Is it OK to drive with unbalanced tires?
Out-of-balance tyres are bad news: they wear out your tyre tread and drive down your fuel economy. You’ll most likely be tipped off to this problem by vibrations in the steering wheel, the seats, vehicle chassis or by patchy or cupped wear on your tyre tread. This article tells you why tyres become unbalanced, how to recognise out-of-balance tyres and what to do to fix the problems.
HOW DO WHEELS GET OUT OF BALANCE?
Wheels are unbalanced when their weight is distributed unevenly around their circumference or are no longer perfectly round. Even deviations of less than 10g can cause an imbalance. They can also be due to uneven wear on a tyre, a dent in a rim or loss of a weight that was previously added to balance the tyre.
EFFECTS OF DRIVING ON UNBALANCED WHEELS
The most immediate consequence of driving on out-of-balance wheels is accelerated tread wear. There can be a number of root causes of tread wear but balance problems cause a signature pattern of patchy wear or cupping (dips in the tread that span the tyre laterally). If not dealt with, this wear can rub years off your tyres’ lives.
Another potential effect of driving on unbalanced wheels is damage to your bearings or suspension components. Unbalanced wheels tend to bounce up and down, putting extra strain on the components and potentially setting you up for very costly repairs.
The effects of unbalanced wheels in the form of additional vibrations as you move down the highway can make the vehicle uncomfortable and in extreme cases even unsafe.
HOW ARE TYRES REBALANCED?
Mechanics remove your wheel and tyre assembly and use a balancing machine to identify lighter or heavier spots on the wheel or tyre by measuring vibrations. They then add small weights to the rim to balance the wheel assembly. Sometimes they rotate the tyre’s position on the rim (while the rim itself remains stationary). This is especially useful when there are heavier spots on both the rim and tyre that line up and need to be offset.
WHEN TO BALANCE TYRES
All wheel assemblies need to be balanced when fitting new tyres. If you notice any of the signs of imbalanced tyres covered earlier in this article, you should have your wheels checked and balanced immediately. However, balancing should also be incorporated into your vehicle maintenance routine. Check for balancing issues when rotating your tyres or having your vehicle wheel aligned. Ideally you should not go more than two years without re-balancing your tyre-wheel unit and if you drive on rough roads, it would be advisable to check on a yearly basis.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ROTATION AND BALANCING
Although the aim of tyre rotation and balancing is the same—to protect the tyre’s tread and extend its life—these are two different processes. One difference is that tyre rotation is something that you can do by yourself if you choose to and have the right equipment, as it is a relatively simple process that involves removing the tyre and wheel units and changing their position on the vehicle according to the pattern described in your user’s manual. Balancing, as described above in this article, is a more complex process that requires pricy equipment and professional expertise. Tyre service shops often pair these two services.
TYRE BALANCING VS. ALIGNMENT
Tyre balancing and wheel alignment also often go hand-in-hand, and once again, they are both meant to preserve the tyre’s lifespan by preventing excessive friction between the road and tyre tread. When performing an alignment, a mechanic makes adjustments to the suspension system to make sure that the angle between the tyre and road surface is correct. Like balancing tyres, aligning wheels requires specialised equipment and knowledge, and isn’t something that you can easily do on your own.
If you notice signs of unbalanced wheels or need another tyre maintenance service, get in touch with your nearest tyre dealer.
How to tell which tire is out of balance
Your car tires, especially brand-new ones, may appear symmetrical and free of any problems which should make for a smooth driving experience. However, a simple visual inspection cannot always determine a tire’s condition. So how do you tell which tire is out of balance? Tire balancing is a wheel tune-up that ensures the outer and inner circumference are appropriately balanced and ensures that the vehicle’s weight is evenly distributed throughout the tire.
The car’s weight won’t be distributed equally if the tire is out of balance. The fact is that no tire is flawless, and even minor flaws can feel significant while moving at driving speeds. This is why it’s crucial to balance your tires for optimum performance, tire life, and safety.
Signs that your tire is out of balance
It might be challenging to determine whether your car needs new tires. Your vehicle can suddenly begin vibrating as you’re moving along the road. Which tire is out of balance can be determined by the type of vibration you feel. Most of the vibration and movement will be felt in your hands on the steering wheel if the front tires are not correctly balanced.
The seats often shake the most when the rear tires are out of balance. Looking at the tread will reveal which tire is out of balance. The tire is probably out of balance if the tread is wearing unevenly. Examining the sidewall of a tire can also reveal whether it is out of balance. The tire is probably out of balance if the sidewall bulges or cracks.
Generally, when your tires are out of balance, you may experience one or more of these anomalies while operating your car. Get your wheels and tires checked out as soon as you detect any of the following symptoms and have them balanced if necessary.
Vibrations on the steering wheel are one of the earliest indicators of unbalanced tires. A noticeable vibration on the tire can be caused by a weight difference of just half an ounce.
You can experience erratic vibration at 40 to 45 mph if your tires are out of balance. It typically becomes worse as you go faster and can make people in cars feel drowsy. If you exclusively travel on quiet streets, the tremor might be too slight for you to detect. This is because some vibrations don’t start until the car is moving at 50–70 mph.
The size and weight of the wheels, as well as the vehicle itself, may have an impact on the type and level of vibration. The degree of steering/suspension sensitivity to vibration also affects how much vibration is felt. To be fair, the level of vibrations may be a bit lower for some premium touring tires, as you can see from the Continental TrueContact Tour review.
The vibration will get worse and affect the floorboards, front and back seats, and your car’s entire interior as the imbalance worsens, and the tires wear. Vibrations can also be caused by other issues, such as a damaged tire or a problem with the wheel assembly. To prevent a harmful situation, it’s critical to have the issue swiftly diagnosed.
Unbalanced tires are more stressed in certain areas because of the wheel’s spinning. The vibration is brought on by this erroneous motion which causes that part of the tire to deteriorate more quickly.
The fact that the worn-out tire areas lose strength with time while still taking the most punishment makes the issue worse. Uneven tire wear from unbalanced tires increases the likelihood of a flat, and how your tire tread wears reveals a lot about the tire’s condition. An unbalanced tire can cause uneven tire wear.
Uneven wear can also result from steering and wheel problems. You could quickly get a flat if your tires are worn inside or outside. Tire cupping results from uneven tire wear, and the tires may also have bubbles.
Difficulty in steering
Unbalanced tires can cause uncomfortable driving conditions, making steering more challenging and slowing down steering wheel responsiveness. More significantly, you won’t be able to navigate in a particular direction with ease. The car won’t be able to maneuver smoothly anymore, which could lead to accidents that could have been prevented.
Frequent vibration can cause bearings, shocks, and other suspension components to degrade. When the tires are not balanced, the shocks, springs, bearings, and other parts of the wheel assembly are put under a lot of stress, which causes them to wear out more quickly than usual.
Furthermore, suspension issues frequently result in cupping, a type of treadwear that develops in predictable locations across the tire. It might also contribute to the car vibrating and a partial loss of traction, which will do more harm.
If the unbalanced tires aren’t fixed on time, you will be replacing more than just the tires.
Tires can make various noises; some are caused by regular wear and tear, while others indicate a problem. The chopped tread is characterized by a constant humming noise that fluctuates with speed.
A malfunctioning suspension part or a lack of rotation are both indicated by chopped tread. A flat patch in a tire will make a thudding noise. In most cases, flat patches result from a tire flaw or brakes locking up. When the tread is damaged, neither of these noises can be fixed, and the tire(s) will need to be replaced.
How to prevent your tires from going out of balance
You can take a few steps to stop your tires from becoming out of balance. The first thing you can do is check the pressure in your tires.
Additionally, you ought to refrain from driving over impediments like potholes. If you hit a pothole, it’s essential to have your tires checked as soon as possible.
Rotating your tires regularly is another thing you can do to stop them from losing balance. The weight and wear on your tires will be more evenly distributed if you rotate them, which will lengthen your tires’ lifespan and help avoid premature tread wear.
How to balance a tire
Bringing an out-of-balance tire to a professional is the best course of action. They’ll be able to identify the issue and resolve it accurately. However, you might attempt to fix it if you are mechanically inclined.
The tire needs to be taken off the automobile first, of course. Check the tread and sidewall for any damage once the tire has been removed. Before you can balance the tire, you must fix any damage.
After making any necessary repairs, inflate the tire. The tire can then be balanced and put back on the vehicle. You can do this by hand or with a balancing device.
It’s crucial to exercise extreme caution when balancing the tire on your own. Your tires and suspension may deteriorate faster due to improperly balanced tires. It’s advisable to have a professional balance the tires if you’re unsure how to do it yourself.
Balancing vs alignment
The primary distinction between balancing and alignment is that the former addresses tire weight while the latter talks about tire positioning. Balancing is crucial as it helps to guarantee that the tire’s weight is distributed evenly, which increases fuel efficiency and delays premature tread wear.
Alignment is crucial because it keeps the tires in contact with the ground, contributing to better traction, braking, and less tire wear.
Your car needs to be balanced and aligned correctly to operate. Having a professional balance or aligning your tires is advisable if you’re unsure how to do it yourself.
How often should I balance my tires?
You should balance your tires every 3,000–6,000 miles (5,000–10,000 km) or every 1-2 years if you use your car frequently. Additionally, you should balance your tires and wheels if/when you:
- Purchase new wheels, rims, or tires.
- Rotate the tires
- Repair the tires.
- You notice vibration.
- Notice uneven treadwear
- Run into potholes.
Keep in mind that when your tires wear and the weight distribution change, the balance of your tires may disappear. Daily stress, poor roads, harsh braking, and cornering can also affect tire balance over time. Therefore, balancing new tires after mounting them might not be sufficient.
How to identify an unbalanced tire is a question that this post has helped you find the solution to. We’ve shown you some tips on determining which tire is out of balance and how to balance tires yourself.
Numerous factors may have contributed to this scenario, but if you concentrate on paying close attention and addressing it quickly, you will save a lot of money.
How long can you drive on unbalanced tires?
There is no time limit on how long you can drive on tires that are out of balance. For a few months, though, you can drive with unbalanced tires. After that, the problems would gradually worsen. Additionally, the possibility of harming other parts of the wheel assembly increases.
Is it OK to drive with unbalanced tires?
Driving on imbalanced tires is not too awful, and it is not anything that can result in severe harm. However, it is not advisable to drive with unbalanced tires for too long as it strains the bearings, shock and struts, and other parts of the wheel assembly.u003cbru003eu003cbru003eWe advise you to address the problems as soon as possible to prevent further damage to other suspension parts.
Must tire balancing accompany a tire rotation?
Most tire rotations ought to be followed by a wheel balance, which is due to the possibility of the tires becoming out of balance due to the vehicle’s weight. Check the balance to ensure that your tires are still within the manufacturer’s guidelines after rotating them.
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Serif is a seasoned automotive enthusiast with a passion for cars. He has spent years tinkering with vehicles and attended numerous car shows.
How Long Can You Drive On Unbalanced Tires [Symptoms, Reasons & Risks]
You are always advised not to underestimate the importance of having balanced tires.
If you are used to driving on unbalanced tires, you will notice something good about having balanced tires. That is why you should always have the tires in good condition and still balanced.
However, what if you keep driving on unbalanced tires? What would happen? And, how long can you keep doing this?
Apparently, it is possible for you to keep driving with unbalanced tires, but only for a few months before it becomes unbearable.
Some people might ignore the early signs of unbalanced tires, but eventually, you end up with an undrivable car generally.
How Long You Can Drive on Unbalanced Tires
Now that you see the potential problems with driving on unbalanced tires, it is important to have them balanced before you can lead to more unnecessary damage.
The truth is, you can always drive on unbalanced tires until the car is no longer drivable. However, that should not take long. It takes an average of 2 to 3 months before you notice you have to get the tires balanced.
The degree to which the car is unbalanced would definitely be an important factor. In case it is a slight imbalance, it might go unnoticed even for years.
However, if the imbalance is too much, you might then notice there is a big problem with the car and the way it drives.
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Just because you see it is possible to drive with unbalanced tires, it does not mean you should always keep doing so.
It is best to consider having the tires balanced to prolong the driving performance of the tires. Replacing the tires every year is more expensive than just having the tires balanced.
As such, we do not recommend driving on unbalanced tires for more than two months. This could lead to more damage that you had not anticipated and which is totally avoidable.
Symptoms You Have Unbalanced Tires
Sometimes you might not even know that what you are experiencing is a problem until it becomes severe.
That can happen with unbalanced tires. So, what symptoms would alert you about the problem and how best can you handle them?
Here are the common symptoms of unbalanced tires
1. Steering wheel vibrations
One of the biggest symptoms of unbalanced tires is experiencing vibrations from the steering wheel. One thing about tire balancing is that a shift of weight by even an ounce can be noticeable through such vibrations.
The vibration is mostly noticed when you are driving at high speeds. If the balancing is badly off, you may notice that the shaking is too much.
Thus the reason you have to get the tires checked out and balanced whenever necessary.
You will also notice that there is an increase in the vibrations in case the unbalancing part is worsened.
It is best to have the car diagnosed and balanced to avoid several safety concerns.
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2. Experiencing steering problems
The steering wheel is definitely an important part of how you control the car. That is why you should always have it working properly.
Unbalanced tires can affect how smoothly you can control the steering wheel.
There are times you might experience delayed input that can be quite scary. Since you no longer control the steering wheel smoothly, you might end up in avoidable accidents.
3. Uneven tire wear
Having unbalanced tires is one of the reasons you may also experience uneven tire wear generally.
The uneven wear means you have to replace the tires a lot sooner than necessary. We all know how tires can be expensive when you have to replace them frequently.
The worst part is that you need to replace them in pairs.
Also, you risk having flat tires or blowouts because of this uneven wear. Such wear would also lead to tire cupping. As you can see, it is best to have balanced tires to avoid having to replace the tires too soon.
4. Poor fuel economy
This might not be something you notice right away, but it could generally happen with time. You may notice your vehicle consumes more fuel than it usually did.
This is because having unbalanced tires would mean more strain on the vehicle generally in terms of rolling resistance. The engine may have to work harder to keep pushing the car and now you end up using more fuel.
Also, having underinflated tires could lead to poor fuel economy. You are advised to check the tire pressure once every two weeks just to be sure it is still within the recommended range.
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If you notice a significant drop in tire pressure, investigate further to understand the problem.
5. More wear to the suspension parts
Having unbalanced tires would also affect the suspension part of the car. This includes the shocks, bearings, springs, and more.
We all know that it can be expensive to overhaul some cars’ suspension systems. That is not what you want when it is possible to avoid damage.
When you can have the balanced tires fixed in good time, then you will not have to replace some of these parts.
Here is a video with more tips on spotting unbalanced tires
Reasons You Have Unbalanced Tires
Unbalanced tires are no fun, but how can you prevent them from being an issue in the first place? This would only happen if you actually know what leads to unbalanced tires. Here are the reasons.
There could be a problem with other parts of the car that makes the tires unbalanced. An example is when the car’s suspension is worn on one side than the other. It means that now you have unbalanced weight on the tires leading to this problem.
Your Driving Habits
Your driving habits might actually lead to more unbalanced tires. Let us say you often brake hard or do the same while accelerating. The result is that now you have massive tire wear which can also lead to unbalanced tires.
Hitting Curbs and Potholes
Each time you hit potholes or curbs, the balancing weights secured on the wheels can fall off. This means now you have unbalanced tires.
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It might be something you had not considered before, but it will generally affect how the tires remain balanced or not.
Below is a video on how the tires can be balanced for the best performance
Should you ignore unbalanced tires?
No. Doing this can generally lead to more risks in terms of tire failure. This includes uneven wear, blowouts, and more. So, have the tires balanced correctly always.
Is it expensive to balance tires?
The cost can vary from one company to another. Most tire balancing services will cost an average of $50.
Should you balance all four tires at once?
It is not a must, but it is highly recommended. This at least leaves you with the assurance you have a well-balanced car.