THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHEEL ALIGNMENT AND WHEEL BALANCING
Usually, the first sign of out of balance wheels is a wobbly steering wheel when you are driving above a certain speed – normally this is at high speed on a duel carriageway or motorway at speeds above 50 mph. Wobbling of the steering wheel often suggests that your front wheels are unbalanced.
Sometimes, however, these vibrations are dampened by the weight of the vehicle – masking that there is a problem. Therefore you should get your wheel balance checked regularly, preferably at a service or when you are having your tyres replaced.
Incorrectly balanced wheels can cause damage and premature wear to:
- Steering components
- Rotating parts
The benefits of correctly balanced wheels include:
- Better handling
- Safer driving experience
- More comfortable, smoother ride
- Longer-lasting tyres
- Fewer vibrations
- Better fuel-efficiency
Wheels are balanced on a special machine, which rotates the tyre and wheel to calculate the correct balance required. If there is a problem, one side will be heavier than the other, and the technician will then balance the tyre by applying a counter-weight on the opposite side. When a tyre is imbalanced, it will rotate asymmetrically, causing wobbles and ride disturbances which will increase with speed. This can in turn knock out your suspension and cause more costly problems.
Sometimes the problem is not with wheel balance but with wheel alignment, which can deteriorate due to aggressive driving, hitting kerbs or driving over potholes or speed bumps. Checking and adjusting the wheel alignment returns the wheels to the specifications given by the car manufacturer. Wheels that are out of alignment can also affect the quality of your car’s performance, handling and the lifespan of your tyres, so checking both alignment and balance is important if you want to save money on repairs, tyre replacements and fuel.
The angle of the wheel when viewed from the front of the vehicle
The angle of the steering pivot as seen from the side of the vehicle.
The direction the tyres point, relative to each other.
If in doubt, get your wheel alignment and balancing checked.