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Wheel Alignment & Wheel Balance

Wheel Alignment and Wheel Balancing are not the same thing.

Wheel Alignment consists of adjusting the angles of the wheels so that they are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. The reason to have this done is to maximum ize the tire life and to make sure that your vehicle runs straight when you are driving along a straight and level road.

The symptoms of a car that is out of alignment are:

  • Tire wear is uneven or
  • Rapid tire wear
  • Vehicle pulls or drifts away from a straight line
  • Vehicle wanders on a straight level road
  • The spokes of your steering wheel are off to one side when you drive on a straight and level road.

Note:  Roads can be banked. The center can be higher than the edge. This facilitates water run-off.

To find out if you need an alignment,

  • Check each tire and look for uneven wear patterns.
  • At each tire, take a coin and insert it in the tread at the inside, center and outside.
  • If the tire is over inflated, the tread is deeper on the edges than in the center .
  • If  the tire is under inflated, the tread is deeper in the center than the edges.
  • If the tread is deeper on one side than the other, have your wheel alignment checked as soon as possible.
  • Look at the tread from side to side. If the tread is smooth in one direction, but jagged in the other way you probably have what is called a “saw-tooth” wear pattern. This can be caused if you have a toe-in problem. Have the alignment checked as soon as possible as this condition causes rapid tire wear.

The problem with the above method, is that by the time you see the symptoms, it may be too late to save your tires. This is why it is a good idea to have your alignment checked periodically. You should also have your tires rotated on a regular basis.

Another way to tell if your car is out of alignment is when your car drifts or pulls to one side of the road when you let go of the wheel.  These conditions may or may not also contribute to premature tire wear. Remember that some roads may be banked, so this isn’t the best way to tell if you need an alignment.

A wheel alignment requires that the front end parts cannot be loose or worn . Our technician will first check for worn parts as aprt of the procedure and let you know if there are any problems before starting the alignment.

The preferred type of alignment is a four wheel alignment. Many cars today have adjustable rear alignment settings, but even if your car does not have adjustable rear alignment settings, a four wheel alignment will allow the technician to identify any rear tracking problems and compensate for them with adjustments to the front.

After the wheel alignment is done, the vehicle should be driven on a straight and level road. Make sure that the car drives straight and that your steering wheel is in the right position with the spokes level. If there is a problem, bring the car back to have the technician drive and adjust the alignment settings.

Wheel Balancing, is done to make sure that the tires and wheels will spin without  vibrations.  The way this is done is to check for heavy focal points on the wheel/tire. Once the heavy focal points are found the wheel/tire is balanced by placing a pre-measured  weight on the wheel opposite from where the heavy focal points is. Usually this is done when a new tire is installed.

The symptoms of a wheel that is out of balance are:

  • The steering wheel vibrates at certain speeds.
  • The seat or floorboard vibrates at certain speedsat certain highway speeds.
  • There is a scalloped or cupped wear pattern on your tires

Wheel Balance: Out-of-balance tires will cause a car to vibrate at certain speeds, usually between 50 and 70 mph. A tire is out of balance when one section of the tire is heavier than the others. One ounce of imbalance on a front tire is enough to cause a noticeable vibration in the steering wheel at about 60 mph. To balance a wheel, the technician will mount it on a balancing machine which spins the wheel to locate the heavier part. He will then compensate for the heavy part by attaching a lead weight on the opposite side. Many people are pleasantly surprised at how smooth their car drives after balancing all four wheels.

Most high quality tires will hold their balance fairly well and go out of balance very gradually. If you notice a vibration that wasn’t there the day before, it is possible that one of the lead balancing weights fell off. If you feel the vibration mostly in the steering wheel, the problem is most likely in a front wheel. If the vibration is mostly in the seat, the problem is probably in the rear.

For those of you who are very sensitive about vibrations and your shop can’t seem to get that last bit of vibration out, check to see if you have locking wheel lugs. Some locking lugs are as much as 1.5 ounces heavier than the other lug nuts which translates to about 1/2 ounce at the wheel rim. Try putting a 1/2 ounce weight opposite the locking lug and see if it helps.


Any questions, call us or stop by for a FREE inspection

Taskers Automotive, your Vista Auto Repair Specialist. 

1806 E Vista Way Vista CA 92084 760-724-2184

Whether you live or work in Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, Carlsbad, Fallbrook, Bonsall, San Marcos, Escondido or Vista, Taskers Auto Repair is just minutes away.