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'What Should I Know About Wheel Alignment and Tire Balancing?'

By Tire Agent Staff

June 20, 2022

car tires being balanced on a machine...

  • What is a tire alignment?
  • What's tire alignment vs balance?
  • How often should you get tires balanced?
  • How do you know if you need your tires balanced?

Congratulations! You’ve done your research, shopped around, and finally picked out a brand-new set of tires for your car. You’re ready to install them and get on the road. However, if you were to install your new tires and immediately start driving, you’d notice vibration in your steering wheel, floorboard, and seat. You also might notice your vehicle drifting too much to the side, as if your steering wheel isn’t facing straight. 

This isn’t the fault of the tires, but actually because you haven’t balanced and aligned your tires.

Balancing and aligning new tires are actually two separate processes that are essential parts of the tire installation process. This is part of the reason you have an installation cost when using a tire installer service. It's also why the vast majority of us should use professional tire installers, rather than try to install tires ourselves.

In this article, we’ll be going through the tire balancing and aligning process and why you need to do it.

What is Tire Balancing?

Tire balancing is the correction of the uneven distribution of weight that tires naturally have when they’re mounted on your wheels. Slight imperfections and errors in the tire manufacturing process can cause the rubber to be slightly heavier in certain spots. 

Therefore, in order to properly balance the tire, a mechanic places the tire onto a balancing machine that spins the tire and measures where the imbalance is. Then, depending on the machine’s readings, small weights are placed on the sides of the rim to compensate for the uneven weight. These weights are usually only a couple of ounces, but they make a serious difference!

Tire balancing not only gets rid of that annoying vibration, but also extends the life of your tire. Uneven weight distribution will cause particular parts of your tire to receive more weight and wear down over time. Tires without proper weight distribution may also pull to one side of the road and your wheel will feel off-center. However, that issue may be related to a separate part of your car.

What is Wheel Alignment?

That feeling of your car drifting off to the side while driving is likely due to your wheels not being properly aligned. Wheel alignment doesn’t actually refer to your tires or wheels, but rather the suspension and steering systems of your car. 

The suspension is part of the group of systems in your car that affect your wheel and tires. Suspension, specifically, is the system that compensates for bumps and uneven pavement that you experience while driving. Over time, the suspension and steering alignment can skew in unexpected ways.

During wheel alignment, a mechanic will place your vehicle on an alignment rack and measure its systems to ensure they’re in line with your vehicle's specified alignment settings. They’ll then adjust the tilt of the wheels, the rear steering, suspension, and air pressure to make sure everything is going in the direction it’s supposed to be. 

How Often Should I Balance and Align My Tires?

If you’ve just purchased a new tire or tires, balancing is a mandatory part of the installation process. However, tires can wear down in unexpected ways over time. Therefore, you should likely get your tires rebalanced every time you have your tires rotated. We go over tire rotation in this article, but you can expect to have your tires balanced every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. 

If you notice the telltale vibration in your car, it may also be a sign that you need to have your tires balanced. If the vibration is focused in the front of your car, one of your front tires is out of balance. If the back passenger seats are vibrating, it’s an issue with a back tire. 

The issue of your vehicle drifting to one side and the steering wheel not feeling centered is an issue with wheel alignment. While you should always have your wheels aligned when purchasing new tires, you should also have your alignment checked during the tire rotation process, every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. Uneven steering or squealing sounds from your tires are a sign that it’s time to have your tires aligned.  

Having your wheels balanced and aligned as part of your regular wheel maintenance will greatly help in extending the lives of your tires. It’s good to know the signs of misalignment and unbalanced tires, but noticing these signs means your tires are already being worn down and potentially damaged. But you can prevent this with diligent maintenance.

Photo 127895878 ©️ Irina Shveyn |

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