While they’re often a bit overlooked, your vehicle’s tires are among the most important things you need to look after. While monitoring the tread life and the tire pressure are essential, you can’t stop there. Another critical factor that you need to look out for is tire balancing.
It might not sound like much, but unbalanced tires can lead to a host of problems you don’t want to deal with. But how do you know if you have unbalanced tires, and why should you fix them? More importantly, how much should it cost to get your tires balanced?
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll go over everything you need to know to keep your vehicle safe and on the road. Let’s begin with a quick look at the signs.
Unbalanced Tires Symptoms
The main symptoms of unbalanced tires include:
- Excessive vibrations
- Rough steering
- Uneven tire wear
- Worn Out Suspension and Steering Components
- Decreased Fuel Economy
Here is a more detailed list of the signs of unbalanced tires to look for:
1. Excessive Vibrations
It’s by far the most common symptom of unbalanced tires, and it’s also what you’re likely to notice first. If you’re driving down the road and feel an excessive amount of vibrations, it can be a host of problems.
If the problem cropped up right after you got new tires, your tires being unbalanced is probably the cause.
2. Rough Steering
When you’re driving down the road, all four tires should exert the same amount of force on the ground at each rotation. If your vehicle has an unbalanced tire, you’re going to feel it while you’re trying to drive. You’re going to feel excessive vibrations while you’re driving straight, and those vibrations will be magnified every time you try to turn.
Not only will the vibrations get worse, but you’re going to fight your vehicle through the turns a little more too.
3. Uneven/Unusual Tire Wear
While you might be willing to put up with the extra vibrations or even the rough steering, one problem you’re not going to want to deal with is the uneven or unusual tire wear. If the tires aren’t riding along the ground the right way, they’re going to wear abnormally.
What this means for you is that the tires will wear down quicker, and you’re going to need to replace them sooner than you would otherwise. Uneven tires aren’t just frustrating; they can be expensive too.
4. Worn Out Suspension and Steering Components
While your tires will wear out quicker when they aren’t balanced, they’re also going to put a lot of extra stress on your suspension and steering components. Those vibrations you feel as you drive don’t go straight to you; they travel through your entire vehicle.
The final vibrations that you feel are after they’ve traveled through your suspension system – and those vibrations are only worse at the wheels. The longer you leave unbalanced tires on your vehicle, the quicker everything is going to wear out.
5. Decreased Fuel Economy
You’re not going to see your fuel economy plummet off the face of the earth if you have unbalanced tires, but you are going to notice a drop if you pay attention.
Keeping everything in motion requires a little more work from your engine, leading to reduced fuel economy. It’s just one more area you’ll be spending a little more if you neglect to balance your tires.
What Causes Unbalanced Tires?
Typical driving can contribute to unbalanced tires. However, the problem also can stem from the initial tire installation. Every time you install new tires on your vehicle, you should get them balanced. Small differences in the tire and/or rim can lead to a tire imbalance, and this is perfectly normal. These small differences can be as little as one ounce, and you’ll feel them as you’re driving.
Over time, the tires will wear a little bit unevenly, and the balance weight can come loose – especially if the weights are glued, which is common on aluminum rims.
While the changes are typically small, even these small changes can make a big difference. The good news is that many stores offer lifetime balancing on tires that they install. This can save you a little money and ensure that your tires stay balanced throughout their service life.
Why You Should Fix Unbalanced Tires
You should fix unbalanced tires to improve comfort and save money. Getting your tires balanced isn’t that expensive, and when you compare it to the extra money you’ll save on fuel, suspension components, and new tires, you’re actually saving money by getting your tires balanced.
So, it’s not just about creating a smoother ride and your overall comfort, although those are compelling reasons, too. Improve your vehicle’s performance, save yourself money, and get a more comfortable ride – it’s a win-win-win.
How Much Does Tire Balancing Cost?
The average cost to balance a tire is between $10 and $20 per tire. That means that for all four tires, and you can expect to pay between $40 and $80.
However, this is the cost for a standalone balancing – meaning that you’re taking your vehicle in and getting the tires balanced. If you’re getting new tires, the price can vary. For instance, if you purchase and get your tires installed at Wal-Mart, the $15 installation fee covers a lifetime balance for the tire.
They’re far from the only store that offers tire balancing as part of their installation fee, which can drive down the cost. Finally, some places will lower the price even more if you buy your tires there. However, while you might not be seeing these costs upfront, they’re typically rolled into the tire’s price.
Keep in mind that, while it might seem expensive to get your tires balanced, it’s actually saving you money in the long run by improving your fuel economy, extending your suspension’s service life, and extending your tire’s service life.