Your car should normally give you a smooth and comfortable ride on decent roads. If you notice an abnormal vibration in the steering wheel or a bumpy ride, it’s time to get your wheels and tyres checked. Assuming that your tyres are in good shape, the chances are that you are having a wheel balancing or wheel alignment problem.
Besides giving you an uncomfortable ride, imbalanced or misaligned wheels can damage the components of your car, reduce fuel efficiency and make your tyres wear out faster. A quick visit to the service centre is all that is required to solve the problem and avoid costly repairs.
Identifying A Wheel Balancing Or Alignment Problem
A problem with your wheels may not be apparent when you are driving slowly on internal roads, but it usually becomes evident on the highway. As you approach speeds of about 50 mph, the ride becomes bumpy and the steering wheel starts to wobble. A wobbly steering wheel is a sign of a problem with the front wheels. If the passengers on the backseat complain of excessive vibrations, the rear wheels are having a problem.
A vehicle that is heavy or is heavily loaded will be more stable than a light vehicle. This may hide the problem. The problem can also be masked to some extent by a good quality suspension. Hence, it is essential to periodically check wheel balancing and alignment. Ensure that it is checked every time you take your car for servicing or when you are having your tyres changed or wheels rotated.
Problems Caused by Imbalanced Wheels
1. Imbalanced wheels cause your tyres to wear unevenly and shorten their life. Your ride quality will also become progressively worse.
2. The suspension and steering wheel components will be under increased strain and wear out faster.
3. Rotating parts of your car may wear out faster.
4. Safety is compromised.
The Benefits Of Keeping Your Wheels Balanced
1. Your ride will be smooth and comfortable.
2. Your car’s grip, cornering and handling will be optimal giving you more safety.
3. Fuel efficiency of your car will not be compromised.
4. Your tyres will wear out at a normal pace and will last their normal life.
How Are Wheels Balanced?
An imbalanced wheel will be heavier on one side. Such wheels will not rotate symmetrically and will tend to wobble. The wobbling increases with speed and that is why you experience more vibrations at higher speeds. Driving with imbalanced wheels will eventually damage the suspension and result in costly repair bills.
Wheel balancing is performed on a special machine. The machine rotates the wheel, detects wheel balancing problems and calculates the correction that is required. The mechanic then applies the right counterweight on the lighter side to balance the wheel. If wheel balancing is not the issue, the mechanic will check for wheel alignment problems.
Wheels can get misaligned when you drive fast on poor quality roads, ride over potholes and speed breakers at high speed or hit the pavement. Wheel balancing and wheel alignment problems often cause similar type of symptoms. Only an expert will be able to correctly diagnose and fix the problem. That is why it is important to get it checked during servicing and fixed if needed.
Tyre wear patterns give a clue to the type of problem that you are having. Usually, the tyre on a misaligned wheel tends to wear out on just one shoulder. Misalignment also causes the affected tyres to wear out faster than the others. On the other hand, with imbalanced wheels, the tyre tends to wear out in rounded or cupped patterns. Although these scalloped wear marks can sometimes run along the entire circumference, in most cases, bald wear sports appear on the tyre between the centre of the tread and the outer edge.
While you should check your tyres periodically, investigating and diagnosing the cause of any abnormal wear should always be left to the experts. If you notice any problem with ride quality, observe unusual tyre noise or tyre wear, get your wheels and tyres checked as soon as possible.