Balancing your tires

Why it’s important

Over the years cars have become a lot lighter. And lighter cars mean safer, faster, and longer lasting cars. So it’s mostly a positive. On the other hand, heavier cars with softer suspension generally offer a smoother ride. Owning one of the lighter cars built during the last couple decades means you will feel a lot more of the road beneath you. Today, getting and keeping your tires balanced is more important than ever because if your tires are off-balance by even just a half ounce, you’ll feel it.

Unbalanced tires cause vibrations. These vibrations aren’t good for your tires, your car or your sanity. Consistent vibrations can cause your tires to wear prematurely and unevenly. That means drumming up the money for a new set of tires a lot earlier than you had planned. Unbalanced tires can also cause wear on your axle and other related parts, which can lead to more expensive repairs. But most importantly, a road trip with a wobbly tire is like hiking with a pebble in your shoe—it’s just plain annoying.

Tires can be out of balance in two main ways: they can wobble side to side or up and down (displaced along the radial or lateral centers). This wobbling is the result of imperfections in the rim or tires—tires can have heavy spots, and rims can be chipped or slightly tilted. Tire balancing is a technique all technicians use to counteract these imperfections and preserve the integrity of your tires. While you can’t buy perfect rims or tires, you can make up the difference—it’s called balancing. It’s a quick job too.

What exactly happens

Our tire balancing machine spins your tires rapidly and then applies pressure to simulate how your tires respond to the road. The instrument is able to monitor, detect and pinpoint where the tires are out of balance. It then calculates the exact amount of weight to counteract the lopsidedness, and a computer directs technicians to add counterweights at specific locations along the rim to smooth out your ride.

When should you get your tires balanced?

The easy answer is whenever you begin to feel vibrations. Of course, vibrations can be the result of bigger problems, but starting with getting your tires balanced is a good, cheap way to find out. Most tire companies will automatically balance your tires when they install new tires, but they will not necessarily check to make sure your tires are balanced when you come in for checkups or rotations. The good news is that a tire in balance tends to stay that way, but you never know. If you hit a curb, or a large pothole, it can be enough to send your tires out of balance.

One trick to preserving your tires, your car, and your sanity is to re-balance your tires every time you bring them in for a rotation, every 5,000 miles or so.  It is a quick procedure that can easily be done during the rotation process and costs very little.