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What’s the Difference Between Tire Balancing and Alignment

As a repair shop, when you tell a customer they need a tire balance and alignment, you already know the look they will give you.

It’s that “I’m going to pretend I know what you’re talking about” stares as the cogs in their brain engage, and they ask themselves why they need both or insist aloud that they don’t. The truth is that the average person probably thinks these two services are interchangeable. And few vehicle technicians take the time to explain why they’re not. It helps to have yourself and your team prepared to explain tire balancing vs alignment in terms non-experts will understand.

The content below explores tire balancing vs alignment in simple terms. We discuss strategies you can use to make sure they understand the benefits of both and should be willing to pay for them.

What is The Cause of Vehicle Vibration?

Anyone who has owned a car long enough knows it will start to vibrate eventually. From engine malfunction to a bad motor mount, there are many reasons for this. But we’re here to talk tire balancing vs alignment.

Unbalanced wheels are certainly a common culprit. The wheels that the tires are mounted vibrate as the wheel weights are no longer correctly distributing the weight. You can even turn the steering wheel to show these to your skeptical customer. At the same time, a misaligned suspension can contribute to uneven tire wear and vibrations, indicating the need for alignment.

What is Wheel Balancing

Tire balancing machine, showing the difference between tire balancing vs alignment

Tire balancing (or wheel balance) involves correcting the weight distribution on the tires. To do this, your highly skilled professionals use a specialized tire-spinning machine to calculate the weight distribution precisely. You can then install car weights to redistribute the weight.

If your customer neglects wheel balance, they are not only shortening the life of their tires. They also potentially damage the suspension that connects the tires to the vehicle and the drivetrain that delivers power to the wheels.

These problems are worse and cost the customer more money in the long run, leading to that tire balancing vs alignment discussion you’ll have with your customers.

Signs you need wheel balancing include:

  • Steering wheel shaking
  • Seat vibration
  • Floor vibration
  • Uneven wear on the tires

Types of Wheel Balancing

Static

When you perform static wheel balance, you adjust the wheel’s center of mass around the axis of rotation. If that balance is off, you can correct it with weights that pull the center of mass in the opposite direction using physics principles. A vehicle technician with a keen eye can make a static assessment as long as the alignment isn’t severe. But the truth is that in most cases, customers don’t come in for a tire balance until they’ve noticed problems. That’s when dynamic wheel balancing is a must.

Dynamic

Dynamic wheel balance involves advanced computers, sensors, and a specialized wheel balancing machine taking measurements and performing calculations. If the tires are massive or the misalignment is great, then a static assessment may not be possible or advisable.

What is Tire Alignment

A tire alignment (or wheel alignment) involves adjusting the car’s suspension to improve a vehicle’s performance. The suspension connects the vehicles to the wheels. When that suspension is not aligned, the car may veer to the right or the left.

The usual driver of the car probably gets used to this and can compensate. But as soon as someone else gets behind the wheel, that poor alignment catches them off-guard and makes it hard to control the vehicle.

a mechanic sits in front of a computer with a tire alignment machine behind him, showing the difference between tire balancing vs alignment

If suspension issues aren’t fixed through a tire alignment, the car will become increasingly hard to handle and will begin to vibrate. This will take the tires down the road of no return because of inconsistent wear.

With that said, the cost of bad tire alignment your team may forget to share with customers is this. According to Investopedia, poor tire alignment reduces gas mileage by around 10%. If gas costs $4 a gallon, that’s a loss of $0.40 for every 20-30 miles a person drives. That can really add up.

Signs that a car needs a tire alignment include:

  • Veering
  • Tires squealing
  • Uneven or faster-than-expected tire wear
  • The steering wheel tilts to one side when driving if you’re not fully controlling it
  • Vibrating steering wheel, especially when speeding up

Tire balancing vs alignment maintenance recommendations are as follows. Your customers should get a tire balance every 5000-7000 miles (or based on manufacturer recommendations). Alignment should be checked that often but may not be needed every time. Tire alignment is typically done at least every two years or more if the vehicle shows signs of misalignment.

Type of Wheel Weights

Tire balancing vs alignment isn’t the only vs. decision to consider. There are several types of wheel weights and choices for you and your customers. Choosing the right type is essential to vehicle function. A poorly fitting weight could block the brakes or impact steering.

Adhesive vs. Clip-on. Clip-on wheel weights are placed correctly and then hammered to seal the clip. On the other hand, adhesive wheel weights have an adhesive strip you can remove and press down onto a clean surface. Some wheels have wheel flanges that aren’t deep enough for clip-on weights, making adhesive ones the only option.

P Type vs AW Type vs MC Type, etc. Another way wheel weights are categorized is rim gauge, with different letters representing the different rim gauge sizes on the vehicle’s make. For example, P Type is the most common for steel wheels. W Type is for Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler, and Dodge, among others.

SVI International, Your One-Stop-Shop for Tire Changer Parts Solutions

As a leading tire changer part supplier, SVI International has everything you need to help your customer’s cars stay maintained, aligned, and balanced, like:

You can count on our unwavering commitment to excellence in product and service. To learn more, call us at +1(800) 321-8173 or fill out our quick contact form today.

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