Is Wheel Alignment The Same As Wheel Balancing?

People often ask whether wheel balancing and wheel alignment are the same but they are two separate services. While they certainly sound similar, there are some major differences in what each one does and how they help your vehicle perform at the best possible level. Find out more in this quick-fire guide as we explore the differences and benefits.

Wheel Alignment Vs Wheel Balancing

Wheel alignment checks that the direction and angle of the wheels are perpendicular to the road and parallel to each other. However, wheel balancing concentrates on evenly distributing the weight around the axle. With wheel alignment, you can choose between a 2-wheel tracking for the front axle or 4-wheel tracking for the front and rear axles.

When you take your vehicle for car alignment, a technician will inspect the “camber”, “toe” and “caster”. After assessing the wheels, they can adjust the tie rods and control arms according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. For those who don’t know, here is a summary of what these terms mean:

  • Camber indicates whether the tyre tilt is inward or outward
  • Toe indicates whether the front of the tyres are closer or further apart than the rear of the tyres
  • Caster refers to the angle between the vertical and the steering pivot axis which can be adjusted by moving the suspension struts

wheel alignment

Signs Your Car Needs Wheel Alignment

Correctly balanced and aligned wheels provide a smoother ride and are vital for maximising safety on the road. There are several ways that wheels can become misaligned but the most common is hitting potholes, driving over speed bumps or mounting the pavement. If you notice any of the following signs, make sure to book a car alignment as soon as possible.

    • Vehicle starts pulling or drifting to one side even on straight roads
    • The steering wheel appears off-centre when driving straight
    • Vibration in the steering wheel when driving above 50 – 55 mph, which intensifies at around 65 mph and then stops when travelling faster
    • Uneven or excessive tyre wear
    • Noticeable steering problems
    • Misaligned tyres can also affect your shock absorbers and wheel bearings
    • An increase in fuel consumption

What Does Wheel Tracking Cost?

While the price of wheel alignment may vary, below is a breakdown of what it costs at Elite Garages:

  • 2-Wheel Tracking: From £45 *
  • 4-Wheel Tracking: From £90 *
  • 4-Wheel Tracking + Front Camber or Rear Camber: From £100 *
  • 4-Wheel Tracking + Front and Rear Camber: From £120 *

* Prices are accurate as of August 2023

Wheel Alignment, Wheel Balancing and Fuel Economy

With the rising cost of living, the last thing you want is to waste money on fuel, especially if there’s something you can do about it. Incorrect wheel alignment causes uneven tyre wear which, in turn, may result in increased fuel consumption and also uneven braking.

Experts recommend that you check your car alignment at least once a year and sometimes more for those who drive often. It is especially important for vehicles fitted with any Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS), including Adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Keep Assist.

What Is Wheel Balancing?

By definition, wheel balancing is the process of ensuring equal weight distribution on the axle of each wheel, which results in an evenly rotating tyre. To do this, technicians add balancing weights to different parts of the rim. If they see an imbalance on one side of the wheel, weights are added to the opposite side to even out the weight distribution. The process continues until everything is even or “balanced out”.

wheel balancing machine

How To Tell If Your Car Needs Wheel Balancing

Similar to the signs of misaligned wheels, when your wheels need balancing, you will feel vibrations in the steering wheel when travelling at certain speeds. Not only does this result in an uncomfortable drive over time, but wheel balancing issues can also cause premature wear of your tyres, suspension and steering components.

We recommend that you get wheel balancing during your annual car service and whenever you change your tyres. At Elite Garages, we offer free wheel alignment checks so pop in at your nearest branch or visit the website for more information on car alignment, wheel balancing and more.

Benefits of Car Alignment and Wheel Balancing

There are many benefits to having your car wheels aligned and balanced regularly with the standouts being road safety and saving money in the long term. Here are the five biggest advantages of wheel tracking and wheel balancing:

  • A smoother ride
  • Improved handling
  • Increased safety on the road
  • Increased fuel economy
  • Less wear and tear on tyres, suspension and steering components

Wheel Alignment Centres Near Me

Car alignment is not an overly complex process but proper four-wheel alignment does require some precision. That means only service centres with modern equipment and highly trained technicians can offer this service. As such, all Elite Garages now offer two and four-wheel alignment in these locations:

For more information about our wide range of services, including free vehicle safety checks, four-wheel alignment, clutches, brakes and exhausts, visit our website today.