Has your steering wheel started to vibrate just as you hit the speed limit? Then it’s time to have a mechanic check your… tires? Actually, yes. Vibrations at a specific range of highway speeds are a classic symptom of tire imbalance, and the effect is often first felt in the steering wheel. And that’s just the beginning. Left untreated, an unbalanced tire can shorten your tire life, increase your fuel cost, and eventually damage your shock absorbers, wheel bearings, and wheel assembly. And your ride will get more bumpy -- and more dangerous. So be sure to have your tires inspected at the first sign you might need tire balancing.
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The purpose of tire balancing (also called wheel balancing) is to detect when a tire is rolling unevenly due to irregular weight distribution, and to correct the problem by attaching weights to specific areas of the wheel. The tire balancing procedure consists of these five steps:
- Remove the tire from the vehicle.
- Place the tire on a balancing machine.
- Spin the tire to identify where weight imbalances exist and to determine where to attach counterweights.
- Apply clip-on or adhesive counterweights to the wheel.
- Reinstall the tire.
Are tire balancing and tire rotation the same thing?
Tire balancing, tire rotation, and wheel alignment are three different services that complement each other to extend tire life and enhance road safety. Tires are often balanced while they’re conveniently removed from the vehicle for tire rotation or wheel alignment, leading to confusion between these tasks.