A car can’t have a smooth ride unless wheel experts balance all four tires. Yet, car owners don’t understand the importance of balancing wheels.
Perhaps you can’t tell the difference between balancing and wheel alignment?
This guide answers those questions and more.
Do Wheels Always Need Balancing?
Theoretically, wheels do not always need balancing. But in reality, most wheels will not be perfectly balanced by default and it’s a good idea to have your wheels balanced next time you have your tires rotated or replaced.
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What’s the difference between balancing and wheel alignment?
There is a vast difference between balancing and wheel alignment. Wheel alignment assesses the position of wheels, whereas balancing focuses on the distribution of weight around the wheels.
Here are some of the significant differences between balancing and wheel alignment:
Wheel alignment has nothing to do with your wheels and more to do with your car’s suspension system. It plays a significant role in how wheels are mounted on your vehicle.
The primary goal of aligning wheels is to align your suspension so that your wheels get 100% even. Wheel alignment also focuses on the direction and angle of your wheels. In other words, how they roll along.
Remember, wheel alignment is about direction, angle, and how your wheels sit when mounted to your car.
That said, you should still balance your wheels.
Wheel technicians use precision machinery to spin each tire and wheel to test if one is heavier than the other.
Once they do this, they attach wheel weights to your wheels.
The primary purpose of wheel weights is to give your wheel and tire assembly an outstanding balance. By clipping weights onto the circumference of the hub, you will prevent the wheel’s vibration.
Several factors can knock your wheels out of alignment or balance.
Here are some of them:
- Bumps – A speed bump is enough to knock your wheels out of balance. For instance, hitting a bump at high speed will jolt your wheels out of balance.
To avoid this, wheel experts recommend that you don’t drive over speed bumps at high speed. You shouldn’t go any faster than five mph.
- Potholes – Potholes can also knock your wheels out of alignment. Or damage your suspension.
- Curbs – Every driver will occasionally hit a curb. But you are probably not aware that every time you hit that curb, it sends your wheels out of balance.
- Sharp turns – Taking a sharp bend at a higher speed places too much strain on your wheel and knocks your wheels out of balance.
Can you use tires without balancing them?
While it’s possible to use tires without balancing tires, it is not good. Wheel balancing is indispensable for every car.
Rim and tires are not even on their own. The only way to make them uniform is by balancing them. If you don’t balance tires and rims at some point, they will oscillate or wobble around the axis.
Here are some notable benefits of balancing your wheels:
- Balancing your tires protects your car’s suspension – When you don’t balance your wheels, that may damage your suspension significantly. The more vibrations your vehicle makes, the more damaged your suspension gets.
- Balancing your wheels gives your car a smooth ride – When you balance your tires, your steering wheel is not likely to rattle.
- Your vehicle will get the best gas mileage – When you balance all your wheels, your vehicle will become more fuel-efficient.
- Your tires will last longer – Balancing wheels and tires also help reduce quick wear on your tires. When your wheels have weights, they are not likely to wear and tear quickly.
What happens if the tires aren’t balanced?
A couple of things may happen if your tires aren’t balanced. First, your vehicle won’t have a smooth ride quality.
Secondly, your wheels are likely to wobble or hop up and down. Once that happens, you will feel tremors on your steering wheel, floor boat, or seats.
Hence, all tire manufacturers recommend that you balance your tires every seven thousand miles.
- Tire manufacturers also recommend that you rotate wheels every 5,000 miles.
- You need to balance your four wheels every two years.
- Balance your wheels yearly if you drive gravel roads.
- You should balance your wheel after getting a flat.
- It would help if you also balanced your wheels after buying any new tires.
Do new tires always need to be balanced?
You should balance your tires after installing new tires. It doesn’t matter if your car is an SUV, a truck, or a sedan.
Your four wheels have many components and parts. So if you need to fine-tune your tires, you should balance them.
As soon as you buy a set of new tires, the wheel technicians will balance each wheel. When they balance your tires, it will not only give your car a smooth ride. But it also extends the lifespan of your tires.
Other notable benefits of balancing new include preventing blowouts and giving your tires even wear.
Besides that, balancing your wheels will protect different areas of your wheels. For instance, balancing new tires will prevent giving your new tires undue pressure on essential components of the suspension. From shocks to bearings and the wheel assembly.
Keep this in mind: even when you balance new tires, you will still need to balance them again. Why? Because tires don’t stay balanced forever.
Besides, air pressure can throw your tires out of balance. But balancing your wheels regularly will ensure that doesn’t happen.
How often should you balance car wheels?
Most tire manufacturers recommend rotating and balancing your tires every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.
Firestone Complete Auto Care recommends aligning and balancing your wheels every 6,000 miles or twice a year.
If you are unsure about your miles, check your driver’s manual. It should contain some information about this.
Alternatively, you can schedule an appointment with wheel experts to look at your wheels. They will check if your tires need balancing. And tell you when you should re-balance your wheels.
Ideally, you should re-balance your tires after every 12,000 miles. Fortunately, re-balancing and rotating wheels is a quick and easy process.
What if my car drives smoothly already?
If your car drives smoothly, that doesn’t mean you should re-balance your wheels.
When your car drives smoothly already, it may mean the wheels are not significantly out of balance. So if you re-balance and rotate them, you will retain that smoothness. And extend the longevity of your tires.
Taking your car for wheel balancing is crucial for every vehicle. And it would help if you didn’t wait to feel your steering wheel vibrating to do it.
Should my wheels be balanced when rotated?
It is advisable to balance your wheels whenever you rotate them. But some car owners rotate tires without balancing them.
Rotating and balancing should go hand in hand.
Most tire shops will always ensure that they rotate and balance tires. Fortunately, balancing tires is pretty affordable.
When you balance and rotate your tires simultaneously, you will make all areas of the wheel equal. Balance also helps all your tires to wear evenly.
Also, make sure you do the following.
- Avoid using old tires – if your tires are over ten years, consider replacing them.
- Align your wheels – Driving your car with wheels out of alignment will make your tires wear out quickly.
- Check Air Pressure – The easy way to maintain proper air pressure is by using a tire pressure gauge to measure your tires correctly. It will allow you to ensure your tires get sufficient air pressure.
First, remove the valve cap on your tire. Then press the air pressure and wait for it to stop making a hissing sound.
- Inspect your tire for any damage – If you see any cracks, that’s an indication that your tire is aging.
Lastly, balancing wheels will only be beneficial if you balance your wheels properly. Only a wheel technician will know how to balance your wheels.