Tire balancing is a wheel tune-up that ensures the outer and inner circumference is properly balanced. It ensures that the weight of the vehicle is properly distributed to the whole tire circumference. If the tire is out of balance, the weight of the vehicle will not be evenly distributed.
Your car tires, especially new ones, may look perfectly symmetrical with no issues and should provide a seamless driving experience. But the truth is, it is difficult to know if your tire is perfect or not by just looking at it.
Even the little issues on your vehicle will make your tire look like it has a major fault when driving at high speed. This is why tire balancing is necessary. Therefore, it is essential to learn how to balance a tire as a DIYer.
In this article, you’ll learn wheel balancing symptoms. But first, let’s see how to tell which tire is out of balance.
How To Tell Which Tire Is Out Of Balance?
New tires can have imperfections right from the factory. Driving with it can cause accelerated tire wear. You need tire balancing whenever you install a new tire and during tire rotation for adequate maintenance.
If you notice any of these abnormalities, you have an unbalanced tire. Inspect the tires once you observe any of these out-of-balance tire signs.
Vibration at a certain speed
The early sign of an out-of-balance tire is vibration on the steering wheel at a certain speed. This can happen when traveling at 70 mph or above. Several factors can cause wheel vibration when traveling at high speed, but if the vibration occurs at a certain speed and disappears when cruising at a higher or lower speed.
If the out-of-balance tire worsens, the vibration will intensify, and you’ll feel the vibration on the entire cabin, including the front and rear seats and the steering wheel. So it’s crucial to balance the tire and enjoy a smooth driving experience.
Uneven tire wear
Your tire tread wear pattern tells much about the health of the tire. An imbalanced tire can cause uneven tire wear. Steering and wheel issues can also cause uneven wear. You can easily have flat tires if they wear inside or outside. Uneven tire wear also causes tire cupping. You may also see bubbles on the tires.
These are front and rear tire out-of-balance symptoms. However, it is important to note that the common and early sign of unbalanced tires is vibration on the steering wheel at a certain speed. So, once you suspect your tire is out of balance, drive into a garage and have them balance the wheels.
When a wheel vibrates at high speed, everyone thinks they need an alignment. Alignment has nothing to do with wheel vibration. The purpose of an alignment is to ensure the tires are going down the road straight, hugging the road perfectly so that you don’t wear out the tires prematurely.
The reason you would do alignment is that you just replaced the tires, placed any front-end components, or your steering wheel is off-center.
Balancing your tires will prolong the life of the tires. But, first, the service technician will look at your tire and see if there’s anything obvious, any abnormal wear on it, and if it’s extremely choppy.
They will check if there’s a wheel weight on the outside of the tire. Sometimes, wheel weights fall off. It’s unlikely, but it does happen. They will grab the tires, give them a shake, and ensure no suspension or steering components are loose. If you have something like a bad inner or outer tie rod that’s excessive, that could cause a vibration.
Most of the time, your vehicle vibrates because the tire balance is off. So, the next thing the technician will do is to take the wheels off and bring them over to the wheel balancer.
When manufacturers and aftermarket producers build tires, there may be some slight imperfections in the tire. For example, there may be more rubber on one side than the other. Or, there are steel belts between the tires that could be shifted slightly on the tire causing the tires not to run perfectly.
And the rim itself could have imperfections where it’s just slightly heavier on one side. So, if the technician notices vibration and the wheel assembly components are super cool, they have to balance the tires.
What’s next? The technician will take the tire to a wheel balancing machine. Because they’re trying to find out the cause of the vibration, they’ll leave the wheel weights on the tire and put the tire on a balancing machine to check it out. Before that, they’ll check the tire pressure and adjust it accordingly.
If the balance checks out, the tire is not the cause of the vibration. But if it’s off, those wheel weights are on the wrong spot or need to be rebalanced.
How Do I Check My Tires Balance At Home?
If you’re a DIYer who wants to learn how to fix every little thing on your car, you may want to check your tire balance at home and rebalance it if it is a bit off. If that’s what you want, I’ll walk you through how to balance tires yourself at home.
Even if you have vibration with a new tire when driving between 55 to 70 mph, an imbalanced tire can be the culprit.
Tire balancing at a service center may cost around 40 to 100 dollars. This may be high if you imbibe regular tire balancing checks. Instead, you can get a portable wheel balancer at around 70 dollars. Follow the steps below to balance your tires at home once you get the portable wheel balancer.
Get a flat base
The first step is to get a flat base. It could be a table or a flat piece of wood. Next, put the balancing base on the piece of wood. Then, get the level balancing part and place it on top.
Adjust the balancer
Adjust the balancer and ensure the bubbles in the middle. There are adjustment screws. Adjust the screws until the bubble relaxes in the center.
Place the tire on the balancer
Once the bubble is in the center of the balancer, get the tire and place it over the top, and the springs will automatically adjust, so it fits right. If the bubble is off-center, the tire is out of balance. If you find yourself in this situation, proceed to the next step.
Balance the tire
Take the tire off the balancer and remove the weights. After that, put the tire over the balance again. Next, move the weights around until the bubble stays in the middle. Finally, get some cleaner and clean the spot you want to put the weights on.
Then put the weights back with a little sticky glue to hold them in place and prevent it from falling off.
This is a straightforward approach. So, if your tire is out of balance, why not get a portable wheel balancer and do the task at home? If you’re a visual learner, watch this video for a visual presentation.
Q: How long can you drive on unbalanced tires?
There’s no stipulated time on how long you can drive with unbalanced tires. However, you can drive with unbalanced tires for a few months. After that, the issues will intensify progressively. And the risk of damaging other wheel assembly components increases.
If you don’t want to risk damaging other suspension components, rebalance your tires within the eight weeks of noticing the signs of unbalanced tires.
Q: Is it safe to drive with unbalanced wheels?
Driving with unbalanced tires isn’t too bad. It’s not something that can lead to catastrophic damages. So, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need an urgent fix. However, it will put extra stress on shock and struts, bearings, and other wheel assembly components.
Therefore, I recommend you fix the issues as soon as possible before it degrades other suspension components.
Q: Does wheel balance affect steering?
Of course, bad wheel balancing will affect the steering. In fact, one of the major factors in wheel balancing vs. alignment is that out-of-balanced wheels will cause vibrations that you’ll feel on your steering, while bad alignment will accelerate tire wear and may cause steering issues.
Q: Is alignment necessary after wheel balancing?
Wheel balancing and alignment are two different things. It is not necessary to balance your wheels after installing a new rim or a new tire. Wheel balancing aims to prevent the tires from vibration and premature wear.
In contrast, alignment is recommended after doing some suspension jobs to adjust the angles of your wheels to the right position. So, they are two different services that aim at different things.
Therefore, it is up to you to balance your wheels after alignment. However, if you do not balance your wheels, that’ll not affect the alignment.
Q: Will Unbalanced tires cause shaking?
Yes, unbalanced tires will cause shaking. In fact, a steering wheel that shakes at a certain speed is a common sign of unbalanced tires. For instance, unbalanced tires will cause shaking on the steering wheel when driving at around 70 mph.
We’ve walked you through various tricks on how to tell which tire is out of balance and how to fix unbalanced tires at home. Go through the article again and learn how to fix this problem yourself. This will save you money in the long run and offer a seamless driving experience.
It’s okay if you’re not that DIY type. In that case, waste no time driving to a nearby service center for a regular wheel balancing.