Tire Balancing vs Alignment

Tire Balancing vs Alignment (and why you need both)

Maybe you’ve heard people say, “my car is vibrating, the tires need balancing” or “my car is snaking slighting, I should get the wheels aligned.” But even though many of us talk about tire alignment and balancing interchangeably, they’re actually two different things. Today, I’m bringing you my tire balancing vs alignment guide.

Before you head off to the mechanic, read on to find out the exact differences between tire balancing and alignment. It’s important for you to know how these procedures differ so you understand exactly what you’re getting at the shop.

Difference Between Tire Balancing and Alignment

Wheel balancing (sometimes known as tire balancing) deals with uneven weight distribution by rebalancing the wheels. A wheel with improper balance can cause problems.

Difference Between Tire Balancing and Alignment

For example, your vehicle may vibrate, your suspension can get damaged, and your tires may wear out more quickly. Your vehicle will have poor handling.

Alignment is actually a maintenance procedure for the vehicle suspension and not the wheel/tires. A mechanic adjusts the suspension to prevent the car from pulling in one direction more than the other.

How Do I Know if I Need an Alignment or Balance?

Both alignment and balancing are necessary maintenance tasks you must keep on top of. Luckily, there are ways you can tell if it’s time for your car to head to the shop for an alignment or balance service.


Uneven tire wear is a telltale sign that your vehicle needs to be rebalanced.

However, tire wear can also happen because of other ailments, such as aging tires. If you’re experiencing vibrations through the steering wheel or seat along with tire wear, it’s probably a balance issue.

Tire Balancing

When you get your tires rotated, I recommend asking the mechanic to also do a rebalance. That’s because rotations can often throw off the balance.

Hitting potholes or riding over curbs can also lead to tire imbalance.

So, you think you have a balance issue, but you’re not sure which wheel is causing the problem? You can locate the culprit wheel or wheels by assessing which area of your vehicle is vibrating when you drive.

For example, the steering wheel shaking suggests an imbalance on your front wheels, while seat vibrations point to the back wheels.


Interestingly, uneven and premature tire wear are other clear signs that you have an alignment issue. Again, tire wear alone is not enough to diagnose the problem, so you should check for other symptoms.

Wheel Alignment Problems

Notably, you can catch wheel alignment problems quite easily if your vehicle is pulling to one side of the road.

If you’re driving straight but your car veers slowly (or dramatically) to the left or right, it is almost certainly alignment causing it.

Squealing tires also suggest there is a problem with the alignment. Once again, your steering wheel can help you diagnose wheel alignment issues.

If the steering wheel is off-center when driving or it vibrates during acceleration, it’s time to get to the shop.

Should I Balance My Tires Before an Alignment?

Because balance and alignment address two separate issues and areas of the vehicle, it isn’t necessary to have a balance before an alignment.

Should I Balance My Tires Before an Alignment?

These are two different service tasks for the mechanic, balancing to restore tire balance and alignment to ensure your vehicle is driving in the correct position.

If you want or need to, you can get a balance and alignment as part of the same service. But remember, just because you require one procedure doesn’t necessarily mean you also need the other.

You should have your mechanic check both the alignment and the balance, to find out what is necessary.

At the Mechanic Does an Alignment Include Balancing?

No, but you can request both procedures in one service if you want to. Tire balancing and wheel alignment are two different maintenance procedures.

Does an Alignment Include Balancing?

Balancing involves the mechanic working on your wheels, while alignment involves adjusting the suspension.

You may find shops that sell servicing deals where both alignment and balancing are involved. Also, you can ask your mechanic to do both if necessary.

Can Tire Balance Affect Alignment in my Car?

Tire balancing is something you’ll need to address more often than wheel alignment.

Sometimes, you may need both alignment and balancing done at the same time.

Can Tire Balance Affect Alignment in my Car?

Even if that is the case, balancing doesn’t directly affect alignment. These are two separate vehicle problems that affect different parts.

That said, because the symptoms of balancing problems are similar to issues with alignment, it is hard to know which is causing problems with tires and vehicle handling.

A visit to your mechanic or tire specialist will get to the root of the problem and you’ll find out what needs to be done.

Why Tire Balancing is So Important?

Improperly balanced wheels are one of the biggest causes of worn tire tread. Keeping up a strict schedule of balancing your tires will do a lot to prevent uneven and premature tire wear.

Why Tire Balancing is So Important?

Tire experts agree the servicing timetable for balances should be every 5,000 to 6,000 miles.

I would advise the lower end of that mile limit, while you should also check with your tire manufacturer for any specific servicing recommendations.

What Happens if Tires Aren’t Balanced?

As mentioned, uneven and premature tire wear are the biggest and most obvious problems with improperly balanced tires.

What Happens if Tires Aren't Balanced?

When your vehicle manufacturer assembles the wheel and tire to the axle, it is perfectly balanced to ensure the wheel and tire have even distribution around the axle.

This aids with weight distribution, handling, and ride comfort.

However, this perfect balance lasts a short amount of time. In fact, from the first time the vehicle is driven, hits bumps in the road, and turns corners the weight distribution starts to shift.

It takes time, but each incremental shift in weight moves wheels and tires out of balance. It doesn’t even have to be much, with around a quarter of an ounce enough to start putting uneven weight on tires.

Why Wheel Alignment is So Important?

Wheel alignment is extremely vital to the overall performance of your vehicle and the longevity of your tires. Alignment is essentially what keeps your car driving straight on the road.

Why Wheel Alignment is So Important?

It provides a more comfortable ride and an easier steering experience. Alignment issues happen as suspension components become worn over time.

Like balance problems, every bump, corner, and other activity you engage in directly impacts the alignment.

As your suspension becomes increasingly worn, alignment problems become noticeable.

What Happens if Wheels Aren’t Aligned Properly?

There are several things that will happen if your wheels aren’t correctly aligned. I’ll go over them below.

What Happens if Wheels Aren't Aligned Properly?

Steering Issues

One of the first signs of poor alignment is your vehicle’s tracking being off.

If you’re driving in one direction and you can feel and see your vehicle pulling in another direction. This is poor alignment.

The more worn your suspension becomes, the less responsive your steering will be. Needless to say, this can be dangerous when on the road, especially in heavy traffic or severe weather.

Tire Wear

As your vehicle pulls to one side, it will put more pressure on some of your tires. Tires will start to wear unevenly as the tread becomes worn in places.

Misalignment is particularly dangerous for tires because it wears the sides and edges. This causes a greater risk of a blowout or shredding.

Bad Fuel Economy

There is a good rule to remember: the harder the vehicle works to grip and stay on the road, the more it impacts fuel economy.

Alignment issues mean your vehicle is constantly fighting against you, causing catastrophic collapses in how many miles you can get from a tank of fuel.

Tire Balancing vs Alignment (how often to do them)

You may be wondering how frequently you’ll need to perform these critical services for your vehicle and tires.

How Often Should I Do Tire Alignment?

How Frequently Should You Balance Your Tires?

Most technicians agree a tire balance service should happen around 5,000 to 6,000 miles.

This is the same timeframe as the recommended rotation schedule, and you should aim to have your balance done whenever your tires are rotated.

How Frequently Should You Get an Alignment?

There is a little more debate surrounding the maintenance schedule for alignment. Some say you should get an alignment every 5,000 to 6,000 miles, while others say you can wait as long as 2 to 3 years.

I think every time you take your vehicle for a balance and rotation is an ideal time to have your mechanic check over the alignment.

Cost Comparison (alignment vs tire balancing)

Wheel alignment can get costly, the overall price will depend on your shop and vehicle. Either way, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $200.

Alignment and Tire Balancing Cost

Some shops offer computerized alignment, which is good enough for most situations at a cost of $100 to $150. However, I would opt for the full premium wheel alignment at a higher cost.

A tire balance service is more affordable, costing between $20 and $50 for each tire. Most shops or tire centers will provide a mileage warranty when they perform a balance.

Final Thoughts On Alignment and Tire Balancing

While tire balancing and wheel alignment are different service procedures, they’re both essential.

Not only are they vital to vehicle maintenance, but perfectly balanced tires and aligned wheels will also help keep you and other road users safe.

Regularly checking tire balance and alignment will also help you maximize the life of your tires.

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