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What is the Difference Between a Wheel Alignment vs. Tire Balance?

There is only so much auto terminology that the average person can understand. Most people confuse tire alignment and tire balance considering they both provide you with a smoother ride. If you’re wondering, “What is a wheel alignment?” or, “What does tire balancing do?” It's time to review auto care vocab. 


Wheel Alignment is the process of altering the angles of the wheels so that they are making contact with the ground evenly and parallel to each other. The purpose of these adjustments ultimately maximizes the life of the tires and keeps the vehicle driving straight. Here are symptoms to look for if you need a tire alignment:

  • Uneven or accelerated tire wear
  • Pulling or drifting 
  • Wandering on a straight, level road
  • Off-centered steering wheel
  • Squealing tire sounds

On the other hand, Wheel Balancing corrects the weight imbalance on your wheels and ensures that the tires spin correctly and without vibration. A certified technician will use a balancing device to measure the amount of imbalance on the tires. The machine tells the technician how much weight is needed to counteract the insufficiency on the rim. The technician will then add the proper amount of weights to the wheel to correctly balance the tires. The signs that indicate you might need a wheel balance are:

  • Steering wheel vibration 
  • General vibration at certain speeds
  • Scalloped or cupped wear on the tire exterior
  • Damaged shocks and wheel bearings 
  • Poor fuel economy 

How often you should get a wheel alignment and wheel balance varies depending on your vehicle’s make and usage. The general frame usually falls anywhere between 1-3 years. Aligned and balanced wheels are vital to the maneuverability of your car. Our certified technicians will help you get your wheels running smoothly and safely on the road. If you need either service performed on your vehicle, we welcome you to bring it to Portland Automotive.