The tires of your vehicle play a crucial role in the overall comfort and safety of the vehicle. The unbalanced tire is one of the most commonly encountered issues that can arise while your car is in the garage or driving on the road. Learn the symptoms of unbalanced tires.
Tire unbalancing is a situation where the tires of your car are not level with each other. Maintaining the good health of your car’s tires is vital for your safety while driving. Therefore, it’s essential to recognize the signs of unbalanced tires.
Having a good understanding of the symptoms of imbalanced tires can be a valuable asset, enabling you to address the issue before it becomes more severe. This article explains the unbalanced tire symptoms, causes, and how to fix them.
Symptoms Of Unbalanced Tires
Excessive vibration at a higher speed and accelerated tire wear are the most common symptoms of unbalanced tires. Unbalanced tires or wheels may also lead to faulty steering components, worn-out suspension components, unusual tire wear patterns, vehicle pulling to one side, heightened road noise, poor fuel economy, or leaning vehicle.
Let’s discuss these symptoms of unbalanced wheels in detail:
1) Excessive Vibrations At A Higher Speed
Excessive vibration while driving is one of the most common symptoms of unbalanced tires. However, some level of vibration is typical during driving, particularly when driving on uneven roads. But excessive vibrations serve as a warning signal that there is something wrong.
When the tires of your car are imbalanced, the intensity of these vibrations increases as you drive at a higher speed. Consequently, you might not notice any issues while driving at 30-40 mph, but vibrations may become increasingly pronounced as you reach 60 mph or higher. In extreme cases, your car may wobble a lot, making it hard to steer and control.
Excessive vibration during driving may also negatively impact your ability to steer the car efficiently. You may also sense the vibrations through the shaking of the steering wheel.
2) Poor Fuel Economy
While unbalanced tires won’t cause a drastic reduction in your fuel economy, you will observe a noticeable reduction if you notice it closely.
When the tires are unbalanced, the vehicle engine will need to work harder to keep everything in motion, resulting in poor fuel economy. Neglecting tire balancing becomes an additional expense in this regard.
3) Unusual Tire Wear Patterns
In addition to accelerated wear, you might observe strange tread patterns due to the uneven contact of the tires with the road. One common occurrence is tire feathering, where one side of the tread becomes smoother compared to the other.
Unbalancing of the tires may also lead to flat or bald spots on the treads, primarily caused by vibrations that cause tires to bounce on the road surface.
Read More: Uneven Tire Wear Symptoms and Causes
4) Accelerated Tire Wear
Your tires may wear out prematurely due to unbalancing. Typically, tires have a lifespan of about 45,000 to 75,000 miles, or around 3 to 5 years. However, as your tires experience poor balancing, they experience excessive wear.
When your tires become unbalanced, you may observe the need for more frequent tire rotations and find yourself paying more money for tire replacements. Given the relatively low cost of tire balancing, it’s a sensible investment to maintain the durability of your tires.
5) Car Pulls To One Side
If your car pulls to one side, it is one of the clear symptoms of unbalanced tires. However, there are many other factors that can force your vehicle to pull one side, including a frozen brake caliper or an underinflated tire on a specific side.
Regardless of the cause, diagnosing whether unbalanced tires are to blame is straightforward. Start by inspecting the tire pressure to ensure it’s adequate. If your tires have sufficient pressure and the problem persists, it’s advisable to have them examined and balanced.
6) Worn Out Steering and Suspension Components
The order of events between worn-out steering and suspension components and unbalanced tires can vary. In some cases, driving with unbalanced tires may accelerate wear on suspension and steering parts, causing them to deteriorate prematurely.
On the other hand, there are cases where faulty components of the suspension and steering systems can lead to tire imbalance. Regardless of the order of occurrence, it is recommended to address both issues simultaneously to prevent costly repairs.
There are different components of the suspension system that may lead to imbalanced tires, such as worn ball joints, bushings, struts, or shocks. Similarly, your steering system may also lead to tire-related issues, particularly with components like tie rods or rack and pinion systems.
7) Leaning Vehicle
An inclined or leaning vehicle is also a most common symptom of imbalanced tires. This symptom becomes noticeable while your car is parked on a flat surface. This method can help identify which tire is experiencing balance issues.
If your vehicle tilts, take a look at the tires to determine which one requires balancing and take appropriate action.
8) Heightened Road Noise
Many vehicle models are famous for their quiet rides, while others are noisier on the road. However, imbalanced tires may lead to extreme road noise. If you’re familiar with your vehicle’s usual driving experience, you will promptly notice when road noise becomes unusually pronounced.
Furthermore, a worn-out tire may also cause increased road noise. Therefore, it’s essential to check your tires before determining the appropriate course of action.
9) Issues with the Shocks
As we discussed above, an unbalanced tire can result in a rough driving experience. This discomfort may arise from the strain placed on the shocks as they work to maintain proper wheel alignment. The excessive load on these shocks can cause issues not only with the shocks but also with other components in the suspension system.
What Causes Unbalanced Tires?
Unbalanced tires may be caused by different factors such as weather, poor tire pressure, damaged axle, damaged wheel, loss of tire weight, tire wear, or poor alignment of the wheels.
These causes are properly explained below:
1) Poor Tire Pressure
Poor tire pressure is one of the major causes of the unbalanced tires.
It’s crucial to maintain proper tire inflation by adhering to the manufacturer’s instructions. When one tire of your vehicle is underinflated, the vehicle’s balance is compromised, causing it to lean toward the affected wheel. You may also face the same issue when some tires are over-inflated.
To ensure correct tire pressure, refer to the manufacturer’s recommended limits.
2) Worn Tires
The worn-out tires are considered a major cause of unbalanced wheels or tires. The tires of your car constantly make contact with various roads, which can lead to accelerated wear. When your tires wear out, irregular shapes develop on the tire body, potentially causing imbalance.
When dealing with worn-out tires, it’s recommended to consider tire rotation. This maintenance procedure not only helps restore tire balance but also extends its lifespan. Additionally, it’s important to regularly inspect tire pressure to ensure sufficient pressure.
3) Damaged Axle and Wheel
Sometimes, you can encounter a suspension issue, possibly because of wheel or axle damage, such as a bent or broken axle.
When your vehicle encounters issues related to the suspension system, one of your tires won’t be in line with the others, and you might experience difficulty in steering or hear unusual noises while driving.
4) Loss of Tire Weight
Another factor contributing to imbalanced tires is the loss of tire weight, which plays a critical role in maintaining the tire’s stability and balance.
The factors that may cause the loss of tire weight include encountering potholes or hitting speed bumps at high speeds. When tire weight is lost, the affected tire can deform or deflate, leading to unbalancing.
Weather conditions, particularly cold temperatures, can contribute to tire imbalance. Cold weather leads to the contraction of air particles, potentially causing tire deflation. This deflation can occur unevenly, affecting some tires more than others and resulting in an imbalance.
6) Poor Alignment
Poor alignment of the wheels is also one of the major causes of unbalanced wheels. The wheel alignment involves adjusting the suspension system of a vehicle to ensure proper tire angles as they make contact with the road. If this procedure is not performed accurately, it can result in wheel balancing problems.
What Is Tire Balancing?
Tire balancing, or wheel balancing, is a process to correct the weight imbalance on your tire and wheel assembly to achieve even weight distribution in the wheels.
In the tire balancing, tiny weights are affixed to the wheels to guarantee flawless and smooth rolling. This process is normally performed after a tire has been mounted onto an alloy or steel wheel and inflated to the appropriate pressure.
The main purpose of wheel balancing is to make sure that weight is equally distributed throughout the entire tire and wheel assembly. Achieving this balance is accomplished by attaching small weights to your vehicle’s wheel assembly.
How Much Does It Cost To Balance The Tires?
The tire balancing cost varies according to your vehicle make and model, labor cost, and your living area. The average cost for tire balancing is about $16 per tire.
Most dealerships, tire shops, and automotive care centers, such as Walmart, offer tire balancing services. In some cases, these services are bundled with long service plans when you purchase new tires, potentially removing additional costs.
How to Fix Unbalanced Tires
Driving with an unbalanced tire is very dangerous. Therefore, it is recommended to fix the unbalanced tires as soon as possible. Before balancing the tires, you must have all the necessary tools.
If you are also facing tire balancing issues, follow the below-given steps to balance your car tires:
- Park Your Vehicle: Park your vehicle on a level surface and turn off your engine.
- Identify the Issue: Start by finding the main issue causing the tire to be imbalanced. You also need to find which tire is unbalanced.
- Lift Your Car: Lift your car by using a jack to remove the wheel for tire balancing.
- Remove the Imbalanced Tire: Now, it’s time to remove the affected tire using a socket set or a lug wrench.
- Balance the Tires: Contact a professional mechanic who has the tire balancing machine. Your mechanic will utilize different methods (like weights or computerized balancing) to balance your tire.
- Install Counterweights: To balance your tire, your mechanic will usually connect small counterweights to your wheel to ensure its proper balancing.
- Reinstall the Tire: When your tire is balanced, the mechanic will reconnect it to your car and retighten the lug nuts properly.
- Lower the Vehicle: After installing the balanced tire, it’s time to lower your vehicle and perform a test drive to check balancing.
Tire Balance vs. Wheel Alignment
Wheel alignment and tire balancing are two different services. However, many people think they are the same. Although both may produce similar symptoms, but they address various problems.
The main difference between wheel alignment and tire balancing lies in their objectives. The wheel alignment focuses on ensuring that the wheels are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the road surface. However, tire balancing focuses on achieving even weight distribution around the tire.
In simple wording, in the tire balancing process, wheel assemblies and the weight imbalances in your tire are corrected, whereas, in the wheel alignment, the angles of the tires are corrected to ensure they make proper contact with the ground.
What is Wheel Alignment?
Wheel alignment, also known as tire alignment, represents the process of adjusting the suspension system of your car. This process contains precise adjustments to the wheel angles according to the owner’s manual instructions. The aim is to ensure that your vehicle operates efficiently and smoothly. The three key angles adjusted during a tire alignment are the toe, caster, and camber.
What Is Tire Balancing?
Tire balancing, or wheel balancing, is a process to correct the weight imbalance on your tire and wheel assembly to achieve even weight distribution in the wheels. In the tire balancing, tiny weights are affixed to the wheels to guarantee flawless and smooth rolling.
What comes first tire balance or wheel alignment?
Wheel balancing is usually needed first because your tires wear down while driving.
Do you need tire alignment after tire balance?
Wheel alignment and tire balancing are not directly connected. After balancing, it’s not necessary to do alignment. But both problems can cause similar symptoms like tire and suspension issues. Therefore, it is hard to identify which one is causing the issue.
When to do wheel balancing and alignment?
It is recommended to balance your tires when you switch them, such as changing from winter to summer tires. Most manufacturers recommend checking wheel balance and alignment once a year or every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, whichever comes first. You might need to check more often if you drive aggressively, have older tires, or drive on rough roads.
Should I balance my tires every time I rotate them?
It is not compulsory to balance your tires after rotating, but it’s advisable to balance your tires when rotating them. Typically, when done at a shop, balancing is an affordable procedure and is often combined with tire rotation.
Can I drive with a tire out of balance?
No, it is not recommended to drive with unbalanced tires. Running a car with imbalanced tires can be risky and result in substantial wear and tear on the suspension system parts. Unbalanced wheels may lead to heightened road noise, uneven tire wear, compromised handling and stability, and vibrations in the steering wheel and seat. Furthermore, imbalanced tires could potentially contribute to accidents.
Is wheel balancing necessary for new tires?
Yes, it’s crucial to ensure that all new tires intended for road use should unquestionably be balanced, regardless of their brand.