The four best ways to ensure you take care of your tyres are correct air pressure, a good wheel alignment, scheduled tyre rotations and making sure the wheels and tyres are balanced properly.

Wheel balancing is an often overlooked source of suspension and tyre issues but in reality, it’s one of the quickest and easiest things for a shop to check.

What is wheel balancing?

Wheel balancing is the process of mounting the wheel with a tyre fitted onto a wheel balancer. A wheel balancer is a machine with a rotating spindle on which the wheel with a fitted tyre can be mounted.

The wheel and tyre are then spun up to a certain RPM. At this point, the machine can measure for any vibrations and the technician can see if the wheel or tyre is out-of-round (also called runout).

The job of a wheel balancer machine is to tell the technician how much weight is required to balance the wheel and tyre assembly and where exactly to fit those weights.

Metal wheel balancing weights

Wheel weights come in a huge variety of types and weights.

Why do wheels need balancing?

With any mass produced items there is always going to be small errors, that are within production tolerances. Wheels and tyres are no exception. Wheels, for example, must have a hole for the tyre valve to be installed. Typically the area around the tyre valve is the heaviest part of the wheel. With cast wheel designs there can be areas of the casting that are more dense than others, resulting in a heavy side to the wheel.

To the untrained eye, tyres look perfectly round, however, they are made up of many different layers of rubber, internal plies and belts. Where these internal plies line up and overlap, there is the potential to create heavier and thicker sections of tyre.

On the sidewall of a new tyre, you might find a red or yellow dot, or sometimes both.

The yellow dot is the lightest part of the tyre. This is designed to align with where the air valve is on your rim, since that’s often the heaviest part of the wheel. The idea here is that, by lining these two points up, the amount of lead weights needed to achieve a perfect balance is minimised.

The red dot marks the highest point in the tyre. Tyres look pretty round to the untrained eye, but they’re made up of many layers, overlapping segments, thicker and thinner sections, and the red dot marks the point where the sidewall runout is the greatest. Some wheels will have a low-point where runout is the least, in this situation, lining up the marks on the wheel and tyre will have a benefit.

Why is wheel balancing important?

Every time you double your speed, the forces involved with an out of balance tyre quadruple. An out of balance wheel and tyre assembly can cause excessive wear on suspension components, negatively affect vehicle handling and performance as well as cause uneven tyre wear.

Items like suspension bushings and wheel bearings can feel the full brunt of vibrations caused by a tyre imbalance, not to mention increased driver fatigue from handing a shaking steering wheel.

Uneven tyre wear, physical damage to the tyre or wheel, or some of the weights in the wheel becoming dislodged can affect the wheel balance.
Technician fitting wheel weights to tyre.

Wheel balancing is generally included in the cost of new tyres, but check with your fitter to ensure.

How often should I get my wheels balanced?

Any time you get new tyres for your car, they should be balanced prior to fitting them to the vehicle. Usually balancing forms part of the price of the tyre, although they might put a $0 or free cost next to that line item on the invoice.

A wheel balance should really also be performed at each tyre rotation. We generally recommend rotating your tyres every 10,000kms. Scheduled tyre rotations are absolutely the best way to get the most out of your tyres by ensuring that they wear evenly, regardless of which position on the vehicle they’re mounted.

Since the tyre shop staff already have your wheels off, throwing them on the balancer takes next to no extra effort, so this shouldn’t add too much to the bill.

Next time you’re in the tyre shop ask about a wheel balance to keep your tyres in tip-top shape!
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