Wheel balance is crucial for your vehicle to run smoothly, or you can experience a range of issues that not only impact the performance of your vehicle but also compromise your safety on the road. In this article, we will discuss the signs and symptoms of wheel imbalance, helping you identify and address this problem before it leads to more extensive damage.
Understanding Wheel Imbalance
Wheel balance refers to the equal distribution of weight around the circumference of a wheel and tyre assembly. A well-balanced wheel rotates smoothly without causing any vibrations or disturbances.
A wheel becomes unbalanced when the weight distribution and tyre assembly is uneven. This can happen due to various factors, such as uneven tyre wear, a damaged tyre, or a misaligned wheel. This can lead to vibrations that are transmitted to the steering wheel, causing discomfort and potentially compromising your ability to control the vehicle.
Signs and Symptoms
Here are some common signs and symptoms that indicate your wheels may be out of balance:
One of the most noticeable signs of wheel imbalance is vibrations felt through the steering wheel. These vibrations may be more prominent at higher speeds, typically between 80 and 113 kilometres per hour. If you feel a shaking sensation in the steering wheel, it's likely that your wheels are imbalanced.
2. Uneven Tyre Wear
Inspecting your tyres regularly can help you identify wheel imbalance. If you notice uneven wear patterns on the tread of your tyres, it may indicate that your wheels are not balanced properly. Common signs of uneven wear include cupping or scalloping on the edges of the tyre tread, which can be caused by the vibrations generated by imbalanced wheels.
3. Steering Wheel Wobble
Another sign of wheel imbalance is a wobbling sensation in the steering wheel. This can occur when the imbalanced wheel causes the steering system to oscillate back and forth. If you experience a side-to-side movement in the steering wheel, it's a clear indication that your wheels need to be balanced.
4. Increased Tyre Noise
Imbalanced wheels can also lead to increased tyre noise. You may notice a humming or roaring sound coming from your tyres, especially when driving at higher speeds. This noise is caused by the uneven contact between the tyres and the road surface, which can result from wheel imbalance.
5. Decreased Fuel Efficiency
Wheel imbalance can have a negative impact on your vehicle's fuel efficiency. When the wheels are imbalanced, it creates additional resistance that the engine has to overcome, leading to increased fuel consumption. If you notice a sudden drop in your vehicle's fuel efficiency, it could be a sign that your wheels are imbalanced and need attention.
Causes of Wheel Imbalance
Several factors can contribute to wheels going out of balance. Let's take a closer look at some of the most common causes:
1. Tyre Wear
Over time, tyres can wear unevenly due to factors such as improper inflation, misalignment, or suspension issues. As the tread wears down unevenly, it can result in an imbalance in the wheel assembly.
2. Wheel Damage
Wheels can become damaged by hitting potholes, curbs, or other road hazards. Even a minor impact can cause the wheel to become slightly bent or distorted, leading to an imbalance.
3. Wheel Weights
Wheel weights are used to balance wheels by counteracting any heavy spots caused by manufacturing variations or other factors. If a wheel weight falls off or becomes loose, it can disrupt the balance of the wheel.
4. Suspension Components
The suspension system plays a crucial role in maintaining proper wheel balance. Worn-out or damaged suspension components such as shocks, struts, or bushings can lead to an imbalance in the wheels.
5. Brake Rotors
Warped or unevenly worn brake rotors can also contribute to wheel imbalance. When the brake rotors are not in optimal condition, it can cause vibrations and affect the balance of the wheels.
6. Improper Installation
During the installation of new tyres or wheels, it's essential to ensure proper mounting and balancing. If the tyres are not mounted correctly or the wheels are not balanced accurately during installation, it can result in an imbalance.
Types of Wheel Imbalance Conditions
There are two types of wheel imbalance conditions that commonly occur: static imbalance and dynamic imbalance.
- Static imbalance – Static imbalance occurs when the weight distribution around the wheel and tyre assembly is uneven, causing the wheel to vibrate up and down. This type of imbalance is typically noticeable at lower speeds. When a wheel has a static imbalance, it may result in a bouncing or hopping motion, which can be felt in the steering wheel or throughout the vehicle. Static imbalance can be caused by factors such as uneven tyre wear, missing or loose wheel weights, or improper tyre mounting.
- Dynamic Imbalance – Dynamic imbalance refers to an uneven weight distribution that causes the wheel to vibrate horizontally or side-to-side. This imbalance is often felt at higher speeds. When a wheel has a dynamic imbalance, it may result in a shaking or wobbling sensation, especially when accelerating or decelerating. Dynamic imbalance can be caused by factors such as wheel damage, bent rims, or uneven brake rotor wear.
Both static and dynamic imbalances can lead to uneven tyre wear, vibrations, and steering issues. It is important to address wheel imbalances promptly by having the wheels balanced professionally to ensure a smooth and safe driving experience.
Importance of Balancing Wheels Regularly
Why it's important to balance wheels regularly:
1. Smooth ride
Balanced wheels provide a smooth and comfortable driving experience. When wheels are properly balanced, it minimizes vibrations, allowing for a more enjoyable ride.
2. Tyre longevity
Unbalanced wheels can cause uneven tyre wear. Over time, this can lead to premature tyre wear, reducing the lifespan of your tyres. Regular wheel balancing helps ensure even tyre wear, prolonging the life of your tyres.
3. Improved handling and safety
Properly balanced wheels contribute to better handling and stability on the road. When wheels are out of balance, it can affect the vehicle's steering response and overall stability, potentially compromising safety.
4. Prevents further damage
If left unaddressed, wheel imbalance can lead to further damage to other components of the vehicle, such as suspension parts or the steering system. Regular wheel balancing helps prevent these issues and ensures the overall health of your vehicle.
How Are Wheels Balanced?
Balancing wheels is done by professional technicians using specialised equipment. During the balancing process, the technician will mount the wheel and tyre assembly on a balancing machine. The machine will then measure any imbalances and determine the precise placement of wheel weights to counteract those imbalances. This process ensures that the wheel assembly rotates smoothly and without vibrations.
If you suspect that your wheels are imbalanced based on the signs and symptoms mentioned above, it is essential to address the issue promptly. Neglecting wheel imbalance can lead to further damage to your tyres, suspension system, and even affect the overall safety of your vehicle.
Need help? Visit a Supa Quick service centre near you, where they will use specialised equipment to measure the imbalance and then apply small weights to the wheel to bring it back into balance. They may also inspect your tyres for any damage and recommend tyre rotation or replacement if necessary.
Regular wheel balancing, as part of your vehicle's routine maintenance, can help prevent wheel imbalance and the associated issues. It is recommended to have your wheels balanced every 8,000 to 11,000 kilometres, or as recommended by your vehicle manufacturer.
Disclaimer: This information is for educational, or entertainment purposes only. It must not be construed as advice, legal, financial, or otherwise. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information.