Difference between wheel alignment and wheel balancing ➤ How often should wheel alignment and balancing be done ➤ TOP useful tips ✅
What is alignment and balancing of wheels
Now we will touch on a very important topic for all drivers. Wheel alignment and balancing are 2 important preventive measures crucial for normal functioning of your car, comfort on the road and good condition of your tires. Only by doing these procedures regularly you can feel absolutely certain that your wheels are in immaculate condition.
What is wheel balancing and alignment
Both of these procedures have similar goals: to adjust your wheels in such a way as to ensure that your car runs smoothly, even at high speed, to avoid such unpleasant effects as
• problems when cornering;
• noise in chassis and so on.
In addition to discomfort, wheel irregularities make driving more dangerous. You get tired faster, it is harder to handle a car, which can end up in an accident. And also poorly adjusted wheels are fraught with a deterioration of parts of the chassis.
Wheel covers suffer the most. Both mentioned procedures, especially alignment, prevent premature tire wear. If wheels are in a wrong dislocation, the load unevenly affects the covering. Due to this fact, one part of the tyre is erased faster, and wheel cover requires replacement more often. As you know, quality tires are not that cheap. A timely wheel alignment will allow you to save on this part, changing it less often.
Summarizing the above mentioned, both manipulations are designed to remove problems caused by wheel dysfunctions. Due to the similarity of their goals, they are often mistakenly considered to be the same thing. However, these words have absolutely different meaning, these are two completely dissimilar processes, both in terms of tasks they perform and methods of implementation. Another common mistake is when these operations are considered alternative ways of fixing malfunctions related to wheels. This is not true. They complement each other and in no case can replace one another. Only in the complex they can provide desired effect: comfort in moving, safety and good condition of tires. Therefore, in most service stations you will be offered both balancing and alignment.
What is wheel balancing
Often the centre of mass of a wheel does not coincide with a geometric centre where the axis is located. Accordingly, such a wheel when driving causes increased vibration of the vehicle, which leads to significant discomfort (shaking, noise) and to premature wear of the wheel suspension elements and tire. The task of balancing is to “move” the centre of mass of a wheel to its geometric centre and thus make the rotation as smooth and even as possible even at the highest speed.
When you buy a new car, wheels are probably well balanced. However, unfortunately, sooner or later, in any car the balance is disturbed. For example, if your wheel even slightly hit the curb or got into bumps on the road, wheel balancing may be lost. Not to mention the fact that the wheel equilibrium distorts with uneven tire wear.
Wheel imbalances, especially minor ones, cannot always be easily determined by the driver. The task of balancing is to check how the mass of a wheel is distributed relative to its geometric centre. If the mass is unevenly distributed, this should be corrected by counterweights.
How is balancing performed? For this purpose, stations of car services use a special machine that spins the wheel of a car at a certain speed. During rotation, this machine determines if there is an imbalance in a wheel. If it is found, the apparatus determines the exact place to be corrected, after which the master fixes small counterweights to the wheel rim. As balancing weights, small plates of lead or zinc are used. Their weight is also determined by the machine. The procedure continues until a perfectly smooth rotation is achieved. In some car services diagrams are used for greater visibility.
You can come across two types of wheel balancing depending on electronic equipment specifications in the workshop and availability of necessary software:
In a simpler, cheaper and most common way, the wheel simply spins up as a separate part. With more advanced equipment, machine simulates the movement of a wheel in a car, taking into account various factors affecting the wheel while real driving. The first is enough for a good result. But if you need a perfect result, opt for the second which will cost you more.
What is wheel alignment
This operation is fundamentally different from balancing. While the latter adjusts the wheel as a separate part, alignment means checking and correction of dislocation of wheels relative to the ground, to the body of the vehicle and to each other. In short, in a normal case, trucks should be strictly vertical and parallel. Only this position of wheels enables the automobile to go evenly and straight. If the angle of a truck is changed, the machine will tend to permanently shift to one side. Other problems are also possible.
Problems caused by misaligned wheels
• excessive or irregular wear of tires;
• excessive wear of steering and suspension;
• general instability on the road.
What can cause contortion of wheels
New just purchased car wheels must be perfectly adjusted. But over time, their position begins to deviate from the norm. There are two main reasons for this:
• wear and damage of suspension elements and steering system;
• wheel bumps on potholes or curbs while driving.
Therefore, wheel alignment is desirable to do whenever trucks of your automobile are subjected to strong shocks, especially after accidents. In addition, this procedure is necessary after replacing elements of a steering system and suspension.
How the procedure of wheel alignment is executed
Wheel alignment is a many-sided process because it envolves wheels adjustment in three planes. These is so-called “toe” plane, then “camber” plane and last, but not least “caster” plane.
In the first case, it is detected whether the wheels converge or diverge front and rear. In the second, deviations of lower and upper sides of wheels are determined. The third deals with the pivot axis angle. The specifications of every vehicle indicate the recommended position of this part in comparison to the vertical. If the position is different, it must be normalized. Though this deviation is not as significant as the previous two. When deviations are detected, they are eliminated by regulating the steering and suspension system parts.
Difference between wheel alignment and wheel balancing
Both procedures are aimed to adjust wheels for their best performance. And yet these are two completely different processes. The task of wheel balancing is to adjust each wheel separately, to make it absolutely equable. During the process of wheel alignment, it is detected whether the disposition of wheels is correct in correlation to each other and relative to the ground. In simple terms, the task of alignment is to regulate wheels so that each of them is parallel to other and perpendicular to the surface. This will ensure the car direct movement, without tilting and rolls.
Thus, these two procedures serve different purposes. Some drivers consider them two alternative ways to bring wheels in order, opposing the wheel alignment vs wheel balancing. This is also not correct. Your wheels will be fine only if you do both procedures. Balancing is meaningless without alignment and vice versa. A balanced, but the crooked wheel, as well as an upright, but the unbalanced wheel, is fraught with tire wear and noticeable driving discomfort.
How often should wheel alignment and balancing be done
There are no strict rules that prescribe the frequency of these procedures. In particular, their frequency depends largely on driving style and road conditions. If you prefer a fast drive especially when you have to move on bad roads, you will often have to visit a car service, at least after every serious pit. If you drive carefully, the frequency of these operations can be minimized.
It is considered optimal to do the alignment and balancing with each seasonal change of tires. Regular tracking of wheels’ condition on special equipment will allow to identify deviations in time and correct them, without waiting for more serious problems. In addition, they are desirable after the repair of wheels and running gear elements and with discomfort while driving: rattling, roll, unevenness of movement.
Consider this as a preventive visit to a doctor. It is better to come once again than to solve neglected problems.