Car tyres push themselves for miles and miles. Irrespective of the terrain and type of vehicles they are installed on, they keep on pushing a car for miles, even in the toughest of weather. However, most tyres are installed on a moving assembly that is held together by mechanical parts. A cohesive connection between the parts and tyres enables a car driver to travel from one place to another as tyres and assembly work together to move the car.
Not every mechanical connection that holds things is made to fit forever. A mechanical assembly like the transmission is held together with rotating parts like nuts and bolts. These moving parts need proper maintenance to keep the tyres intact from time to time. This is where most car owners find themselves confused. Whenever a set of tyres tend to behave abnormally, they are unsure whether they should go for tyre balancing or tyre alignment. Both are different kinds of services and address different problems. However, both share the common goal of offering smoother rides to car drivers.
With that in mind, here’s a detailed walkthrough of what wheel alignment and wheel balancing are and how they impact a car:
What is wheel alignment?
Wheel alignment, also known as tyre alignment is mainly concerned with configuring a vehicle’s suspension system. In simpler terms, a suspension system is the one that connects a car’s body to its wheels. The main purpose of carrying out wheel alignment is to ensure that the installed tyres are rightly positioned. This positioning is determined by measuring a tyre’s position with respect to the road on the suspension system. This process has nothing to do with the adjustment of tyres themselves.
A standard tyre alignment service takes the steering wheel as the point of reference and relates duties of positioning front and back wheels linearly. Wheel misalignment is something that cannot be witnessed by naked eyes at a glance. Misaligned tyres often cause damaged tyres in one or the other way.
Types of wheel alignment
- 1. Camber: Camber wheel alignment is majorly concerned with the adjustment of either the outward or the inward angle of the tyre. This angle is visible when a car is viewed from the front. Camber angle references the centerline to determine if the tyre angle is located in the negative or positive section.
- 2. Toe: Toe wheel alignment is associated with the wheel-alignment done with respect to the inner or outer angle. Toe angle is observed from above the vehicle. The toe angle also references the centerline to determine a tyre’s angle and its location in a corresponding section.
- 3. Caster: Camber wheel alignment is associated with the wheel-alignment done with respect to the caster angle of the tyre. The caster angle, just like Toe and Camber angle references the centerline to determine if a tyre’s angle is negatively or positively aligned.
Symptoms of a bad tyre alignment
- A vehicle that suffers from bad alignment often drifts in one or another direction.
- Despite driving straight on a smooth road, the vehicle only pulls itself to one side.
- Car drivers often feel the vibrations coming from the steering wheel. The steering also loses its centered setup.
- Tyres face uneven wear and tear in the form of torn shoulders, saw teeth textures and scuffed feathering on the tyre treads.
Causes of bad wheel alignment
- Driving vehicles into potholes and damaged roads.
- Often driving the car on bad terrains aggressively.
- Basic wear and tear caused to rubber.
- Hard-hitting impacts are caused to vehicles by events like hitting fender-benders, curbs, etc.
- Often filling the vehicle with heavy loads.
- Bad or worn spare parts in the assembly.
- Improperly paired tyre combinations.
What is wheel balancing?
Wheel balancing, which is also known as Tyre balancing deals with the improper weight distribution of wheels. This is usually done when either side of the car becomes heavy or at the time when new tyres are installed. Imbalanced tyres can be easily detected by car drivers on finding the shaking nature of the steering wheel. Tyre balancing is an activity that is generally done by mechanics as soon as a lack of balance is detected.
A timely executed balancing service ensures that wheels are saved from any kind of potential wear and tear. Wheel balancing is mostly automated with the help of a balancing machine. Once a mechanic takes the tyres off a vehicle, they are then mounted onto a tyre balancing machine. This machine automatically detects imbalanced sections of a wheel by spinning at a high velocity. Once imbalanced spots are detected, mechanics make use of a small weight balance to stabilize the balance of all the tyres.
Symptoms of a bad tyre balancing
- Badly balanced wheels are often prone to higher vibration rates as a car raises the speed. The location of vibration determines where the actual misbalance has happened. For example, if the steering wheels vibrate; then it’s possible that the front tyres are imbalanced. Similarly, if the seats vibrate; then it’s possible that the rear tyres are imbalanced.
- Tyre treads are wearing off at an irregular rate.
- Imbalanced wheels are often known to get damaged with cup and scallop-shaped wear patterns.
Causes of a bad wheel balancing
- Basic tyre wear and tear.
- Damaged and old suspension parts.
- Sudden, accidental impacts caused to vehicles on hitting curbs, fender-benders, etc.
Benefits of opting for Wheel balancing and alignment
Most car tyres need to undergo wheel alignment and wheel balancing from time to time. A regular servicing to car tyres ensures that evade any kind of premature wear and tear. This is why most car tyres undergo tyre balancing and tyre alignment every 5000 to 6000 miles.
Such servicing also comes with additional benefits like better tyre lifespan and improved handling performance. Advantages like better fuel economy also tag along. Apart from this, it is critical to note that vehicles with imbalanced and misaligned tyres must be immediately brought to the attention of mechanics. Failing to do so can critically reduce wheel lifespan of vehicle by thousands of kilometers and potential abrupt normal functioning of important mechanical components like suspension, handling and steering components.