When you think of tires, you might think of those round things that your car sits on and that make it go. Really though, the tire part of that is the rubber part with tread that holds air and the metal part is the rim or wheel. Both parts together make up the “tire”, referred to as tire below.
When you install new tires on your vehicle or rotate the ones you have, it is important to balance them. This ensures that each tire when mounted on the car’s axle is evenly distributed around the axle. In other words, the tire is perfectly round. Unbalanced tires may be “out-of-round” and can increase wear on the treads and cause vibration. This affects the quality of the ride. If you notice a vibration around 45-50 miles per hour that increases with speed, it is probably balance related.
Wheel alignment is important to ensure the proper operation of the vehicle. When a technician checks the wheel alignment on your vehicle, he is measuring the suspension angles and components to make sure the suspension and steering systems are operating at their desired angles. Alignment doesn’t happen on the wheels or treads, but rather on the axle systems that connect the tires to the road.
A technician will consider many factors when determining alignment. The sag of the springs, the wear on ball joints, bushings, impact with a pothole or curb, and the way the driver corners when turning right or left may all be factors in moving the tires out-of-alignment. This can also result in how fast the tread wears down.
An alignment should be done when unusual tread wear patterns are visible or the vehicle has hit a major pot hole or run over a curb or other large hazard. Your automotive technician can inspect the alignment and make recommendations if correction is needed.