Wheel alignment and tyre balancing – two terms you may have vaguely heard of but know very little about. Are they really something you need to worry about, or won’t any problems be picked up on your next annual service?
Let’s take a look at each of these in turn. As with anything that is related to your car, no one knows it better than you do. While your servicing and maintenance checks are there to spot and fix problems, wheel alignment and tyre balancing may not typically be looked at unless it has been while since the last time they were checked, or you let your mechanic know that something doesn’t feel right.
What is wheel alignment and why is it important?
Remember when you were a child and had a bike that every once in a while didn’t have fully aligned handlebars with your front wheel? The same things happens with cars, only it’s not something you can visually see in the same way as you can with a bicycle. Keeping your wheels pointed straight ahead will not only make your steering easier and safer, but it will also reduce the stress on your suspension making for a smoother drive and better handling. It will also allow your tyres to wear evenly, thus avoiding further problems that are caused due to uneven tyre wear and tear.
How do I know if my wheels need to be aligned?
Ideally, you should have your wheel alignment checked every 6,000 miles or six months – whichever comes first. If you hit a pothole or other obstruction before then you should take your vehicle in for a precautionary check as it is possible for the alignment to be affected this way. If you notice that your tyres are not wearing evenly then your alignment may be at fault, so best to get it checked. Finally, if the steering ‘pulls’ while you are driving or when you brake suddenly this could be another sign, although it could also be down to uneven tyre pressure, brake or power steering problems.
What is wheel balancing and why is it important?
Wheel balancing ensures that your vehicle’s weight is evenly distributed when the wheel is revolving. Driving with unbalanced wheels can lead to them wobbling from side to side or bouncing up and down over the road surface – both of which are uncomfortable and unsafe.
How do I know if my wheels need to be balanced?
The signs telling you that your wheels need to be balanced include:
- Vibrations while driving above a certain speed. This may be more noticeable on the motorway when you are moving at higher speeds. This vibration can be felt in the steering wheel, floorboards, or even seats – or all three.
- Tyre wear that is of a scalloped or cupped nature.
If you experience any of these, take your car in for a wheel balancing. Make sure that all four wheels are done at the same time, not just the front ones. Rear wheel imbalances can also be felt through the steering.