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Wheel Balancing Vs. Wheel Alignment: What’s The Difference?

When it comes to vehicle maintenance, two terms often get tossed around: wheel balancing and wheel alignment. While they both pertain to keeping your car’s wheels in top condition, they serve different purposes.

Let us delve into the specifics to understand their disparities and why they’re crucial for your vehicle’s performance and safety. Alternatively, you can also get in touch with our experts at Bromley Vehicle Test Centre. We’d love to offer advice and our quality vehicle servicing and repairs. Call 020 8460 6666 or email today.

What Is Wheel Balancing?

Wheel balancing ensures that your car’s wheels rotate evenly. It involves placing weights on the wheel rim to counterbalance any inconsistencies in weight distribution caused by manufacturing imperfections or wear and tear.

This balance prevents vibrations and uneven tyre wear, resulting in a smoother ride and prolonged tyre life.

What Is Wheel Alignment?

Wheel alignment focuses on the angles at which your wheels make contact with the road. Proper alignment ensures that your vehicle drives straight and handles correctly.

It involves adjusting the angles of the wheels to match the manufacturer’s specifications, optimising tyre performance, and steering response while minimising tyre wear and fuel consumption.

“Wheel balancing, wheel alignment, or something else, let Bromley Vehicle Test Centre conduct thorough diagnosis on your vehicle to ensure quality servicing and repairs!”

Wheel Balancing Vs. Wheel Alignment

1. Purpose

Wheel balancing primarily addresses the distribution of weight around the wheel and tyre assembly. When a tyre is mounted onto a wheel, it may not be perfectly balanced due to variations in rubber thickness or imperfections in the wheel.

This imbalance can lead to vibrations, especially at higher speeds, affecting the comfort of your ride and potentially causing premature wear on suspension components. Balancing involves adding small weights to the rim of the wheel to counteract any heavy spots, ensuring smooth rotation.

In contrast, wheel alignment focuses on the angles at which the wheels make contact with the road surface. Over time, factors such as driving over potholes, hitting curbs, or general wear and tear can cause the wheels to become misaligned.

This can result in irregular tyre wear, steering pull to one side, and compromised handling. The purpose of alignment is to adjust the angles of the wheels according to manufacturer specifications and ensure optimal contact with the road and straight tracking.

2. Effects

The primary effect of wheel balancing is the elimination of vibrations that occur when the tyre and wheel assembly rotate. These vibrations are often felt through the steering wheel and can be particularly noticeable at higher speeds.

By ensuring that the weight is evenly distributed around the wheel, balancing reduces these vibrations, resulting in a smoother and more comfortable driving experience.

On the other hand, the effects of wheel alignment are more focused on the vehicle’s handling and tyre wear patterns. Misaligned wheels can cause uneven tyre wear, with certain areas of the tyre experiencing accelerated wear compared to others.

This not only reduces the lifespan of the tyres but also compromises traction and handling. Moreover, misalignment can lead to steering pull, where the vehicle tends to veer to one side even when driving on a straight road.

3. Frequency

The frequency of wheel balancing typically depends on certain events or symptoms. It is commonly performed when new tyres are installed, as the manufacturing process may introduce slight imbalances. Additionally, if you notice vibrations in the steering wheel or through the vehicle’s chassis, it may indicate that balancing is required.

Over time, as tyres wear down, their balance may also change, necessitating periodic rebalancing to maintain smooth operation.

Conversely, the need for wheel alignment often arises from specific events or signs of misalignment. Hitting potholes, kerbs, or other road hazards can knock the wheels out of alignment. This requires adjustment to restore proper geometry. While alignment may not need to be checked as frequently as balancing, it is essential to address any signs of misalignment promptly to prevent further tyre wear and ensure safe driving conditions.

4. Process

Wheel balancing is a relatively straightforward process that involves mounting the wheel and tyre assembly onto a balancing machine. The machine then spins the wheel and detects any areas of imbalance. Small weights are then added to the rim of the wheel to offset these imbalances until the wheel spins evenly. This process requires precision and may need to be repeated multiple times to achieve optimal balance.

In contrast, wheel alignment is a more involved procedure that requires specialised equipment and expertise. It involves measuring and adjusting various angles of the wheels, including camber, caster, and toe.

These angles affect how the wheels make contact with the road and influence steering stability, tyre wear, and handling characteristics. Alignment adjustments are typically made using alignment racks and computerised alignment machines, ensuring accuracy and consistency across all four wheels.

5. Benefits

The benefits of wheel balancing are primarily focused on ride comfort and tyre longevity. Balanced wheels provide a smoother driving experience, especially at higher speeds. Additionally, they experience less stress and wear, leading to longer tyre life and reduced maintenance costs over time.

On the other hand, the benefits of wheel alignment are more centred on handling and safety. Proper alignment ensures that all four wheels are pointing in the same direction and are perpendicular to the ground. This promotes even tyre wear, optimal traction, and predictable handling.

Comparison Table

Aspect Wheel Balancing Wheel Alignment
Purpose Even weight distribution on the wheel Correcting wheel angles for straight driving
Effects Smooth rotation, reduced vibrations Improved steering response, reduced tyre wear
Frequency New tyre installation or vibrations After impacts or steering irregularities
Process Adding weights to wheel rims Adjusting wheel angles using specialised equipment
Benefits Smoother ride, prolonged tyre life Enhanced fuel efficiency, precise steering

How Can We Help With Both?

At Bromley Vehicle Test Centre, we are your local, family-run garage and MOT station in Bromley. With over four decades’ experience, we cover all your vehicle needs, from MOTs to diagnostics and repairs.

Our comprehensive services include two levels of servicing – basic or full, tailored to your car’s requirements. We can conduct a full diagnostic testing, including gearboxes, brakes, clutches, airbag systems, wheels and tyres, air conditioning, and more, to ensure it is in perfect condition before you take it from our garage.

Unsure which service you need? Reach out, and we’ll provide impartial advice to keep your vehicle running smoothly. Call 020 8460 6666 today.

Conclusion

While wheel balancing and wheel alignment serve distinct purposes, both are essential for maintaining your vehicle’s performance, safety, and longevity. We hope this detailed article has given you in-depth insights into both processes and their benefits.

Worry not – if you have more questions, our team is here for you. Contact Bromley Vehicle Test Centre today to discuss car servicing, MOT testing, and other requirements.