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Wheel Alignment vs. Wheel Balance: What’s the Difference?

Certain automotive terms can sound similar and may even be confused with one another. An example is wheel balance and wheel alignment. Both are necessary to extend the life and performance of your tires, but they are different forms of maintenance. Wheel balancing is usually required more frequently, while an alignment might not be needed as often. 

Tire/wheel assemblies can get out of balance due to normal wear and tear. The resulting imbalance occurs when one section of the rim or tire is heavier than the others, causing the tire to wobble when in motion. You can often feel a vibration in your steering wheel or the seat when this happens. In order to balance a tire, computerized equipment identifies where wheel weights should be applied to the rim. The weights will counter-balance any heavy spots. It is a good idea to have your wheels balanced every time you have your tires rotated or repaired. 

Wheel alignment includes measuring and adjusting three types of angles including camber, caster, and toe in/out to the manufacturer's recommended specifications. Camber is the angle of the wheel, top to bottom, when viewed from the front of the vehicle. Caster is the angle of the steering pivot as viewed from the side of the vehicle. Toe in/out is the direction the tires point, relative to each other. Sensitive computerized equipment is used to measure the angles of the wheels so a qualified technician can adjust them to within the vehicle manufacturer's specifications. When wheels are aligned properly, your vehicle will track straight and true, will not pull to one side, and will use fuel more efficiently.  

Wheel alignment is important for your vehicle's suspension system, but it can be hard to know when you need it. If you can answer yes to any of these, you may need alignment service. Does your car drift to the right or left? Does your tire tread look unevenly worn? Has it been over a year since your last alignment? Proper alignment comes with a number of benefits for your car including better fuel economy, extended tire life, and less driver fatigue. If your vehicle was in an accident, you should have it checked as soon as possible. Pay attention to these additional signs that indicate you should bring your car in for inspection. Don't hesitate, come into AAA Car Care today for a free alignment evaluation.

When you buy new tires from AAA Online Tire Store, it is important to have a wheel alignment and balance after installation. Even though the tires are new, some weight imbalance can still be evident. They should still be balanced with wheel weights to ensure a smooth, safe, ride. You will also want to have your alignment checked before driving off on a new set of tires. This will help extend the life of your tires and prevent your tires from an increase in wear. 

Wheel balancing and wheel alignment are important for routine maintenance. Bring your car into your local AAA Car Care Center to ensure your car is performing optimally. AAA Members receive additional discounts and benefits including 10% discount on repair labor, 2-year/24,000 mile warranty on repairs​, & 3-month/3,000-mile warranty on wheel alignments.

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