tire alignment concept

Did you know there’s a difference between balancing your tires and aligning your wheels? 

Tire Balancing vs Wheel Alignment

Balancing your tires involves the process of mounting the tires on a machine and measuring how they rotate. The tire balancing machine will calculate if there are any imbalances that affect how the tire performs on your vehicle. 

Alignment refers to the car’s suspension system as a whole. This is the system that connects all four (or more) wheels to the car itself. Aligning your vehicle does not actually involve the tires; just the suspension.

What Do Imbalanced Tires Feel Like?

When any of your tires are imbalanced, you may notice uneven wear on the treads of the rubber. At high speeds, your steering wheel may shudder, indicating an imbalance in your tires. Finally, you could also feel vibrations coming up from the floorboard of the car, via your feet or your seat.

What Causes Imbalanced Tires?

If you’re guilty of bumping into or scraping against curbs when you parallel park or navigate a drive-thru window, it can imbalance your tires. These impacts can dent your rims can negatively affect your tires, as can hitting a bump at a high speed.

Did you know that leaving your car parked for too long can also harm your tires? Prolonged parking can lead to deflation of the tires and, eventually, weight hits your wheel rims. Rims aren’t designed to support the weight of a vehicle and they can be bent when forced to do so.

Through no fault of your own, your tires can be imbalanced by frequent and severe changes in the weather. If you’ve ever left a ball out during the winter, you’ve probably noticed it deflated and became useless. Similarly, cold weather can cause tires to deflate unevenly, causing an imbalance.

How to Know if You Need an Alignment

Tire alignment, synonymous with wheel alignment, focuses on keeping your car from veering in one direction or another on its own. Here are some signs you should have your vehicle’s alignment checked:

  • Your car pulls to one side while driving
  • There’s uneven wear on tire treads
  • You hear squealing from the wheels while driving
  • The steering wheel vibrates at certain speeds

As you can see, some of the symptoms are the same as those that indicate a tire imbalance. If you can’t discern for yourself what the problem is, turn to the Downtown Ogden car repair mechanics at Master Muffler.

What Causes Alignment Problems?

Like George of the Jungle, you should watch out for the tree! And pothole, and curb. If your vehicle is involved in an accident, or just drives over a particularly aggressive pothole, it could disrupt the alignment.

Even if you’re a model driver, you should have regularly scheduled alignment checks every 5,000 to 6,000 miles. Your owner’s manual may have different recommendations, so refer to that when scheduling routine car repair at Downtown Ogden’s Master Muffler.

Benefits of Being Balanced and Aligned

When your tires are balanced and your wheels are aligned, your car should drive smoother. Also, it can perform better, giving you better fuel economy. Proper alignment and well-balanced tires can increase the life of your tires, as well as the drivetrain. You’ll not only be driver a safer vehicle, but you’ll be saving money on maintenance and new tires.

How to See if Tires Need to be Balance or Aligned

Even if your vehicle is driving fine, you can do a quick visual inspection to see if your tires need to be balanced or realigned. Take a walk around your vehicle and look at the threads on each tire. When your car’s alignment is off, the tires hit the ground unevenly and wear down faster in some parts than others. If there appears to be uneven wear, it could be an indication you need a balance or an alignment. 

Driving Habits to Promote Good Alignment

No, we’re not talking about sitting up straight and putting your hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel (although that’s not a bad thing!). For good alignment in your car’s suspension and even tire balance, there are some things you can do as a driver.

Check the Trunk

Distributing weight evenly in your trunk can affect your suspension. If possible, remove unnecessary items from the trunk, and secure the things you do need to have in your car. If the back of your car is weighed down more than the front, it can have negative effects on your alignment.

Check the Pressure

Having the proper air pressure in your tires is another way to promote good balance and alignment. Plus, it makes for a better ride and improved fuel economy. Refer to your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s optimal tire pressure and check it if you notice a change in performance or appearance.

Since tire balancing and alignment require some bulky and sophisticated equipment, it’s best to leave it to the Downtown Ogden car repair techs you trust. If you have concerns about your vehicle, give us a call today.

Categories: Automotive Info, Tires

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