While many consumers confuse the two, a wheel alignment and a tire rebalancing are two separate services.
Wheel alignment is an adjustment to the angles of the wheels so they are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. Simply put, if your wheels are out of alignment, they are not pointing in the right direction.
Wheel balancing, on the other hand, allows the wheels to spin without causing any vibrations. If your wheels are out of balance – with some spots heavier or lighter than others – they will spin unevenly, causing a vibration at highway speeds.
One of the most common reasons to have a wheel balancing service performed on your vehicle is that your steering wheel is vibrating at highway speeds. In addition to the vibration, which many drivers find annoying, unbalanced wheels may also cause your tires to wear unevenly and prematurely.
One of the most obvious reasons to get an alignment is to protect the investment you’ve made in your tires. Tires wear at an uneven rate when they’re not straight and level with the road, which will decrease the life of your tires. Tires are expensive, and you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of them!
Additionally, improperly aligned wheels will have an effect on your suspension and steering. With your vehicle pulling to one side or another, you may find its handling to be less responsive.
One thing common to both misalignment and unbalanced wheels is that the major cause of both is potholes. Potholes are often worse in the spring, especially after a long and unforgiving winter, but can develop all year round. Additionally, any obstacle that is jarring to your wheels – such as hitting a curb or going over a large speed bump – may cause your wheels to be knocked out of alignment, out of balance, or – in many cases – both.
The alignment may also be a symptom of the problem, rather than its root cause. At the Hershey Motors Service Department, we always run a check of your steering and suspension system to look for problems which may have caused the misalignment.
If your vehicle is misaligned, you should always get an alignment. Symptoms of this may include feeling a “pull” to one side or the other, noticing uneven tread while inspecting your tires, or noticing a dip in your average gas mileage.
Likewise, if your tires are unbalanced, you should have them rebalanced. Symptoms of this include a steering wheel vibration at highway speeds and uneven wear of the tires.
If you purchase new tires, you should get both. Tires are a costly expense, and making sure your vehicle is properly aligned and your new tires are properly balanced will help in protecting that investment.
It’s also not a bad idea to get your wheels aligned once a year as a preventative measure. Even if you’re not noticing a slight pull on your steering, it’s still possible a slight misalignment is causing premature wear on your tires.
Wheel balance is checked on a wheel balancing machine that can detect even small differences in the weight of the wheel. To balance the tires, the technician will place small off-setting weights around the wheel at specific points.
At the Hershey Motors Service Department, we use a HawkEye alignment system from Hunter Engineering Company. The HawkEye is a top-of-the-line alignment system and uses patented high-resolution cameras to provide alignment measurements with pinpoint accuracy.
For the month of March, we’re running our Pothole Special and offering both a 4-Wheel Alignment and a Complete Tire Rebalance for only $79.99 on most vehicles . You must mention this promotion to receive the discount (may not be combined with any other offers or specials).
The service takes about an hour, and we’re located right next to the West Sadsbury Commons shopping center – we’d be happy to give you a ride over there so you can have lunch, do some shopping, or have your hair done at one of their many retailers while you wait!
To schedule an appointment, visit our website or call us at 610-857-5283.