Driving with an out of balance tire can be dangerous. Such tires experience uneven tread wear and are at greater risk of a blowout at high speeds. They also produce excessive vibrations during driving and are more likely to undergo unexpected changes on the road.
Out of balance tires weigh heavily on your pocket as well. Their added weight forces the engine to produce more power to keep them rolling. This reduces your car’s fuel economy and increases the frequency of your trips to the gas filling station.
Unbalanced tires also stress your wheel bearings and shock absorbers. The deterioration of the wheel bearings increases the risk of your wheels getting worse in quick time. Shock absorbers which have experienced more stress, meanwhile, repay in the shape of bumpier driving experience.
With this in mind, let’s look at how to tell which tire is out of balance:
How to tell which tire is out of balance?
Out of balance tires put up the following signs:
1. Uneven and faster tread wear
You can manually check your tire’s treadwear through four methods.
- Check Tread Depth
One of the oldest methods to check tread wear, it involves inserting a penny into its tread with the ‘heads’ side facing the road. If you can see the entirety of Lincoln’s head, your tread has worn down and it’s time to invest in a new tire. Or else you may keep on using it.
- Inspect Sidewall Cracks
You can also inspect the sidewall cracks to tell whether or not the tire has worn down. Tire sidewalls are initially moist before the passage of miles dries them out. This causes the formation of cracks or cuts in their surface. Tiny cracks are common but large cracks are a telltale sign of uneven tread wear.
- Check Tread Indicator Bars
Yet another way you can identify tread wear is via tread indicator bars. Most modern-day tires come with these flat rubber bars that you cannot see as long as the tread is optimal. However, as the tread wears down, tread bars gradually because easy to see.
- Search for bulges and blisters
Worn out tire will develop both these weak spots on its surface. They might look benign but bulges and blisters do increase the likelihood of a sudden blowout. Both of them can also lead to skidding and hydroplaning of the tire over wet surfaces. That’s why you should never ignore them.
2. Out of balance sound
We consulted three experts to know what an out of balance tire sounds like. All were unanimous in their assertions that it emits loud noises while driving. These noises are coming out of the aforementioned tread wear and their sheer intensity makes them impossible to ignore.
3. Steering becomes difficult
Out of balance tires make the driver aware of their presence by making steering in a given direction (that of the unbalanced tire) more difficult. They also delay the steering wheel’s response time and increases the chances of avoidable accidents.
4. Bad shocks and bearings
Tires that are out of balance put the greatest stress on their shocks and bearings. This causes both these components, alongside the springs, to experience more wear and tear than necessary. That’s why, if you don’t fix the unbalanced tire in a timely fashion, you’d have to replace both these parts as well.
5. Repeated pressure imbalances
Is one of your tires constantly losing pressure? Does the problem resurface every few days after you have the tire inflated? Then there’s an excellent chance that the tire is out of balance. As tires, as long as they aren’t punctured, don’t lose air pressure too quickly.
Q: When to get tire balancing done?
A: Here are some tips as to when you should get your tire balancing done:
- After every 5,000 miles
- After every 2 years
- Every time you buy new tires
- Every time you get a flat tire repaired
- On noticing uneven tire wear
Q: What is the difference between tire balancing and alignment?
A: Both of them help in ensuring a seamless ride, but tire balancing and alignment cannot be more different. Tire balancing, as the name implies, ‘balances’ the weight on the tire and its wheel assembly. Alignment on the contrary corrects the tire’s angle.
Aside from how both of them are done, tire balancing and alignment differ in the benefit that they provide as well. While properly balanced tires experience less wear, put a reduced strain on the drivetrain, and contribute to a smoother ride, properly aligned tires have a better road life.
Q: How tire balancing is done?
A: Here’s how tires are rebalanced:
- Tire mechanics mount the tire (mounted on a wheel) on a balancing machine
- The wheel is spun and measurements given by the machine are recorded
- Measurements tell where the imbalance is and how much weight should be added to correct it
- Mechanic attaches the recommended weight to the tire and reinstalls the tire underneath the vehicle
Q: What are the dangers of driving with an unbalanced tire?
A: Aside from delivering bouncy and noise-ridden rides, unbalanced tires also place stress on their shock absorbers and bearings. This causes both these parts to wear down quickly. Out of balance tires also decrease the vehicle’s fuel economy and undergo tread wear faster.
The dangers of driving with an out of balance tire should have become clear by now. Such tires not only damage the health of your vehicle but also put the safety of its passengers at risk. They also place a bottom pressure on your car’s fuel economy.
All these reasons make it clear that you shouldn’t tolerate an out of balance tire. The moment you see any of the abovementioned signs, you should take your car to the tire repairman to have the tire rebalanced. Doing so will save you a lot of money in the long run.