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May 26, 2014

How Often Should You Balance Your Tires?

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One motto that never gets old when it comes to the rules of the road is Safety First. This means regular wear of seatbelts, keeping up to date on maintenance and fluids checks, and keeping all elements of your vehicle in proper working order to avoid roadside mishaps and preventable accidents. One area of your vehicle to pay particular attention to is that of the wheels and tires.

Wheel Balancing

Aside from assuring that your tires are kept properly inflated, rotated, and changed seasonally, wheel balancing is the next important step to keep your car in good working order and your ride smooth (especially at high speeds).

What is Wheel Balancing? Wheel balancing (aka Tire Balancing) is the process of ensuring equal weight distribution of the wheel and tire combinations throughout the car. It starts by placing the wheel on a balancer and engaging it in rotation to see which way the tire goes and what areas need to be balanced out with the addition of weights to ensure equal weight and proper linear motion. When on the machine (the preferred method for precision though manual methods can be performed) the wheel is placed on the balancer’s spindle through the centre bore and then a metal cone is inserted to check that the wheel is in fact centred. The machine spins the wheel at high speed to find the heaviest point, telling the operator where and how many weights are needs for the opposite side in order to compensate.

When should they be balanced?

Though some mechanics may tell you it is necessary to have your tires balanced every 5000 kilometres, and readily offer the service in conjunction with oil changes, there are only really a few circumstances in which you should have your tires balanced.

Buying new tires

Even new tires, fresh from factory assembly, aren’t perfectly identical to one another when purchasing a set, thus the need for evaluation and correction where necessary. There may be weight discrepancies in the rubber, the cap lie, or the side that contains the wheel`s valve may reduce the weight minutely on that side along with other minor imperfections that can have major effects when driving. With that in mind, most companies will offer free balancing with the purchase of a new set of tires. This is to ensure road safety and help you get the most mileage for your new rubbers.

Installing ‘gently used` tires

Not buying brand new? Some garages will give you the option of second hand tires with good treads for a lower cost. It is imperative to have these tires balanced when placed on your vehicle as they have been at the mercy of another driver who may not have balanced or rotated to prolong the lifespan and they may be worn unevenly. Have the set carefully inspected and balanced before driving away!

Replacing one tire

If one of your tires has been damaged and you are changing your spare out for a new one, make sure to have the whole set balanced to account for changes between the old and new. This may be a good time to have them rotated as well as most good companies will perform one with the other anyhow.

Changing between summer and winter tires

Since tires wear over time, the balance will slowly change. A great way to keep an eye on tire health is to have them balanced each time your mechanic swaps between your standard and winter tires.

Bad Vibrations

If you are experiencing a vibration that occurs with speed, you may have a balance problem. While it may be a loose part or damaged tire, balance is one place to start in the correction of this issue. Speak to your Service Plus mechanic for a full diagnostic assessment!

Sources:
1. The What, Why, and How of Wheel Balancing
2. Top 5 Tire Misunderstandings
3. Do you need to get your tires balanced?


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