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How long can you drive with unbalanced wheels?

How Unbalanced Tires Can Affect Driver Safety

Most car owners know that driving on bald tires is unsafe. However, drivers may unknowingly put themselves and others by continuing to drive on bald tires for extended periods of time.

Safe driving requires motorists to consider themselves and others. Thus, if you believe your car tires are wearing down, you should get them inspected. If you are unsure if your tires need to be balanced, rotated, or replaced, you should keep an eye out for the signs of unbalanced tires. And if you notice any of these signs, you should get your tires checked out.

Signs of Unbalanced Tires

When tires have little or no tread left, they can’t grip the road properly, especially in wet conditions. This makes a car more susceptible to hydroplaning and skidding if you need to suddenly hit the brakes.

Cracked tires and over- or under-inflated tires can also pose safety risks, as they are more susceptible to sudden blowouts. As tires wear down over time, they may start to crack; if cracking goes unaddressed for too long, a tire may burst while you’re driving. Meanwhile, if a car’s tires are inadvertently over- or under-inflated, the tires are prone to premature wear, increasing the risk of a blowout.

There’s another tire problem that often gets overlooked and can impact your vehicle’s performance and your safety: unbalanced tires. A car’s tires can become unbalanced if the weight of any of the four tires isn’t evenly distributed around the wheel. Instead of delivering a smooth, consistent ride as you travel down the road, the tires may bounce, even on smooth, well-paved roads. This unwanted bouncing can lead to a number of problems that compromise the structural integrity of a tire and put your safety at risk.

What Unbalanced Tires Can Do To Your Car

There’s a reason tire shops insist on balancing a car’s tires when you put a new set on your vehicle: unbalanced tires are unsafe and cause many problems with the tires and your vehicle. These problems include:

  • Too much vibration. When all four car tires are properly balanced, there is minimal risk of vibration. But, when your tires are unbalanced, vibration increases throughout your vehicle.
  • Uneven tread wear.One advantage of having balanced car tires is the tread wears down evenly (as long as you keep them properly inflated), so all four tires are in the same condition. Conversely, when your tires are unbalanced, certain areas of a tire can wear down quicker than they should.
  • Long-term car damage.Unbalanced car tires can cause damage to different parts of your vehicle. For example, driving with tires that aren’t properly balanced puts undue stress on your shocks, bearings, and wheel assembly.
  • Increased fuel costs.Driving on tires out of balance may cause your fuel costs to rise. The faster you drive, the more out-of-balance tires will affect driving performance, further decreasing your fuel efficiency.

If your car tires are unbalanced, there is no need to stress. In fact, a fast, easy process is available that ensures you can balance your tires without delay.

Initially, car technicians look for damage and foreign materials in car tire and wheel assemblies. They then properly seat the wheels on the hubs and tighten the lug nuts. Once the technicians are done, they assess the tires and ensure they are properly installed, so you can get back on the road and drive safely once again.

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Tire stores usually charge a balancing fee when you purchase a new set of tires. After you pay this one-time fee, many tire stores will rebalance your tires for free.

It often helps to rotate your tires every six months, too. This enhances tire performance and enables the tire tread to wear evenly.

Symptoms of Unbalanced Tires

unbalanced tires

Image courtesy of Auto Geeze

The process of tires going from balanced to unbalanced tends to happen gradually over time, and it can difficult to identify unbalanced tires exclusively with a visual inspection. In addition, the symptoms of unbalanced tires are sometimes related to other factors. For example, uneven tread wear often results from failure to keep your tires properly inflated.

If you notice one or more of the following problems while driving, it’s time to have your tires checked:

1. Constant Vibration in Your Car’s Chassis

If your car constantly vibrates any time you’re on the road, your tires may have uneven wear or be imbalanced. To address this issue, you may need to get your tires balanced or rotated. Or, if the treads are severely worn or the misshapen, you may need to replace your tires altogether. If you have the tires balanced, rotated, or replaced and you still notice a constant vibration when you drive, you may be dealing with worn-out brake pads or rotors, suspension issues, or a defective axle.

2. Road Noises Seem Louder Than Before

If the tread wears down on your car tires, it may result in a noisy driving experience. Also, improper tire maintenance and damage may cause road noises to seem louder than before when traveling on different roads. So, if you notice excess noise, you should have your car checked out. This ensures you can identify any tire or other car issues that contribute to this problem.

3. You Get into an Accident That Damages Your Car’s Chassis or Wheel Assemblies

Your car’s chassis and wheel assemblies play essential roles in your ability to travel safely on the road. If you were involved in an accident that damages your car’s chassis or wheel assemblies, get your vehicle checked out right away. This allows you to identify any issues that will otherwise hamper your car’s performance.

4. You Strike a Curb or Another Hard Object

It may seem like a minor issue if you accidently strike a curb or another hard object while driving. Yet, the incident may cause tire damage that needs to be addressed. If you hit a curb or another hard object in your car, pull off to a safe spot on the side of the road and inspect your vehicle for damage. If you are uncertain if your car has been damaged, you may still want to get your vehicle checked out, as this ensures your car can be fully inspected by automotive professionals.

Even if you don’t notice any of the aforementioned signs of unbalanced tires, it’s good to see if your tires need to be rebalanced when you rotate them. Keeping all four tires properly balanced will help you stay safe on the road and prevent unnecessary damage to other parts of your car.

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Of course, if you experience an accident caused by a tire blowout or other tire issues, the team at Fix Auto can help you repair your vehicle. We offer a variety of collision repair services, all of which are performed by friendly, knowledgeable technicians. To learn more or to book an appointment, please contact us online or call us today at 800.INFO.FIX.

This blog post was contributed by Fix Auto Poway, a leading industry expert and collision repair shop servicing the North County in San Diego.

How Do I Know If My Tires Need to Be Balanced?

Road Force Balancer Readout

When a manufacturer creates a tire or wheel, no two are ever exactly alike. That means they are different weights — even if it’s by a fraction of an ounce. Those small differences can cause issues, which is why we balance the wheel-tire assemblies on every vehicle we service. But how do you know if your tires and wheels need to be rebalanced? We have some quick tips.

What Is a Tire Balance?

Tire balancing is a tune-up for each of your wheel-tire assemblies. Balancing helps ensure weight is evenly distributed around the entire circumference of the tire and wheel. Balancing a wheel-tire assembly is done with small weights.

Why Balance Your Tires and Wheels?

The common symptoms of an out-of-balance wheel-tire assembly are uneven and faster tread wear, poor fuel economy, or vibration in the steering wheel and/or floorboard that gets worse at faster speeds. When all areas of the wheel-tire assembly are as equal in weight as possible, the tire will roll smoothly. This helps improve tread wear. Balancing also contributes to overall ride comfort.

Imbalanced tires can wobble or hop up and down, causing vibration. If a front tire isn’t properly balanced, you’ll likely feel vibration in the steering wheel. If the problem is in the rear, you’ll feel shaking in the seat or floor.

How Do Wheels Get Out of Balance?

Everyday wear on tires and wheels can cause an imbalance. Plus, if a wheel weight comes off, if you hit a curb or pothole, or if you get a flat repaired, your wheel-tire assembly can get out of balance.

Signs Your Tires Need Rebalancing

When a wheel-tire assembly is especially out-of-balance, you’ll likely know it right away. You’ll feel it in the steering wheel or floorboards. A thump-thump-thump sound that gets louder at lower or higher speeds might also be an indicator. Here are a few signs that you should get yours rebalanced.

Your Vehicle Pulls to One Side:

You might need an alignment, or your tires and wheels are out of balance. Les Schwab has the expertise to check your vehicle, make recommendations, and get you back on the road.

Uneven or Fast Tread Wear:

If the tread on your tires appears to wear too quickly, it could be an out-of-balance wheel-tire assembly.

Shaking Steering Wheel:

Vibration in the steering wheel when driving could be caused by an out-of-balance wheel-tire assembly. It could also be a bent wheel, a damaged tire (which won’t be fixed by balancing), worn suspension parts or other aging components. If you feel a vibration, don’t wait. Get to Les Schwab and let our pros take a look.

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How Often Should Tire Balancing Be Done?

It’s advisable to get your wheel-tire assemblies balanced with every tire rotation. Additionally, anytime you get new tires, balancing should be part of the new-tire package. Other times to consider rebalancing include when you hit a curb, pothole, or other debris that breaks off or damages a balance weight, if you get a flat repaired, or anytime you notice uneven tread wear and vibrations.

At Les Schwab, tire balancing and rotation are done at the same time. However, they aren’t the same service. Tire rotation is when a vehicle’s front and rear wheels are switched to even out tread wear. Since both require removing each wheel, it’s convenient to do them at the same time.

Les Schwab Tip: Do you leave your car or truck parked in one spot for months at a time? Flat spots could develop in the tires, causing balance issues. This can go away after a few miles of driving. But if not, stop by Les Schwab.

How Tires Are Rebalanced

Rebalancing is done in a tire shop by putting the wheel-tire unit on a tire balancing machine that takes measurements to pinpoint lighter or heavier areas. Adjustments are then made to account for these weight differences. The best time to get it done is when tires are being rotated, both for convenience and because you might have a tire out of balance on the rear of the vehicle and won’t feel it until it is moved to the front.

Here’s how it’s done:

Wheel weight on tire

  1. A tire mounted on a wheel is attached to a tire balancing machine.
  2. The wheel is spun while vibration measurements are taken. This tells the tech if the weight is spread evenly, how much weight to add and where on the wheel to attach it.
  3. If an imbalance is found, the technician may be able to rebalance and adjust the weights (adding more). But sometimes it requires the tech to also reposition the tire on the wheel and then rebalance. This is because a heavy spot on the wheel and on the tire can sometimes line up together, causing a greater imbalance that needs to be corrected.

How Does Balancing Benefit Your Car?

Though both should be part of regular auto maintenance, balancing isn’t the same as getting an alignment. Wheel alignment corrects the angles of the tires so they travel in the same direction and properly make contact with the road. Alignment reduces uneven tire wear and extends the life of your tires.

The benefits of a balanced wheel-tire assembly include a smoother ride, as well as money saving benefits such as less tread wear, better gas mileage, and less strain on many parts of your vehicle.

Les Schwab Tire Rebalancing & Alignment Services

Properly balanced wheel-tire assemblies can add up to more tread life, increased fuel economy, and less wear and tear on your vehicle. Les Schwab has the tools and know-how to get yours done right. If you have a set of Les Schwab tires, come on by and we’ll rebalance them for free. It’s part of our Best Tire Value Promise. Didn’t buy your tires here? We’ll be happy to take a look, give you an estimate, and get the job done right.

  • See Our Tire Balance ServicesSchedule an Appointment
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5 Symptoms Of Unbalanced Tires and Tire Balancing Cost

Balancing the tires may be something you’ve heard about before. But what if you do not balance the tires and how to tell if the tires are unbalanced? Let’s find out!

  • By Magnus Sellén
  • Updated: April 21, 2023

Symptoms Of Unbalanced Tires

While they’re often a bit overlooked, your vehicle’s tires are among the most important things you need to look after. While monitoring the tread life and the tire pressure are essential, you can’t stop there. Another critical factor that you need to look out for is tire balancing.

It might not sound like much, but unbalanced tires can lead to a host of problems you don’t want to deal with. But how do you know if you have unbalanced tires, and why should you fix them? More importantly, how much should it cost to get your tires balanced?

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll go over everything you need to know to keep your vehicle safe and on the road. Let’s begin with a quick look at the signs.

Table Of Contents show

Unbalanced Tires Symptoms

The main symptoms of unbalanced tires include:

  • Excessive vibrations
  • Rough steering
  • Uneven tire wear
  • Worn Out Suspension and Steering Components
  • Decreased Fuel Economy

Here is a more detailed list of the signs of unbalanced tires to look for:

1. Excessive Vibrations

Vibrations Driving

It’s by far the most common symptom of unbalanced tires, and it’s also what you’re likely to notice first. If you’re driving down the road and feel an excessive amount of vibrations, it can be a host of problems.

If the problem cropped up right after you got new tires, your tires being unbalanced is probably the cause.

2. Rough Steering

Steering Wheel Hard To Turn

When you’re driving down the road, all four tires should exert the same amount of force on the ground at each rotation. If your vehicle has an unbalanced tire, you’re going to feel it while you’re trying to drive. You’re going to feel excessive vibrations while you’re driving straight, and those vibrations will be magnified every time you try to turn.

Not only will the vibrations get worse, but you’re going to fight your vehicle through the turns a little more too.

3. Uneven/Unusual Tire Wear

Uneven Tire Wear

While you might be willing to put up with the extra vibrations or even the rough steering, one problem you’re not going to want to deal with is the uneven or unusual tire wear. If the tires aren’t riding along the ground the right way, they’re going to wear abnormally.

What this means for you is that the tires will wear down quicker, and you’re going to need to replace them sooner than you would otherwise. Uneven tires aren’t just frustrating; they can be expensive too.

4. Worn Out Suspension and Steering Components

Car Suspension

While your tires will wear out quicker when they aren’t balanced, they’re also going to put a lot of extra stress on your suspension and steering components. Those vibrations you feel as you drive don’t go straight to you; they travel through your entire vehicle.

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The final vibrations that you feel are after they’ve traveled through your suspension system – and those vibrations are only worse at the wheels. The longer you leave unbalanced tires on your vehicle, the quicker everything is going to wear out.

5. Decreased Fuel Economy

Bad Fuel Consumption

You’re not going to see your fuel economy plummet off the face of the earth if you have unbalanced tires, but you are going to notice a drop if you pay attention.

Keeping everything in motion requires a little more work from your engine, leading to reduced fuel economy. It’s just one more area you’ll be spending a little more if you neglect to balance your tires.

What Causes Unbalanced Tires?

Tire Balance Weight

Typical driving can contribute to unbalanced tires. However, the problem also can stem from the initial tire installation. Every time you install new tires on your vehicle, you should get them balanced. Small differences in the tire and/or rim can lead to a tire imbalance, and this is perfectly normal. These small differences can be as little as one ounce, and you’ll feel them as you’re driving.

Over time, the tires will wear a little bit unevenly, and the balance weight can come loose – especially if the weights are glued, which is common on aluminum rims.

While the changes are typically small, even these small changes can make a big difference. The good news is that many stores offer lifetime balancing on tires that they install. This can save you a little money and ensure that your tires stay balanced throughout their service life.

Why You Should Fix Unbalanced Tires

Tire Balancing

You should fix unbalanced tires to improve comfort and save money. Getting your tires balanced isn’t that expensive, and when you compare it to the extra money you’ll save on fuel, suspension components, and new tires, you’re actually saving money by getting your tires balanced.

So, it’s not just about creating a smoother ride and your overall comfort, although those are compelling reasons, too. Improve your vehicle’s performance, save yourself money, and get a more comfortable ride – it’s a win-win-win.

How Much Does Tire Balancing Cost?

The average cost to balance a tire is between $10 and $20 per tire. That means that for all four tires, and you can expect to pay between $40 and $80.

However, this is the cost for a standalone balancing – meaning that you’re taking your vehicle in and getting the tires balanced. If you’re getting new tires, the price can vary. For instance, if you purchase and get your tires installed at Wal-Mart, the $15 installation fee covers a lifetime balance for the tire.

They’re far from the only store that offers tire balancing as part of their installation fee, which can drive down the cost. Finally, some places will lower the price even more if you buy your tires there. However, while you might not be seeing these costs upfront, they’re typically rolled into the tire’s price.

Keep in mind that, while it might seem expensive to get your tires balanced, it’s actually saving you money in the long run by improving your fuel economy, extending your suspension’s service life, and extending your tire’s service life.

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