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What is a tyre balance?
Tyres play a big role in driver and passenger comfort and safety on a vehicle. If the wheel alignment is out, or the wheels and tyres are out of balance then it can affect ride comfort and wear on the tyres.
Tyres are manufactured separately to wheels and just like people when you match two opposites together they need to find a healthy balance for a smooth journey ahead. When a wheel and tyre are fitted together there can be some weight imbalances that need to be rectified. This is done by applying weight on the wheel to make sure the tyre isn’t wobbling or hopping while you are driving.
How to tell if you need a tyre balance
If you feel a vibration in the steering wheel or throughout the car then it can be due to an imbalance in the wheels and tyres. The vibration is from the tyre skipping across the road or doing a jig because the tyre & wheel isn’t balanced correctly and not rolling as straight as it should. When it needs a balance certain parts of the tyre will be in contact with the road more than others and working against the tyre tread, which is why you may also notice uneven tyre wear. Imbalanced tyres can also lead to an increase in fuel consumption so you may notice the needle dip down quicker than usual.
How important is it to get a tyre balance done?
Passenger comfort is a good reason on its own to have tyre balance done but there are some good monetary reasons as well. The tyre tread will wear quicker, with imbalanced tyres a tyre can wear very quickly, on any section of the tyre, even if it is just on the edges. Once the wear goes beyond the tyre wear indicator then they are illegal to drive on.
The other consideration is what effect will the vibration have on other components in the vehicle? The vibration can have the ability to become amplified, causing damage or failure in other parts of the vehicle, particularly the suspension.
It’s amazing how important it is to get a tyres optimal rotation right. But when you realise tyres are the only part touching the road, while holding up a tonne of weight and travelling at high speeds, then it all makes sense.
If you continue to experience vibration after a wheel and tyre balance it can also be due to an imperfect tyre, an out of shape wheel, brake failure, a driveline issue or steering and suspension problems. Make sure to book in an inspection with a mechanic if the vibration persists.
How is a tyre balance carried out
- Wheel is removed from vehicle
- Wheel and tyre are attached to a tyre balancing machine
- The machine spins the wheel and tyre to around 60 km/h
- Machine identifies imbalances
- Machine highlights where to affix weights and how much weight is required
- Weights are attached to the wheel in the specified locations
- Wheel and tyre removed from machine and refitted to vehicle
The spin balancing method is the most commonly used way to balance tyres however there are some less conventional methods that may still be in use.
In the past, weights made from lead were used to balance the tyres and wheels. Due to the environmental impacts of lead, less toxic materials are now being used in weights. These weights can vary in size and shape and get hammered or taped onto the wheel.
The weight method works well but there can be occasions where the weight gets forced off or just falls off. This doesn’t occur often but when it does another tyre balance will need to be done and new weights fitted. There is another less conventional option to weights which involves balancing a tyre from the inside called internal tyre balancing. This is where objects are applied inside the tyre, before the tyre goes onto the rim. It would certainly solve the problem of lost weights however there is conjecture on their consistency.
How much does a tyre balance cost?
A tyre balance will cost in the tens of dollars up to hundreds depending on how many tyres are being balanced and what vehicle they are fitted to. The larger and heavier the tyre then it will generally cost more and take longer however if there is an issue and a wheel is really difficult to balance the tyre fitter might suggest switching tyres with wheels to see if the tyre balances better with another wheel. If the tyre is out of shape then it may never balance and you might need a new tyre.
All going well you would want to allow at least an hour to have 4 tyres balanced and it is recommended to do a tyre balance every one or two years or when needed.
Where can you get a tyre balance?
Experienced tyre fitters have the skills to balance wheels and tyres. Most wheel and tyre specialists have the ability to balance tyres and even though you don’t have to be a qualified mechanic to carry out this task, there are plenty of mechanical workshops that do offer tyre balancing as well.
The key is locating a local tyre balancing expert. This is where AutoGuru comes in handy because they help you search and book tyre specialists near you.