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Automotive

Wheel Alignment and Wheel Balancing Guide

Pinpointing arising issues with your vehicle will save you money in the long run. One of the first places to start is learning the basics such as wheel alignment and wheel balancing. There are different warning signs between the two concepts and fortunately, this means you can often determine which service the car needs. From here, you can get your wheels either balanced or aligned to prevent damage or even accidents further down the line. Here, let’s dive into the essential elements you should learn on wheel alignment and balancing.

What is wheel balancing?

It’s crucial that the level of the tire material surrounding the tire is level and consistent. Although it is impossible to be exactly the same amount the entire way around, having a similar level will provide the necessary grip to avoid crashes. When the wheels are not level, wheel balancing is required.

The notable warning signal is when the wheel vibrates. The vibration will become more distinct as the vehicle increases in speed. This arises as a result of specific parts of the wheel having more material and therefore holding more weight than others.

Wheel balancing is not something you’d do in your own garage. If you take your car to your local mechanics, they will utilise the correct machinery and material to level out the issue. Essentially, the mechanic will spin your wheel to pinpoint which areas need to be filled with lead weight with bonding cement. This process is then undertaken to balance the wheel, or multiple wheels if need be.

In most cases, mechanics should test the wheel when your tires need replacing. However, as this is not always the case, ensure you request the service at the same time to save on cost further down the road.

What is wheel alignment?

One way to remember the differences with wheel alignment is that it focuses more on suspension as opposed to the wheels, themselves.

As a simple description, wheel alignment describes the angle of your wheels. This is split into three different terms to easily explain different angles and the misalignment that can occur.

  1. Camber – This refers to the angle of the wheels from the viewing point of the front of the vehicle. There is misalignment if you notice one or more of the wheels tilt.The wheels should be level, parallel to the ground.

  1. Toe – Toe refers more to  do with the tire angle in comparison to the remaining three tires. The misalignment between the tires is the most common type of misalignment. When you are driving, if you feel as though the vehicle is being dragged to one side of the ride, despite steering straight, there is most likely a misalignment.

  1. Caster – You will find this misalignment more difficult to pinpoint. It is essentially a wrong angle of the steering pivot while viewing the vehicle from the side. You can notice the incorrect angle if the wheel is either subtly too forward or too far back. This misplacement consequently causes rubbing when driving over large bumps.

While you can’t outright prevent the misalignment of the wheels, there are actions to avoid in order to lower the risk. Don’t turn sharply around corners as this can place stress on the axle or wheel, causing misalignment. In addition, don’t speed and ensure you slow down significantly when driving over bumps. The latter two actions will cause instant misalignment.

However, if you do pinpoint signs misalignment has occurred, do not worry. It can occur due to driving your car often – similar to how wear and tear can cause damage. Simply take your vehicle into a car mechanic  as soon as possible and they can amend the issue for you. As they say, leave it to the professionals.

Minimising the cost of vehicle maintenance

The more you learn about vehicles, the more you can save on amending damage that will occur as a result of your misunderstanding. Ultimately, ignoring signs of slight damage will cause said damage to turn into either a significantly costly amendment or irreversible damage. Or worse – car accidents. This is the rule when it comes to all elements of cars and is no different with wheel balancing and wheel alignment.

Leaving wheels unbalanced will consequently cause premature wear and tear. This means you will have to replace your tires more frequently. A difference of a quarter of an ounce, or more, can cause a disbalance in pressure and tread wear. Ignoring this can also negatively affect shocks, bearings and wheel assembly.

When it comes to misalignment, ignoring the signs will directly affect fuel consumption and wear and tear.

There’s no sure-fire way of determining the cost of amending the issues as each business charges different rates and car models require different costs, too. The average price for wheel balancing in America is $40, while wheel alignment can cost anywhere from $100 to $200 for a full set realignment.

Safety

Safety is paramount when it comes to ensuring any vehicle part is working as it should. Just like

if there are issues with additional parts, unbalanced or misaligned wheels increases you risk of being involved in a car accident. For instance, the vibration that happens due to unbalanced wheels makes it more difficult to control the car, as well as compromises suspension, steering elements and wheel bearings. There are ripple effects.

Wheels that are unaligned result in pulling of the vehicle, meaning it becomes harder to steer and therefore control your vehicle. When emergency actions are required to avoid hurdles that can appear at any moment, these actions won’t be as effective. If you do need to brake or swerve, the vehicle essentially may not do what you need it to do, in the time needed.

Ensure you are a cost-effective, safe driver by taking on this knowledge to correctly handle your wheels. It is recommended that you learn the warning signs of additional issues to avoid any problems down the road.

Now, have peace of mind and take control of your car. You’ve got this.

Author Bio: Olivia Fairhurst is a Content Manager for Tony Allen Auto Service, as well as a business owner. She is passionate about helping people through content.

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