Should I Balance My Tires Before Alignment?

I know maybe you’re holding some questions about whether tire balancing should come before alignment or vice versa. It’s normal, and you don’t have to worry anymore; some experts confuse these two actions. They go hand in hand, and that’s why it can be challenging to determine which one should come first.

Since both are part of frequent auto maintenance, alignment is different from tire balancing. Wheel alignment involves correcting the tire’s angle to drive them in the right/same direction. On the other hand, tire balancing consists of twisting the tires to spread the same weight to all four wheels for the car’s overall performance.

Balancing Tires Before AlignmentBalancing Tires Before Alignment

Everyday tread wear on tires contributes to imbalance. Regular manufacturing imperfections can also lead to unbalanced tires. This will result in unequal weight distribution to wheels and tires. Hence, they become slightly bulky at some points.

Tire balancing involves applying zinc, non-lead or lead weight to every rim’s plane, the outside and the inside. However, because there are various rim styles, various weight applications are used when balancing.

  1. The most basic and most straightforward way involves “pound on” outside and inside weights to the TDC (top dead center) of rim planes.
  2. On fancier rims, where the external weight is inapplicable or undesirable, carefully apply stick-on weights using minimized guidance to the interior of the outer rim’s plane.

It would help if you were careful not to utilize too thick weight; it’ll affect the brake caliper, ripping it off. For this reason, there are quarter and thin-ounce weights for such purposes.

Your vehicle’s tires’ tell-tale symptom requesting for balancing is vibration and a shake between 60 to 70 miles within an hour. Most car owners complain about shaky steering wheels and seats.

Various reasons can lead to unbalanced tires. Once these tires start to wear down, they take on varying shapes than before. This happens due to several factors like tear and wear on the ball joints, tie rods, etc., the road crown, hard braking, potholes, throwing weights, and poor tire construction.

If you reside in a snowy or muddy area, ice and snow buildups may lead to significant shaking and mud clumping around and on the rim. In such cases, removing mud or ice is the best solution by a rebalance, or a test drive is necessary.

Generally, tires don’t require a rebalance unless you start experiencing vibrations and shaking. They are usually associated with unbalanced tires. Most car owners prefer balancing their vehicle’s tires with an oil change or tire rotations. However, some manufacturers provide mandatory tire balancing when doing such services.

Positive and negative camberPositive and negative camber

The camber is usually the angle from the bottom/up of the tire, stretching to the axle. Thus, if the tire top is sticky than the bottom, it’s a positive camber. While the bottom of the tire is sticky than the top, it’s probably an adverse camber.

Toe-in and toe-out

Some of the significant vehicle models are associated with too much “toe-in” while others “toe-out.” An experienced technician will diagnose such issues during a wheel alignment.

Negative and positive caster

Sometimes your vehicle’s caster or pivot line angle may get out of place. Alignment is an essential solution for such problems.  

How to rebalance tiresHow to rebalance tires

Rebalancing is necessary for an automotive or tire shop using a tire balancing unit. The machine will then take measurements, pinpointing heavier or lighter areas. It makes its adjustments to equalize the weight differences.

It’s advisable to have your vehicle checked for balancing during tire rotation for convenience purposes. Below are some of the ways one can balance a vehicle’s tires.

  1. A tire attached to the wheel is mounted on a tire balancing machine.
  2. Spin the wheel while measurement of vibration is taken. This will tell the technician whether the weight is evenly distributed or not.
  3.     After finding an imbalance, the technician will have to adjust and rebalance the weights. Sometimes a technician should take out the tire from the wheel and rebalance. The reason behind this statement is that the heavy place on the wheel and tire may come together, leading to an enormous imbalance that needs correction.

Wheel alignmentWheel alignment

Getting your car checked and alignment can be significant for various reasons. Regular repair and maintenance applications need wheel alignments after going through. This is useful because of caster and camber obstruction.

The caster is usually that angle between the pivot line. On the other hand, the camber is typically the angle from the bottom/top of the tire to the axle. In cases where the tire top sticks more than the base, it’s a positive camber. On the other hand, if the tire bottom sticks than the top, it’s an adverse camber.

Below are some of the indicators that should tell when to go for an alignment:

  1. Severe outside or inside edge wear on the vehicle’s tire.
  2. An accident to the vehicle’s rear or rough edge tire wear can be a sign of four-wheel alignment. Do so immediately after noticing such a problem.
  3.     Your car pulls to one side. However, this issue might result from low air pressure, malfunctioning brakes, wear tread tire, front-end issues, etc.
  4. It’s advisable to go for an alignment any time you replace the tires. Doing so will ensure the tires are balanced and aligned adequately for uniform tread wear and overall vehicle performance.
  5. After replacing parts like ball joints, suspension, or tie rods, sooner alignment is necessary. Besides, once you spot uneven tread wear, don’t hesitate to take the vehicle for an alignment.

Remember, any car manufacturer possesses a factory setting, stating what a particular alignment entails. Unfortunately, due to the unbalanced environment, the road crowns, regular driving, and accidents cars suffer, factory settings may be the way off.

For example, old models from Ford Company are not associated with too much “toe-in.” Therefore, an experienced technician will use the long experience to inspect, notice and tackle such problems.

If you’re planning to take your vehicle for a four-wheel alignment, then knowing its model is necessary. This is because some cars are used to four-wheel alignments. An excellent example of such vehicles is; the most trucks (new and old) and older vehicles.

For this reason, any car with a single-tube axle in the rear-end is only suitable for a front-end alignment. New SUVs models have adjustments many independent suspension vehicles can accommodate the four-wheel alignment. Occasionally, a four-wheel alignment might be unnecessary, but a great idea.

N/B: one of the primary considerations for the wheel alignment is that if there are missing parts in the front-end, the process should be postponed. Wait until all the said components are put in place. Yeah, replacing the elements is essential, or else you will have to pay twice for an alignment.

Frequently asked questions: 

  • How much do I have to pay to keep my vehicle’s tires balanced?

Generally, tire balancing may cost you about $40. However, this varies based on where you’re taking your car fixed. Also, the warranty offered by that tire shop or automotive plays a significant role in determining the exact amount you should pay.

However, that shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg because we still have some techs to do it for around $15. This means that you have to be aggressive to notice such people. But, if not watchful, you can end up spending up to $75 for your car tires to be balanced.

  • Can unbalanced tires hamper alignment?

No. But, because unbalanced tires and misaligned wheels come with similar symptoms, it’s tricky to identify which one is the exact challenge, causing damaged tires, steering problems, vibration, and suspension problems.

  • Is it necessary to balance my vehicle’s tires?

Yes. Tire balancing remains one of the significant services included in the user manual of your vehicle. After an extended drive period, the vehicle’s tires will start to lose shape and balance. So, regular tire balancing is essential to enhance the proper overall performance of the car.

Over time, the tread wear will lead to weight distribution around and on the tire, changing its shape. Such changes will eventually lead to an imbalance.

  • What are some of the signs of an imbalance?

The typical indicators of unbalanced tires are faster and uneven tread wear, louder vibration, disgusting fuel economy, etc.; the seats and steering wheel will experience some annoying shakes. So, getting the vehicle’s tires balanced, everything will run smoothly.

Conclusion

Some people encounter confusion when trying to determine the differences between wheel alignment and tire balancing. They don’t know what should come first; even some experienced techs are still facing such challenges. But, it’s normal because the two mechanisms are associated with similar signs.

Balancing a tire is different from wheel alignment, and you should line up the wheels first before suspending. However, failure to do that is not a crime, but expects to do another alignment after balancing. It’s a waste of car owner’s money and time.