It's something we do from time to time - but how often should you really be getting your wheels balanced or aligning them on your car?
If you were a perfectionist, you would probably be balancing and aligning your car every single week. If you're working on a race team, you may be doing it multiple times a day. If you're constantly taking your car off the beaten path, you may do it once a year or so. So what's the right answer?
The easier answer to this question is that you can't get these things done too often. If you were doing it every single day, it would only serve to be a waste of time and money, unless you're the kind of person who's chasing milliseconds on the track. Realistically, however, there is no detriment if you were that obsessive-compulsive about how your car behaves.
That being said, given our road conditions it may not be wise to leave your alignment and balancing for too long. To understand this, we need to look at why you have to align and balance your wheels to begin with. In the case of the former, every car comes with adjustable alignment from factory - toe is whether your wheels point inwards or outwards from top-down, camber is whether your wheels are closer at the top or at the bottom if you're looking from the front, and caster is something we don't really talk about.
The reason all of this is usually adjustable to some degree is to account for the inaccuracies in production that may make a car ever so slightly not-straight. There is also reason to set your alignment in a certain way as it can promote better straight line stability when you're cruising down the highway, or more dynamic handling, and so on. That's a topic for another time - for all intents and purposes, you stick to an alignment setting that the manufacturer recommends.
As for balancing, the reasoning is a little harder to explain. Wheels, by nature, are not 100% balanced from factory - whether that's stock or aftermarket. Minor variances in design and tolerances mean that some parts of the wheel are going to be heavier than others. The same could be said for tyres, and when you combine these two variances you get an imbalanced wheel. A wheel that's imbalanced will vibrate as it rolls, getting stronger in amplitude as you drive quicker.
A car that has poor alignment and balancing will be both uncomfortable and dangerous to drive, as well as excessively and readily wearing out tyres. By making sure your alignment and balancing is as correct as possible will help to keep your car comfortable and extend the life of your tyres as much as possible. Balancing also needs to be re-done in order to match the wear of your tyres that will also change the balance of the wheels.
So perhaps the best way to gauge when you need to get your wheels re-aligned and re-balanced is if your car feels like it isn't running properly. If it pulls to one side or you sense excessive vibrations that only increase with speed, stopping off at your nearest tyre shop wouldn't be a bad idea.
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