Alignment & Balance
Wheel alignment and Wheel Balancing are two totally different things, but many people often get them confused. In a nutshell, wheel alignment consists of adjusting the angles of the wheels so that they are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. The purpose of these adjustments is maximum tire life and a vehicle that tracks straight and true when driving along a straight and level road. Wheel Balancing, on the other hand allows the tires and wheels to spin without causing any vibrations. This is accomplished by checking for any heavy spots on the wheel-tire combination and compensating for it by placing a measured lead weight on the opposite site of the wheel from where the heavy spot is.
The symptoms of a car that is out of alignment are:
Uneven or rapid tire wear
Pulling or drifting away from a straight line
Wandering on a straight level road Spokes of the steering wheel off to one side while driving on a straight and level road.
The symptoms of a wheel that is out of balance are:
Vibrations of the steering wheel at certain highway speeds.
Vibration in the seat or floorboard at certain highway speeds.
Scalloped or cupped wear pattern on the tires
To find out if you need an alignment, first check each tire and look for uneven wear patterns. The problem with this method, however, is that if you can see a wear pattern like the ones listed below, it may be too late to save that tire. This is why it is a good idea to have your alignment checked periodically.
At each tire, take a coin and insert it in the tread at the inside, center and outside.