Some people mistakenly assume that tire alignment and balancing are the same thing, yet they are not. Tire alignment has to do with the direction the vehicle moves when in motion. If the vehicle pulls to the left or right or you have to hold the steering wheel off center to drive straight, the vehicle needs to be aligned.
Wheel and tire balancing has to do with the circular motion of the tire and the amount of vibrations created. If you have ever driven a car where the steering column shakes or you can feel vibrations in the seats, this indicates the tires need balancing.
Both alignment and balancing affect several aspects of the tires and vehicle including:
- Tire Wear – Tires will wear unevenly if they are not balanced or need an alignment.
- Suspension/Steering System – The suspension and steering components are affected by both bad alignments and vibrating tires, and they can place added strain and wear and tear on the parts that make up this system.
- Braking System – Brake pads will wear unevenly in vehicles that need to be aligned or have tires that need to be balanced.
Improper tire alignment and balance can create safety hazards for all motorists on the road, which can become an even greater hazard in wet, rainy, snowy, and icy driving conditions.
Ideally, you should have your tires rotated and balanced every 5,000 miles and have the alignment checked and realigned if needed.