Last updated on January 8th, 2024 at 02:02 pm
Have you heard the term “tire alignment” especially when you are at a mechanic or in a tire professional shop for changing your old tires? If not then you might have some underlying issues with your vehicles that you might not know.
Tire alignment and balancing are parts of vehicle maintenance and very important ones as well. It is the process of balancing the tires and aligning the wheels so the vehicle moves in a steady way.
It is a process that is recommended to get done whenever you go for a tire rotation or once a year at least. Just like any other issues with tires, like flat tires, or worn tires, this thing could also create big trouble on the road.
The concept of alignment and balancing has been there since the first radial tire was launched back in the 50s. However, drivers to this date don’t take it seriously and drive carelessly with unaligned tires, even after hearing how bad it causes drivers every day.
So in this article, we will explain everything about tire alignment and balancing, their impacts, and when to do them. Keep reading this in-depth guide on tire alignments to avoid any problems on the road in the future.
Table of Contents
Why you should align tires
Tire alignment is the process of aligning wheels, axles, and suspension with the steering or according to the vehicle’s manual. The alignment restores the steering response, and many other benefits, that you might be missing due to the unaligned wheels.
Similarly, balancing tires and distributing weight around wheels, improves the response, and comfort, and helps in achieving maximum performance of a tire. Unaligned wheels or imbalanced tires make you lose the life of the tire, wheels, and other parts of the vehicle.
When to align tires
The timing of tire alignment and balancing is not certain or defined, unlike tire life, alignment does not require a checkup after a certain time period. However, if you want assurance and secure rides, it is recommended that whenever you go for your yearly checkups or tire rotation or oil changing and filter replacing process, check the wheel alignment and tire balancing.
Unlike other processes, tire alignment could get disturbed anytime; It is sometimes unpredictable, a deep pothole or fast bump can imbalance tires or wheels, so make sure you check alignment whenever you see the signs of unaligned tires.
Causes of unaligned tires
Deep potholes, contacting bumps at a fast pace, any small or big accident, any repair on vehicles, and just like these, many other small incidents can change the alignment of wheels. It is not always true that the alignment will be needed if any of these things occur but there are higher chances that it will be needed if it happens with your car.
How to do alignment and balancing
The primary purpose of alignment is related to wheels and suspension, the wheel is aligned with hubs and axle shafts so that the car moves smoothly when accelerating. Usually, misalignment occurs due to the breakage of misplaced hubs, wrong seating of wheels, or due to the broken suspension.
Just like wheels, axles are also unaligned sometimes, though it rarely happens but big accidents and damage can cause this problem as well. Unaligned axles and axle shafts lose the response from steering wheels and act differently as commanded. Unlike wheel alignment, axle alignment is hard to repair and costs more as well.
Tire alignment is called balancing, so as you can see, alignment and balancing are different concepts; alignments happen to wheels and axles while balancing is operated on tires. Usually, tires wear off unevenly, one side is more treaded, and the other side is less, so balancing tires distribute the weight of tires along the wheel, so the vehicle moves smoothly. Otherwise, you could face an imbalance ride.
Impacts of unaligned tires
When driving with unaligned or unbalanced tires, the car vibrates when you drive. This vibration is caused due to the unlevel contact of the wheels with the ground. Sometimes the vibration is not noticeable, but sometimes it is so easy to identify even from the outside of the car. In this case, if you keep on driving chances of tire fallout and wheel breakages are higher, so make sure you check your alignment as soon as possible.
Another sign of imbalance ties is loose handling or irresponsive drive. So when you have unaligned wheels, the steering wheels and tires do not operate in symphony, and without any steering wheel movement, your vehicle will move continuously; it won’t drive in a straight line. Lose handling can also occur if you have unaligned axles, so make sure you check your wheels’ and axles’ alignments as well.
When your tires are not balanced correctly, or the wheels are unaligned, the treadwear of the tires will wear off far earlier than its time. The reason for that is when you dive with imbalanced tires, the contact of tires is more on either side and less on the other side; that is why tires wear off unevenly, which also ruins the tire performance.
The gas mileage is also reduced and the reason for that is uneven wear. When the tire wears off unevenly, it requires more force to move the car, and more force requires more gas. If you continuously drive in these conditions, you will see a deficit of 4-5 MPG compared to when you have aligned tires.
How to tell if tire alignment and balancing needed
The main predictor of unalignment is vibration when driving especially if you have had contact with heavy bumps in the recent past. Other than that, if you have to accelerate more than usual, then it might also be a sign of unaligned tires.
How much alignment cost
The alignment cost is not too much, you can get offers and discounts where you can get a complete inspection of your car. Other than that, just for wheel alignment, it will cost you around $100-$150 for all four tire alignments.
How to get free alignment
It depends on the tire retailers and brands, if you purchase new tires, you can get free alignment from most of the retail shops. With that, some companies offer free rotation and alignment for 2-3 years if you have bought tires from them.
The concept of wheel alignment and tire balancing is very intriguing as it can cause big trouble if you don’t take them seriously. There are many benefits of properly aligned tires, and on the contrary, there are many impacts of unaligned wheels that you could face while driving your car. So make sure you check the alignment of your wheels and balance of your tires to get a safe and peaceful ride all year round.