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Wheel alignment, tyre balancing, tracking - what's the deal?

Bradley Jando | Wednesday 5th August 2020 2:40pm

Car on a ramp having it's wheels aligned

At our Kwik Fit Centres, we provide a wealth of information, and we’re always happy to answer your questions. One of the most frequently asked questions that we get is if the terms wheel balancing and wheel alignment mean the same thing. After all, both terms seem like they describe the same process, which aids in the long term health of your tyres. However, the balancing and alignment of wheels are in fact two very specific practices that impact your tyres in different ways.

It’s understandably easy to confuse the two, so here’s a closer look at each one and the benefits this can bring to you and your car.

What is wheel balancing?

Wheel balancing is a process that ensures that weight is distributed equally around the wheel, and that the tyre rotates evenly. In the event that an imbalance towards one side of the wheel is identified, small balancing weights can be added to the rim of the wheel on the other side to counter those weight inconsistencies, making the weight even all the way around the wheel.

Why is it important to have my wheels balanced?

Having wheels that are correctly balanced is crucial to your car’s driving performance, as well as optimal ride comfort. Incorrectly balanced wheels produce a vibration that is felt through the steering wheel when travelling above a certain speed, which can cause considerable discomfort over time. Wheel balancing issues also cause your tyres to bounce as you drive, which can lead to further complications, such as the premature wearing down of your tyres, suspension and steering components. You can see the negative impact that out-of-balance wheels can have on your tyres in this video:

At Kwik Fit, we make it simple for you to ensure that your wheels are balanced correctly through the use of our easy wheel balancing machine, which is available at all Kwik Fit centres. You can learn more about this service and the wheel balancing process here.

What is wheel alignment?

Wheel alignment, however, is about checking the direction and angle of the wheels so that they remain parallel to one another. Adjustments can then be made to the rods and control arms, which corrects the alignment of the wheel. This prevents any danger that might occur due to misaligned wheels, such as pulling or drifting to one side rather than driving in a straight line.

For the best performance, your wheels should be aligned to the optimum position. This involves adjusting the “toe”, the “camber”, and sometimes the “caster” angle. This video explains each of these terms and should help to give you a better understanding:

Why should my wheels be aligned?

Wheels alignment can be necessary for most cars, as wheels generally become misaligned over time because of road conditions. For example, hitting a pothole, a curb or even a speed bump are all common causes of wheel alignment problems.

If your wheels are misaligned, you can experience uneven tyre wear, the car pulling to the left or right, and uneven braking, all of which can be incredibly dangerous for anyone travelling in the car. It’s recommended that you have your alignment checked every year. This can ultimately save you money in the long run, as you’ll be changing your tyres less frequently and spending a lot less on fuel, due to the reduced rolling resistance of the correctly aligned tyres.

Wheels can be adjusted using specialist alignment equipment which measures either just the front wheels, a 2-wheel alignment which is also known as wheel tracking, or all four in relation to one another, which is known as 4-wheel alignment. 4-wheel alignment is typically the recommended service, as it provides benefits such as resetting the steering wheel to a straight position and ensuring optimum performance and driving comfort.

At Kwik Fit, at the majority of our centres we use the Hunter Hawkeye 4-wheel alignment machines, which use a series of high-definition imaging sensors to measure the alignment angles on your wheels. These are then compared against our vehicle manufacturer data, ensuring your vehicle is set up perfectly for you to drive. For more information or to book in a free wheel alignment check, have a look at our wheel alignment service page.

Look after your wheels with Kwik Fit

Here at Kwik Fit, we offer a range of services like wheel balancing and wheel alignment, to ensure that your wheels are in the best condition for optimal driving performance. To get your car in for one of our services, please visit your local Kwik Fit centre or book a service online today!

Looking for more tyre maintenance? Have a look at some of the other tyre and wheel services that we offer here.

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