Alignment vs. Balancing – The Difference Between

What is the difference between balancing and alignment?

When you bring your car in for servicing you will often hear that it needs balancing or alignment. One might think that these terms refer to similar actions because they are similar in meaning, but that is not so. Both are concepts related to the safety of the vehicle and both refer to the positioning of the tires on the vehicle. Another way of explaining the difference between the terms is to refer to them as tire balancing and tire alignment.

What is balancing?

Tires on a vehicle become unbalanced because of the constant rotation as they drive on the highway. The balance of a tire is the distribution of mass within the tire and when this mass is not distributed evenly the tire will wobble or vibrate as it rotates. When the tires are not balanced properly and you drive at a high speed, you run the risk of having an accident. The ride will also appear bumpy for the passengers and they will feel uncomfortable. You should have the tires on your vehicle balanced after every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. This action also preserves the tires and extends their life.

What is alignment?

The tires of a car must all point in the same direction if the vehicle is aligned properly. Sometimes you may notice that the car seems to pull inward or toward the side of the road and that you constantly have to apply pressure on the steering wheel to keep the car on the road. When this happens it is time to bring the car in for an alignment. When this happens the tires wear out faster because one side of the tire gets more wear than the other.

Alignment and balancing

Both of these terms have to do with keeping the tires on your vehicle in good condition so that the vehicle is safe to drive. However, the action of each is done differently. The balancing of the tires is done on an automated machine that corrects any imbalances that exist in the distribution of the mass inside the tires. Tire alignment involves making sure that the tires point in the same direction. It involves checking the castor, camber and toe of the tires to make sure that each one is in the correct position.

Summary

  • Both balancing and alignment of the tires are important aspects of a vehicle to ensure the safety of the driver and the passengers.
  • Balancing the tires corrects any imbalance in the manner in which the mass of the tires is distributed. Alignment of the tires ensures that they point in the same direction.
  • Tires will last longer if balancing and alignment are carried out on a regular basis.