While the Check Engine light is a pretty big deal on your vehicle, so is proper wheel alignment and balancing. You might think you’re fine to continue driving with a wobbly steering wheel or a strange sound coming from your tires, but the experts at Master Muffler Murray suggest otherwise.

The Difference Between Alignment and Balancing

Usually grouped together, the process of aligning and balancing your wheels is actually two-fold. You can do one without the other but together they can have the best outcome for your ride.

Wheel Alignment

Alignment refers to the angle at which wheels are affixed to the vehicle. When done precisely, an alignment allows for even wear on all tires.

Misaligned tires may result in squirrely steering, uneven tire tread wear, or an off-center steering wheel when you’re going straight.

To properly align tires, an auto repair tech will do the following:

  • Wheel angles are measured with an alignment machine.
  • Measurements are compared to manufacturer specifications.
  • Adjustments may be made to the camber, caster, and toe of the wheel(s).
  • A computer analyzes the adjustments in the wheel(s) and steering wheel.

TYPES OF ALIGNMENT

Thrust Alignment

If your vehicle does not have adjustable rear suspension, a thrust alignment is the standard method. In this process, only the front wheels are adjusted to match the thrust line, which is the average measurement of where the two rear (fixed) wheels point. Since the rear wheels can’t be adjusted, the front wheels have to compensate for any misalignments in the back.

Four-Wheel Alignment

More expensive than thrust alignment, four-wheel alignment is for any vehicle with an adjustable rear-wheel suspension. As you may have guessed, it’s because all four wheels are aligned to a center point of the vehicle.

A test drive after an alignment can usually confirm whether or not it was performed correctly so you can be on your way.

Wheel Balancing

If you’re experiencing excessive vibrations when you drive, or you notice uneven wear on your tire treads, your wheels might be unbalanced. This means there’s an uneven distribution of weight throughout your car or truck.

An imbalance can lead to problems with your suspension and low gas mileage as well. Your steering wheel may be less responsive, 

To correct and prevent these issues, all four tires should be inspected and balanced by a trusted professional. This is a service we offer at Master Muffler Murray. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Each tire and wheel is mounted on a balancing machine.
  • The machine spins each tire/wheel and measures the vibrations
  • Based on the measurements, weight can be removed or added to the tire/wheel to help balance it
  • If weights don’t help balance the rotation of the tire/wheel, the tire may be removed and remounted on the wheel to try again.

It’s usually routine practice to balance wheels after they’ve been rotated, or when new tires have been installed.

When to Get an Alignment or Balance

At Master Muffler, we recommend an alignment and balance when you get new tires on your vehicle. Or, if you notice any of the following in your car:

  • Uneven tire treads
  • The vehicle drifts to one side
  • Steering wheel vibrates
  • Floorboards vibrate
  • After tire rotations (every 5,000 miles or two years)
  • After a flat has been repaired
  • If you notice a weight has fallen off

If your vehicle is lifted for routine maintenance and repairs, have the tires aligned and/or balanced. We also suggest getting an alignment after an accident, or even after hitting a curb or pothole with force. 

It’s important to note that the steering wheel may not vibrate at all when your need an alignment, so look for other signs that there’s a problem.

While alignments and balancing do not have to be done at the same time, they often accompany one another to ensure the best possible performance for your vehicle. Plus, it’s pretty convenient to do these different auto repairs in the same visit since the wheels have to be removed for either one. Keeping your wheels properly aligned and balanced not only increases the safety and performance of your vehicle but can extend the life of your tires as well. Get ready for summer road trips and make an appointment by calling Master Muffler Murray at (801) 305-3575.