Wheel balance and alignment, also treated as breaking or tracking, is an integral part of car repair and maintenance, and consists of adjusting the angles of the wheels to make them compatible with car maker's specification. These alignment angles can also be altered beyond the maker's specifications to obtain some restricted handling characteristic.
The main motto of making such adjustments is to reduce tire wear, and ensuring that vehicle travel is straight and true, and pulling to one side. For motorsport and off-road applications, angles sometimes need to be adjusted beyond normal for a variety of reasons.
Both the terms alignment and balancing are used together, but still follow different procedures. A wheel alignment, technically consists of adjusting the angles of the wheels in a way such that they are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. The purpose of these adjustments is to ensure that you will get-
• maximum tire life.
• a vehicle in hand that tracks straight and true when driving along a straight and levelled road
• Uneven or rapid tire wear
• Pulling or drifting away from a straight line
• Wandering or spokes of the steering wheel off to one side while driving on a straight and level road>
The best type of wheel alignment is four wheel alignment which allow to identify any rear tracking problems and compensate for them.
Wheel balancing is meant to correct any uneven distribution of weight in the wheels which can cause issues like vibration, excessive tire wear, and damage to suspension. During a wheel balancing service, steel weights are used inside or outside of wheels to balance the wheel assembly.
Similarly, Wheel Balancing allows the tires and wheels to spin without producing any kind of vibrations. Here, a thorough checking is made for any heavy spots on the wheel-tire combination. If persists, then it is compensated by placing a measured lead weight on the opposite site of the wheel from where the heavy spot is.
• Vibration in the steering wheel or in the seat or floorboard at certain highway speeds
• Scalloped or cupped wear pattern on the tires
Tires are supposed to be out-of-balance if they cause a car to vibrate at certain speeds, usually between 50 and 70 mph. It basically happens when one section of the tire is heavier than the others. Even one ounce of imbalance on a front tire is enough to cause noticeable vibration in the steering wheel.
To balance a wheel, it is mounted on a balancing machine which spins the wheel to locate the heavier part. It is then compensated for the heavy part by attaching a lead weight on the opposite side. A surprising change can be noticed car drives after balancing all four wheels.