How Do I Know If My Tires Need to Be Balanced?

When a manufacturer creates a tire or wheel, no two are ever exactly alike. That means they are different weights — even if it’s by a fraction of an ounce. Those small differences can cause issues, which is why we balance the wheel-tire assemblies on every vehicle we service. But how do you know if your tires and wheels need to be rebalanced? We have some quick tips.

What Is a Tire Balance?

Tire balancing is a tune-up for each of your wheel-tire assemblies. Balancing helps ensure weight is evenly distributed around the entire circumference of the tire and wheel. Balancing a wheel-tire assembly is done with small weights.

Why Balance Your Tires and Wheels?

The common symptoms of an out-of-balance wheel-tire assembly are uneven and faster tread wear, poor fuel economy, or vibration in the steering wheel and/or floorboard that gets worse at faster speeds. When all areas of the wheel-tire assembly are as equal in weight as possible, the tire will roll smoothly. This helps improve tread wear. Balancing also contributes to overall ride comfort.

Imbalanced tires can wobble or hop up and down, causing vibration. If a front tire isn’t properly balanced, you’ll likely feel vibration in the steering wheel. If the problem is in the rear, you’ll feel shaking in the seat or floor.

How Do Wheels Get Out of Balance?

Everyday wear on tires and wheels can cause an imbalance. Plus, if a wheel weight comes off, if you hit a curb or pothole, or if you get a flat repaired, your wheel-tire assembly can get out of balance.

Signs Your Tires Need Rebalancing

When a wheel-tire assembly is especially out-of-balance, you’ll likely know it right away. You’ll feel it in the steering wheel or floorboards. A thump-thump-thump sound that gets louder at lower or higher speeds might also be an indicator. Here are a few signs that you should get yours rebalanced.

Your Vehicle Pulls to One Side:

You might need an alignment, or your tires and wheels are out of balance. Les Schwab has the expertise to check your vehicle, make recommendations, and get you back on the road.

Uneven or Fast Tread Wear:

If the tread on your tires appears to wear too quickly, it could be an out-of-balance wheel-tire assembly.

Shaking Steering Wheel:

Vibration in the steering wheel when driving could be caused by an out-of-balance wheel-tire assembly. It could also be a bent wheel, a damaged tire (which won’t be fixed by balancing), worn suspension parts or other aging components. If you feel a vibration, don’t wait. Get to Les Schwab and let our pros take a look.

How Often Should Tire Balancing Be Done?

It’s advisable to get your wheel-tire assemblies balanced with every tire rotation. Additionally, anytime you get new tires, balancing should be part of the new-tire package. Other times to consider rebalancing include when you hit a curb, pothole, or other debris that breaks off or damages a balance weight, if you get a flat repaired, or anytime you notice uneven tread wear and vibrations.

At Les Schwab, tire balancing and rotation are done at the same time. However, they aren’t the same service. Tire rotation is when a vehicle’s front and rear wheels are switched to even out tread wear. Since both require removing each wheel, it’s convenient to do them at the same time.

Les Schwab Tip: Do you leave your car or truck parked in one spot for months at a time? Flat spots could develop in the tires, causing balance issues. This can go away after a few miles of driving. But if not, stop by Les Schwab.

How Tires Are Rebalanced

Rebalancing is done in a tire shop by putting the wheel-tire unit on a tire balancing machine that takes measurements to pinpoint lighter or heavier areas. Adjustments are then made to account for these weight differences. The best time to get it done is when tires are being rotated, both for convenience and because you might have a tire out of balance on the rear of the vehicle and won’t feel it until it is moved to the front.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. A tire mounted on a wheel is attached to a tire balancing machine.

  2. The wheel is spun while vibration measurements are taken. This tells the tech if the weight is spread evenly, how much weight to add and where on the wheel to attach it.

  3. If an imbalance is found, the technician may be able to rebalance and adjust the weights (adding more). But sometimes it requires the tech to also reposition the tire on the wheel and then rebalance. This is because a heavy spot on the wheel and on the tire can sometimes line up together, causing a greater imbalance that needs to be corrected.

    Wheel weight on tire

How Does Balancing Benefit Your Car?

Though both should be part of regular auto maintenance, balancing isn’t the same as getting an alignment. Wheel alignment corrects the angles of the tires so they travel in the same direction and properly make contact with the road. Alignment reduces uneven tire wear and extends the life of your tires.

The benefits of a balanced wheel-tire assembly include a smoother ride, as well as money saving benefits such as less tread wear, better gas mileage, and less strain on many parts of your vehicle.

Les Schwab Tire Rebalancing & Alignment Services

Properly balanced wheel-tire assemblies can add up to more tread life, increased fuel economy, and less wear and tear on your vehicle. Les Schwab has the tools and know-how to get yours done right. If you have a set of Les Schwab tires, come on by and we’ll rebalance them for free. It’s part of our Best Tire Value Promise. Didn’t buy your tires here? We’ll be happy to take a look, give you an estimate, and get the job done right.