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car repair tips to save you time and money

Do I need a wheel balancing or wheel alignment?

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We get calls all the time from customers requesting a wheel alignment. We ask them the reason for wanting an alignment and they tell us that their vehicle has a vibration problem. Some say their steering wheel is off center and causing a pulling to one side.  Figuring out which service you need is critical to resolving pulling or vibration issues. It is also important to check the condition of your tires. if the tires are worn to the point of needing replacement, it is always a good idea to replace first and then recheck. 

Bad tires are some of the leading causes of vibration and pulling. Tires should always be looked at first and in most cases a proper wheel balancing or alignment is necessary. We must also look at what cause the vibration to happen. For example: Worn shocks can also cause a car to have vibration issues.  As shocks wear out, they lose their ability to absorb impact and allow the tire bounce and cause unwanted wear to the tire. This wear then transforms into a vibration and causes cupping.

Wheel Balancing

When your tires are installed, a technician will install the tires and balance your wheels. They install weights to the rims to offset the unevenness of the rim and tire. The tire is spun at a high speed to determine what weights are necessary to make the tire smooth at higher speeds. Most times when the vehicle has a vibration at approximately 100 km/hr. it usually requires a balancing. This is the first step that must be taken to resolve vibrations at high speeds. If you notice wheel weights missing from your rims it more than likely they weight fell off which happens sometimes.

The leading cause of vibration is balancing. There are times where worn bushings, worn suspension components can cause vibration. A technician can diagnose the cause of vibration in order to avoid costly unneeded repairs. We have encountered situations where customers have visited a few garages in order to solve their vibration issue. They come to us and do a road force balancing and we are able to resolve issues that most shops using low grade balancers cannot.  If regular balancing fails seek a shop that is equipped with a road force balancing machine. The machine is a tire diagnostic machine that can give you tons of more information. It can help resolve individual tires that are causing issues and give you an accurate diagnostic.

Wheel Alignment

If your vehicle is pulling or steering wheel off center, you need to first perform an alignment. An alignment is action of adjusting the vehicles wheels angles in order to contour the road precisely with minimum tire wear and resistance.  If the angles are wrong a vehicle will pull and give you unwanted steering response. It can be dangerous and even lead to an accident if not corrected. A vehicle is equipped with adjustments that help correct the incorrect angles. This is usually caused by potholes, road hazards and the accidents. An alignment can help in most cases but if the wheels have been hit by a severe accident, part replacement may be required. It was very important to understand the symptoms of what needs to be corrected.

Having a conversation and letting your service advisor know exactly what you are experiencing is important to resolve drivability issues. We have customers that diagnose their own car wanting an alignment only to inform us that their car is still vibrating at high speeds.  Their real requirement was a wheel balancing. They return and perform the wheel balancing and problem solved. This is why proper communication between you and your service advisor is critical.  Be clear and explain exactly at what speed the issue is occurring. If the steering wheel pulls on all roads or only on highway driving. If the vibration is accompanied by loud humming noise. These few items would give a technician an idea of where to look.

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