can alter the position of your wheels relative to the road.
Wheel alignment is very important to prevent your car from veering to the left or right and resisting your steering commands. A proper wheel alignment will also protect your tires from uneven wear and tear.
Do you need a wheel alignment?
There are a couple of things that can cause your wheels to become unaligned. Hitting a pothole or bump, taking a turn too sharp, or a car accident. Even everyday driving can put a strain on wheel alignment.
Look out for these signs that indicate you might need to get your wheels aligned:
- The vehicle is pulling to the left or right
- The steering wheel tilts off-center when driving
- The steering wheel vibrates when you accelerate
- The tires squeal
- The tires are wearing out unevenly
What is Wheel Balancing?
Unlike wheel alignment, wheel balancing actually does have to do with your wheels. If your wheels aren’t perfectly balanced, they won’t roll smoothly.
Of course, it’s almost impossible to have an entire perfectly balanced wheel. There will always be thicker, heavier parts of the wheel and other thinner and lighter parts. Tire balancing aims to correct this imbalance of weight.
Tires are balanced by mounting it on a balance machine and spinning the tire to identify where the imbalances are. The technician will then use bonding cement to attach small lead weights to the light areas of your wheel.
Do you need wheel balancing?
It’s important to correct imbalanced tires as leaving them for too long can cause extreme wheel wear, damage to the vehicle’s suspension, and a host of other problems.
Look out for these signs that may indicate you need tire balancing services:
- Uneven tire wear
- Vibrating steering wheel, floorboard, or seat
- Vibrations that increase as you speed up
You can identify which tires are unbalanced by recognizing where the car is vibrating. If the vibration is mostly concentrated in the steering wheel, the imbalance is most likely in one or both of the front wheels. On the other hand, a vibration in the seat indicates a problem with the rear tires.
Ensure your wheels are not just lacking air and keep them pumped up with a Gast compressor at home.
Wheel Alignment vs Wheel Balancing
So, what is the difference between wheel alignment vs wheel balancing? Alignment is concerned with your suspension and how your wheels sit when mounted to your car. Balancing refers to the weight of your tire and correcting imbalances. It’s important to understand the difference so you can diagnose the problem and seek the correct help.
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