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

While wheel alignment and wheel balance might sound similar, they are two entirely different forms of routine maintenance. Wheel balancing is usually required more frequently, but both are essential to extending the life and performance of your tires.

Wheel Balance

Tire/wheel assemblies can get out of balance due to normal wear and tear. The imbalance is the result of one section being heavier or lighter than the rest and can cause uneven tread wear and vibration in the steering wheel.

Balancing tires is extremely precise. Even a slight discrepancy in weight distribution across the tire can lead to issues. In order to balance a tire, computerized equipment identifies exactly where weights as small as a half ounce should be applied to the rim in order to counter-balance any heavy spots. It is a good idea to have your wheels balanced every time you have your tires rotated or repaired.

It is also important to have you wheels balanced after installing new tires on your vehicle. Even though the tires are new, some weight imbalance is often still be evident. Having them balanced with wheel weights will ensure a smooth, safe, ride.

Wheel Alignment

We recently covered wheel alignments in detail. This crucial piece of maintenance includes measuring and adjusting three types of angles in your wheel assembly. These include the camber, caster, and toe in/out. 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 measures the exact angles of the wheels, and a qualified AAA technician will 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 ensure even wear on your tire tread. It also reduces stress on other components such as your suspension.

Wheel balance and wheel alignment are equally important routine maintenance for your vehicle’s health and your safety. Call 844-288-5593 or find your nearest AAA Car Care Center to book an appointment today. Members are also eligible for additional discounts, but our service is available to members and non-members alike.


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