Alignment vs. Tire Balancing
Alignments are necessary adjustments that help keep your vehicle running smoothly. While tire alignments are vital, they often get overlooked until the misalignment causes bigger problems.
What is a Alignment Service?
Alignment involves adjusting your car’s steering and suspension system, which connects the car to the wheels. This adjustment does not refer to the tires and the wheels directly. Alignment helps your car drive smoothly in a straight path, instead of veering off toward one side of the road or another.
Are Tire Balancing and Alignment the Same Thing?
Tire balancing and alignment are two different services. Tire balancing fixes the imbalance of weight distribution on your tire and wheel assemblies, while an alignment helps to correct the angle of the tires when they are in contact with the road.
How Often Should I Get an Alignment?
Alignments are recommend every 12 months or 12,000 miles whichever comes 1st or when you hit a large pothole, curb, slide off the road, etc.
Do I Need an Alignment When I Buy New Tires?
The simple answer is yes! We recommend getting your car checked for correct alignment so you can safely steer your vehicle. Be aware though, many “Box stores” such as Costco or Discount Tire that sell tires do not do alignments which is not good!
Do I Need it On Two or Four Wheels?
Most vehicles require all four tires to be aligned. Some exceptions would be cars with solid wheel axles, which can only have the two front tires aligned. However, even if only the front two tires can be aligned, your technician can look at the rear tires for wear and tear and damage that might compromise the steering.
Benefits of Aligning Your Vehicle
Preserve Life of Tires
Incorrect alignment can cause the life of the tire to fade away quickly. Feathering, chamber wear, and heel and toe wear are all aspects of the tire life fading and can be dangerous when driving unaware. Correct alignment can help the life of the tire last longer.
Alignment can be an important factor for your safety when operating a vehicle. Without proper alignment, your vehicle is likely to veer off the road, cause damage to your tires, or operate incorrectly. With proper alignment, all these issues can be resolved, and you can operate your car safely.
When your alignment is off, it can affect how your vehicle feels when you drive. You will know when your vehicle needs an adjustment when:
- Your vehicle pulls to one side
- There is uneven or rapid tire wear
- Your steering wheel is crooked when driving straight
- Your steering wheel vibrates
Alignment helps fuel efficiency and prevents damage to suspension and steering systems, which are much more expensive fixes than a routine alignment.
Symptoms of Misalignment
Awareness of correct alignment is important for any car owner. There are a few ways to tell when you might need one. If you notice uneven tread wear, the vehicle pulling to the left or right, your steering wheel being off-center when driving straight, or steering wheel vibration, you should have your alignment checked immediately by a licensed technician.
How Misalignment Happens
Misalignment can occur in many different ways. Some of the most common include:
- Hitting potholes, debris on the road, and accidents
- The suspension system is worn or loose
- Tire pressure
Your vehicle’s alignment can be affected by small bumps as well as large ones. With enough speed and force, anything that can throw off your alignment can cause damage to the rest of your vehicle.
Being aware of your surroundings while driving can help to prevent most of these accidents, however, there are numerous road conditions that are unavoidable. Drivers should drive safely and limit distractions while operating any vehicle.
How Misalignment Affects Tire Wear
Improper alignment can allow your tires to break down quickly and unevenly. There are a number of types of tire wear that can cause feathering, toe wear, camber wear, and impact the balance of your vehicle.
- Toe: This is how the tires are turned inward or outward from a bird's eye view.
- Caster: This happens when the steering axis tilts toward or away from the driver.
- Camber: When you look at your vehicle from the front, you'll see your camber, or how the tire leans inward or outward away from the center line.
Tire Balancing Service
Tire balancing is a key component for tire maintenance and care. Many people confuse tire balancing with alignment, and while these two sertvies can go hand in hand, they adjust different parts of the vehicle.
Tire balancing focuses on the weight distribution in the wheels, whereas alignment focuses on the vehicle’s suspension–which is the system that attaches the wheels to the vehicle. Tire balancing is an essential function for your vehicle and can help keep your ride safe and smooth.
What is a Tire Balancing Service?
Tire balancing corrects uneven weight distribution in your wheels/tires, which helps your vehicle to run properly and smoothly. During a balancing service, a tire already mounted on a wheel is attached to a tire balancing machine, which spins the wheel while the tire measurements are taken. These measurements tell the technician how much weight needs to be added or removed from a specific tire.
How Often Should I Get My Tires Balanced? Do I Need To Balance New Tires?
Having your tires balanced and aligned every 5,000 to 6,000 miles can help ensure the lifespan of your wheels. All new tires should be balanced before they are used on the road. This will help ensure the best for your vehicle and give you a smooth, comfortable, and safe ride.
Do I Need To Balance All Of The Tires?
All four tires should be balanced, as it can be difficult to pinpoint the defective tire. Balancing all four tires will help ensure safety measures for you and your vehicle. There are some instances where only one tire needs to be fixed, therefore only that one tire would get re-balanced.
What Does Tire Balancing Do?
There are many benefits to balancing your tires. The most common benefits include
- Creating a smoother ride
- Delivering better gas mileage
- Extending the lifespan of the tires
- Protecting the vehicle’s suspension
- Ensuring safer vehicle performance
How Wheels Become Unbalanced
Wheels can become unbalanced in many different ways. Although most roads are paved and made for safe and comfortable driving, the smallest imperfection on a road can cause your tires to become unbalanced. Some of the most common ways this happens are
- Hitting potholes, debris on the road, or accidents
- Rough roads
- Flat tires
If you drive on rough roads too often or too long, your tires will need to be balanced more often. Flat tires are caused by cold air, nails, and debris, or even leaving your car sitting for too long.
Symptoms Of Unbalanced Tires
To an untrained eye, unbalanced tires are difficult diagnose. Often, vehicle owners confuse misalignment and unbalanced tires. Tire balancing is correcting the uneven distribution of weight between the wheels, and tire alignment is an adjustment to the vehicle’s suspension.
Although they might sound similar there is one key difference between the two: tire alignment does not deal with the correction to the wheels, whereas tire balancing does.
Some Symptoms Of Unbalanced Tires Are
- Steering problems
- Uneven tire wear
- Bad fuel economy
- Bad shocks and bearings
If you are having trouble understanding whether your problem is tire balancing or tire alignment, TMT Automotive can diagnose and solve the issue for you!
Caring For Your Tires
Tire care is important for the health and durability of your vehicle. Regular tire services can help ensure you have the best care for your vehicle. Some of these services include, alignments, rotations, new tire mountings, tire pressure/nitrogen air fills, fixing flats, etc. Book an appointment at TMT Automotive for tire balancing or alignment services today!