Why Wheel Alignment Matters
Improper wheel or tyre alignment can cause your tyres to wear unevenly and prematurely. Here are some specific types of undue tread wear attributable to misalignment:
Tyres are â€œfeatheredâ€ when the tread is smooth on one side and sharp on another. This is usually a sign of poor toe alignment.
This strain of tread wear means the inside or outside of the tread is significantly more worn than the center of the tread. As its name implies, positive or negative camber causes this type of wear.
This happens when one side of your tread blocks wears down more quickly than the other in a circumferential direction. When you run your hand over the tread, it will look and feel like saw teeth when viewed from the side. Heel/toe wear could be a sign of under inflation and/or lack of rotation.
If you're experiencing any of these unusual wear patterns, you should have a technician check your alignment. While tyre wear prevention is a good reason to keep your wheel alignment in check, the consequences of misalignment can also play out in overall vehicle performance. A car that pulls to one side or steers erratically, for example, probably has an alignment problem.
Distinct from Wheel alignment, tyre or wheel balancing refers to compensation for any weight imbalances in the tyre/wheel combination and is often performed in conjunction with wheel alignment. There are two basic types of tyre/wheel imbalance that need correction - static (single plane) and dynamic (dual plane).
Static balance addresses balance on only one plane - vertical movement which can cause vibration. A dynamic imbalance, on the other hand, addresses balance in two planes - vertical movement and lateral movement . Both types of imbalance require the use of a special balancing machine to help even things out.
To begin balancing your tyres, a technician will mount them on the correct rims and adjust the pressure to optimal inflation. Then each tyre goes on the center bore of a balancing machine. The machine spins the tyre at a high speed to measure the wheel/tyre combination imbalance. It signals how much weight the tech should add to balance out the tyre and the areas where said weight is needed.
Tyre balancing is essential for proper tyre care for the same reason as wheel alignment: prevention of premature tread wear. Having tyres aligned and balanced every 5,000 to 6,000 miles can help maximise their lifespan and overall performance.