Have you ever heard of a frost heave? If you are from the Northeast you know what I am talking about. They are terrible little booby traps the road sets for you in the spring. Randomly the pavement dips down and you don’t know it until your head hits the roof of your car as your driving along. Hateful things.
Not only do they scare the crap out of you as you are driving along. But they wreak havoc on your car tires and alignment. However, frost heaves are only one of many reasons how your tires become unbalanced.
Tires become unbalanced after a lot of use and can change the effectiveness of your ride as well as your gas mileage. Not to mention the uneven wear it causes on your tires; making you replace your tires sooner than need be. Tire balancing is an important part of routine car maintenance that should be completed every six months or so.
How Do Tires Become Unbalanced?
- Number one reason- normal wear and tear on your vehicle
- Loss of a wheel weight
- Flat spot on the tire
- Low tire pressure
- Broken steel belt inside the tires
That right normal wear and tear is your number one reason. Your tires take a lot of abuse; not to mention the rest of your suspension system.
Every little pothole or imperfection in the road will have an effect on your tires. And the effects are cumulative, so over time, your unbalancing issue will get worse and worse.
Don’t Lose one of these!
Along the same line of thought, tires can become out of balance because of uneven tire wear or the loss of a wheel weight because a rim hits a curb or pothole.
If you leave your car parked for extended periods without moving it, the tires might develop flat spots that cause imbalances.
Tires can become unbalanced in a variety of different ways including changes in weather. Cold air causes regular tire deflation because of the way the air particles inside the tire contract. However, sometimes the tire can deflate so much that your tires become unbalanced.
Another common reason for tire imbalance is losing one or more steel belts inside the tire. The steel belts can be damaged when one travels at high speeds and collides with solid objects on the ground, such as speed bumps, curbs, potholes, etc. When this impact happens, one or more of the steel belts on the tire may be damaged.
As you can see there are a number of reasons that your tires can become unbalanced. But how do you know that your tires are out of balance? Look for the following symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of An Unbalanced Tire?
- Your vehicle will vibrate, in particular, you will feel it in the steering wheel
- You may start hearing humming noises as you drive down the road
- Your tires will have unusual wear patterns (i.e. no tread or little tread on one side) or faster tread wear.
- Your car will pull to one side as you are driving
- You may see your fuel economy go down.
If you can feel your steering wheel vibrate at higher speeds, it could be an indication that your tires are unbalanced. This is usually the first sign of an unbalanced tire. It’s not urgent at this point, but you are going to want to take care of the problem before it gets too bad.
If the vibration gets louder over time it’s an indication that your tires need to be balanced. This vibration can also make other noises like humming and buzzing as you drive which is an indication that something is wrong with your vehicle.
If you find you start hearing a humming noise as you drive on the road, it could be an indication of unbalanced tires. The loudness of your tire’s hum will increase as you speed up and decrease as you slow down. Unbalanced tires can also cause vibrations that are felt in the steering wheel or floorboard of your vehicle which can make for a bumpy ride on some occasions.
Your car may pull to one side instead of going straight if your tires are unbalanced due to different sizes/weights on each tire. If this is happening, then your car is no longer traveling in a straight line because it’s having to compensate for one side being heavier than the other.
If there isn’t much tread left on either side of your tire, the sidewall of one side may be more worn than the other or in some cases, no tread left on a particular section, this could indicate that your tires are out-of-balance. This could be because of steel belts inside the tire that become damaged and cause unbalanced wear to either side.
There will also be an increased risk for blowouts due to unbalanced tires. This is especially true if you’re driving at high speeds. How can you tell whether it’s time to get your tires balanced? Generally speaking, if your car’s vibration gets stronger over time, then there’s a good chance something is off with your vehicle and it should be looked into by a mechanic.
Lastly, uneven tires can result in decreased fuel economy which may not be noticeable at first but gradually becomes more evident as drivers travel further distances.
Is it okay to drive with unbalanced tires?
Yes, you can drive with unbalanced tires, but it is not recommended. Driving a car on out-of-balance wheels leads to excessive wear of the wheel bearings that will eventually result in permanent damage to them.
You can avoid this by having your wheels balanced at a professional auto repair shop while doing other necessary services such as alignment and tire rotation.
How Much Does It Cost To Have
How much does it cost to have a professional balance your tire? Tire shops charge around $10 per wheel that needs balancing. The service may take less than an hour depending on how busy they are that day. How do you fix a tire imbalance? How much does it cost to have a professional
Can you balance your own tire?
To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend it because the machine used to do it automatically at shops is specifically designed for balancing tires. If you do choose to do it yourself, you could cause more damage than good.
It really is more cost-effective to have a professional do it. The machines are expensive and if you don’t know how to use it; you could really mess your tire up.
There are a number of ways that tires can become unbalanced. From frost heaves in the spring up North or normal wear and tear on your vehicle. Having your car tire go out of balance is par for the course when owning a vehicle.
How do you know if your tire is out of balance? There are some telltale signs to look for, including vibrations or humming coming from the wheel when driving over speed bumps, uneven tread wear on the tire’s sidewalls, and cars pulling in one direction while driving at speeds above 40 miles per hour.
It may be necessary to purchase new tires altogether if there is no tread left on either side of your tire after prolonged use due to steel belts inside the tire becoming damaged. The solution usually involves balancing each individual wheel so it has an equal weight distribution across all four corners again.
If this sounds like something you would prefer not to attempt yourself–and who could blame you–just bring your vehicle in to your local tire shop and they’ll take care of it for you. Although it will likely cost a little bit more, the peace of mind that comes with having all four tires balanced is well worth it if you ask me.
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