While having the perfect tires for a car is one part, they need to be balanced to function properly and provide optimum performance.
Having tires balanced is the most important thing to do. Without it, no tread design could be used to its fullest.
It could do more harm to the ride and comfort.
Why do we balance wheels?
Usually, it is recommended to rotate and balance wheels every 6000 miles or when installing a new set of tires.
It is best to check the user manual to find out the exact balancing intervals. If the vehicle is being driven more often on rough terrain, the interval gaps must be shorter
The weight of the tire needs to be equal on all four tires. Balancing the tires aligns the surface of the tires to the surface of the road.
The wheels must also be equal in weight so that they could function in tandem without affecting the respective tire or suspension.
Unbalanced tires tend to give rise to a wide range of problems and some could damage other components of the car if left untreated for a long time.
Symptoms of Unbalanced Tires
Vibrations are mostly found to be among the first symptoms that set in, in the case of unbalanced tires.
One could feel the steering wheel vibrate despite there being a weight difference of a few ounces in any of the tires.
The amount of imbalance in weight is directly proportional to the intensity of the vibrations.
Meaning, if the weight imbalance is way off, then the vibrations creeping into the car cabin could be quite intense and unbearable.
What’s worse? If not treated in the early stage, the tires could wear in an uneven manner that causes the vibrations to creep into other components of the cabin like seats, floorboards, dashboard, buttons, etc.
While vibrations do not arise solely out of unbalanced tires since they could be attributed to many other problems, it is best to get the symptoms checked at the earliest to avoid further complications or accidents.
2. Bad Strut
Unbalanced tires can cause the affected tires’ struts to get worn or damaged over some time.
Struts are a part of the vehicle’s suspension system that offers to dampen. They operate like a shock absorber and manage the entire vehicle’s weight.
Worn-out struts will cause the vehicle to sink or bend on the respective side. Unbalanced tires tend to add more weight to any one side of the car, thereby adding more pressure to the respective struts.
Strained struts tend to wear out earlier and affect the handling and steering of the car negatively. Even a small amount of weight difference in the wheels can have a huge impact on the struts and suspension.
3. Uneven Tire Wear
One needs to inspect a tire often for uneven tire wear as uneven tire wear is a classic symptom of unbalanced tires.
An unbalanced tire can lead to an increased concentration of weight on one side of the tire and as a result, the contact patch of that respective tire is larger when compared to other tires.
Uneven Tire wear over a long period can cause frequent punctures and even accidents as the risk of blowout increases with uneven tire wear.
In such cases, tire rotation or alignment could provide a temporary resolution but the ultimate and most appropriate remedy would be to have the wheels balanced.
4. Increased Road Noise
Road noise is mostly controlled by the tire compound and tread design on the tire.
A well-designed tread ensures the cancellation of the road noise before it is passed on into the cabin. Comfortable tires can cancel out up to 70% of road noise that emanates from the friction between the tires and the road.
As mentioned above, unbalanced tires can cause uneven tread wear on the tires, thereby preventing the tread design from effectively canceling out road noise. As a result, the road noise is transferred into the chassis and then into the cabin.
If left untreated, the road noise could get quite unbearable due to the uneven tread wear, making the ride quality a lot harsher and uncomfortable.
5. Bad Shocks and Bearings
As mentioned earlier about the effect of unbalanced tires on struts, a similar problem is caused to the bearings and components of the suspension system from driving with unbalanced tires.
With unbalanced tires, there is increased pressure on the suspension system and bearings.
With an increase in pressure, the shocks and bearings have to work a lot harder which leads them to wear out faster than expected.
Worn-out shocks and bearings could cause a major effect on the vehicle’s handling and sometimes can even cause accidents.
6. Steering Problems
Vibrations creep into the cabin of a car as a result of unbalanced tires and the first component to be affected by it is the steering.
This not only creates an uncomfortable driving experience but also affects steering feedback. One’s ability to drive smoothly and steer accurately could be affected.
Improper steering control and vibrations could cause back, shoulder, and neck problems for the driver. In worst-case scenarios, unbalanced tires can cause loss of steering control which could lead to accidents.
7. Increased Fuel Consumption
Unbalanced tires upset different systems and components like suspension, steering, tires, handling, and a lot more. It’s a ripple effect as components in a car are interconnected and depend on each other for smooth functioning.
With the above problems arising out of unbalanced tires, a certain amount of resistance is built up which affects the smooth momentum of a vehicle. The engine in this case has to work a lot harder to keep the vehicle in motion due to which, it consumes more fuel than it would consume in normal conditions where the tires are balanced appropriately.
The rate of increase in fuel consumption would be directly proportional to the extent of balance offset on the tires. The worse the symptoms emanating from the unbalanced tires, the more fuel a car would consume.
How does a tire become unbalanced?
Several factors lead to the tires becoming unbalanced. Regular wear and tear, frequent driving on uneven terrain, rough driving, and in some cases accidents could cause the tires to be unbalanced.
It is due to this reason that car and tire manufacturers suggest to balance, align and rotate tires every few thousand miles so any kind of offset in the angles and weights could be corrected before the onset of symptoms mentioned above.
Long term consequences of driving on unbalanced tires
If one continues to drive their vehicle with unbalanced tires, the symptoms mentioned above would keep increasing in severity and form.
As the vehicle is used daily, the steering and cabin vibrations would continue to rattle the interiors while the suspension and related components would wear out sooner than expected.
The vehicle’s handling and comfort begin to suffer from increasing pressure on the part of the tire tread that is in contact with the road.
Fuel consumption would continue to rise while the tread would eventually give up one day with a tear on the tire. A dangerous situation to be in, could lead to an accident or a breakdown of the vehicle.
In the long run, the engine would also suffer higher wear since it would require more effort to keep the vehicle in running condition. Slowly, multiple components on the vehicle would display signs of a drop inefficiency.
While wheel balancing could be seen as a small task to be done on a car, it makes a big impact.
If one gets the wheels balanced at correct intervals, one may not feel the importance of wheel balancing.
But, as mentioned above, if wheel balancing isn’t done when required at correct intervals it has vast consequences which could give rise to multiple problems in the short run and long run.