Understand Tire Balance: A Comprehensive Guide for Car Owners

Don't let tire balance issues go unnoticed – arm yourself with the knowledge to keep your vehicle running at its best.

Tires are one of the most essential components of any vehicle. They connect your car to the road and ensure a smooth ride. However, if your tires are not balanced, you may experience vibrations, rough handling, and even premature tire wear. Luckily, understanding tire balance is not rocket science. You can keep your tires performing at their best with a little knowledge.

This comprehensive guide covers everything you need about tire balance. By the end of this article, you will learn the following:

  • What is tire balance and why it matters
  • How often do balance tires 
  • How to tell if your tires are unbalanced
  • Different types of tire balance
  • How much does it cost
  • ……

What Is Tire Balance

Tire balance (also known as wheel balance) means that the weight is spread out evenly around the circumference of a tire. 

Why Need the Tire Balance

Here are several reasons why you need to maintain proper tire balance:

Imbalance is almost unavoidable: We rarely see a naturally and perfectly balanced assembly during the manufacturing process. 

Improved Handling and Stability: Unbalanced tires can lead to a shaky steering wheel and losing control at high speeds.

Enhanced Ride Comfort: Balanced tires reduce annoying shimmy and shaking felt through the steering wheel.

Prolonged Tire Life: Unbalanced tires can wear unevenly and need more frequent repairs.

Increased Safety: Unbalanced tires may cause your car to hydroplane on wet or slippery roads.

How Often to Balance Tire

Most manufacturers suggest balancing your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles (5,000-10,000 km) or once a year. It’s crucial to consult your owner’s manual or tire manufacturer’s guidelines. These sources will provide specific recommendations regarding tire balancing intervals. 

Additionally, if you have experienced any of the following situations, balancing your tires:

  • Frequently drive on rough or bumpy roads
  • Recently encountered a significant pothole or curb impact
  • Add new tires or perform tire rotations

Signs Your Tires Need Balancing

1. Vibrations: These vibrations typically occur between 50 and 70 mph (80-112 km/h). It can be felt through the steering wheel or the entire vehicle. 

2. Uneven Tire Wear: When tires are out of balance, specific tire areas are subjected to more pressure and friction. Over time, this can cause tires to wear down unevenly and reduce the vehicle’s handling and safety.

3. Tire Runouts: When a tire is imbalanced, one side of the tire is heavier than the other. As a result, it causes tire runouts.

4. Suspension Components Problems: Imbalanced tires can bring about vibration. Gradually, it could cause suspension components to wear out prematurely.

5. Increased Fuel Usage: Imbalanced tires can cause a decrease in the vehicle’s aerodynamic efficiency and increased wind resistance. This can make your car work harder to maintain its speed. It will finally increase fuel usage.

Three Methods of Tire Balance

There are three types of tire balance: static, dynamic (spin-balance), and road-force. Each type has its own advantages and uses.

Static Balance

This is a static balancer

Static balance is the traditional method of tire balancing. It involves placing the tire on a balancer, which is typically a machine with a spindle. The machine identifies wheel and tire assembly imbalances and suggests where extra weight is needed.

Key features of this method:

  • Weight is added to the wheel to counterbalance any heavy spots.
  • It can correct minor imbalances, such as those caused by uneven tire wear or slight imperfections in the wheel.
  • It’s widely available at tire shops because it’s simple and cost-effective.

However, static balance ignores dynamic tire performance, like how the tire behaves in motion. This is where dynamic balancing comes into play.

Dynamic Balance

Dynamic balance involves mounting the tire on a balancer that spins it at high speeds to simulate real-world conditions

Dynamic balance, or spin balance, is a more advanced method. It considers the dynamic forces acting on the tire while in motion. It involves mounting the tire on a balancer that spins it at high speeds to simulate real-world conditions.

Key features of dynamic balance:

  • The tire is balanced while in motion. This allows for a more accurate assessment of any imbalances.
  • The balancer measures the forces acting on the tire as it spins. And it indicates where weight is needed to achieve optimal balance.
  • It is effective for correcting more significant imbalances, such as those caused by heavy spots on the tire.

Dynamic balance is especially recommended for high-performance vehicles. This is because even tiny imbalances may affect the driving experience.

Road-Force Balance

The road-force balancer involves pressing a large roller against the tire as it spins

Road-force balance takes tire balancing to the next level by providing a more advanced approach. This method involves using a specially designed machine. The machine presses a large roller against the tire as it spins and applies a simulated road force. The machine then measures any variations in the tire’s shape and stiffness. The technician can make adjustments accordingly.

Key features of road-force balance:

  • It can simulate real-world driving conditions.
  • It provides a more precise balance by taking into account variations in tire stiffness and shape.
  • Road-force balance helps identify and correct issues that cause vibrations, such as sidewall stiffness variations.

This method is ideal for addressing persistent vibrations or balancing challenges with high-performance or larger-diameter tires.

Two Main Types of Wheel Weights

Bang-On weights are the traditional type that has been used for many years. These weights are made of lead or steel material and are hammered onto the tire rim. They come in different sizes and shapes and are designed to fit different types of wheels. One of the advantages of Bang-On weights is that they are easy to install and can be easily removed if needed. Be careful that aluminum wheels with clip-on weights on flanges need coated or alloy clips to avoid corrosion.

Adhesive weights are a more modern type of wheel weights. These weights are made of a steel or zinc material and are attached to the tire’s rim using a strong adhesive. Many tire shops prefer adhesive weights over bang-on weights. This is because they don’t harm the rim and don’t require any special tools. They are smaller and less apparent than bang-on weights, making them more attractive. However, adhesive weights can be more challenging to remove if needed. And they may not work well on tires exposed to extreme temperatures and rough terrain.

How Much Does Tire Balance Cost

Balancing all four tires costs $12 to $80, depending on location, warranty, tire type, and additional services. A dealership usually charges $14 to $16 for each wheel or $56 to $64 for all four wheels. While a tire store generally charges $12 per wheel or $48 for all four.

Some shops offer free installation, balancing, and/or rotation services when purchasing new tires. Additionally, some shops may provide lifetime service if you buy tires from them. It’s always a good idea to inquire about this before purchasing. 

In addition, road-force balancing is more costly than regular wheel balancing. Depending on the shop and location, prices can range from $40 to $130. Besides, road-force balancing machines are rarer than standard wheel-balancing machines. So some shops may not have the equipment to perform this service. 

You can consult the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) database to ensure you receive the best tire service. It lists all certified tire shops in your area that can help with tire balancing issues.

How Long Does Tire Balance Take

The time it takes to balance tires varies depending on several factors, like the age of the tires, the severity of the imbalance, and the number of tires to be balanced. Generally, balancing a set of four tires takes around 45 minutes to 2 hours. If the tires are new, the time may be shorter. While old tires that have been through rough roads and accumulated more imbalance will take longer to balance.

Tire Balance vs. Alignment vs. Rotation

There are three essential tire maintenance services: tire balance, alignment, and rotation. Each of them plays a critical role in optimizing the performance and longevity of your tires.

Tire balance refers to weight distribution around the tire and wheel assembly. If the weight is unevenly distributed, it can cause uneven tire wear, vibration, and even damage the suspension system. 

Tire alignment involves adjusting the angle of the tires to perpendicular to the road. Proper alignment ensures that all four tires are pointing in the same direction. This can help to prevent uneven tire wear and steering problems. Signs that your vehicle may need an alignment include uneven tire wear, pulling to one side while driving, and a crooked steering wheel. 

Tire rotation involves moving the tires from one position to another in a specific pattern. Tires wear differently based on their position on your vehicle. So regular rotation helps to distribute the wear and extend the life of your tires. 

The Bottom Line

Understanding tire balance is crucial for safe and comfortable driving. By keeping your tires in balance, you can avoid unnecessary wear and tear on your vehicle and improve your fuel efficiency. Regularly checking and balancing your tires will extend their lifespan and save you money on repairs.

Remember, tire balancing is not a one-time fix. It’s a continuous process that requires regular maintenance and attention. By following the tips and suggestions outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your tires are always in optimal condition. So be proactive and take care of your tires; they will take care of you on the road.

Picture of Nick Wang

Nick Wang

Nick is the guy behind Tire Think. He’s been working as an engineer in the tire industry for 8 years, focusing on endurance indoor testing operations.
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