When you’re out on the open road, does your car begin to shudder as your speed increases? Does the steering wheel vibrate in your hands? Or maybe you feel it in your seat? If you experience any of these symptoms it’s likely your car needs a wheel balance.
The need to balance your wheels is just part of the general maintenance every car requires. As tyres wear, the distribution of weight around their circumference becomes uneven. Eventually, even if the wheel was perfectly balanced to start with, this change in weight will cause the wheel to become unbalanced.
But your tyres don’t look too bad? An imbalance of as little as 30 grams can cause a noticeable vibration at 100 kph. Mechanics generally recommend balancing all four wheels every 20,000 kilometers as a matter of course.
New Tyres Need Balancing Too
Whenever you buy a new tyre the tyre technician should balance it as part of the fitting process. A new tyre may look perfectly round and evenly balanced, but there are small variations in weight around its circumference that must be corrected for. And the tyre isn’t the only factor that must be taken into consideration – your wheel rim, too, will contribute its own set of imbalances.
Other Causes of Imbalance
Hitting a pothole or a curb with your tyre or rim can throw out a previously balanced wheel.
Wheel impacts and the normal stresses of driving may cause a wheel balancing weight to become dislodged. If this happens you are likely to experience the immediate onset of vibration.
Does it Really Matter?
You can live with the vibration? You don’t do much motorway driving anyhow? Unbalanced wheels will still be affecting your car in ways that may end up costing you a lot more than a wheel balance would:
- Accelerated and uneven tyre wear.
- Undue stressing of your car’s suspension.
- Damage to steering components.
- Driver fatigue.
- Impaired tyre traction and steering control.
- Increased fuel consumption.
The Wheel Balancing Process
When you take your car for a wheel balancing, the mechanic will remove the wheels and place them one by one on a machine which spins them and measures the amount and location of the imbalance. A small weight will then be attached to the rim of the wheel to even out the weight distribution and bring the wheel back into balance.
The end result of wheel balancing will be a smoother, less tiring ride, a safer car, lower fuel bills and tyres that last longer. It’s worth doing.
An Environmental Note
Wheel balancing weights which fall from cars and trucks are one of the largest remaining sources of unregulated lead pollution. As lead is a soft metal, they break down in the environment and the lead dust finds its way into the atmosphere, soil and waterways.
A simple way to eliminate this source of toxic metal pollution is to use alternative metals such as zinc or steel to fabricate wheel balancing weights. Lead balancing weights have been outlawed in Europe since 2005.
For more information on wheels and vibration check out this video.