Learn how to recognize that your wheels are badly balanced. Read what are the reasons for this. Find out how often you should have the wheels in your car balanced.

A correct wheel balance is important for all vehicles. However, not everyone can recognise this, or is even aware of the unbalanced wheel symptoms that can this imbalance away. 

For those that aren’t aware, an unbalanced wheel refers to a car wheel which is not aligned properly: normally, the mass would be equally distributed around the axis of rotation. When it is unbalanced, this is not the case.

Here, we will explore how often you should use a wheel balancer service and just why wheel balancing itself is so important to the successful running of your vehicle.

What are the causes of wheel imbalance?

There are many factors that can contribute to wheel imbalance, including:

  • The imperfect production of car tyres and wheels.
  • The incorrect arrangement of a tyre and wheel
  • An inaccurate fitting when fixing wheels to the hub
  • Imbalances in the brake drums or discs.
  • Tyre wear, such as uneven tread wear.
  • Wear on the wheels or suspension system (such as the shock absorber) usually caused by running over potholes and other large irregularities on the road.  

What are the consequences of unbalanced wheels?

Driving without proper wheel balancing can cause a number of negative effectives. The most common of these are:

  • Increased wear on your shock absorbers, bearings, steering rods and tyres.
  • Poorer handling and braking.
  • Reduced grip.
  • Less comfortable driving.

How can I tell when the wheels in my car are unbalanced?

It is actually very easy to notice when wheels are unbalanced. Common symptoms include:

  • The whole car vibrates and, if the rear wheels are unbalanced, the rear of the car will fishtail on sharp corners.
  • There will be noticeable vibrations on the steering wheel, when the front wheels are unbalanced, although this can sometimes disappear when driving at faster speeds. 
  • There will be abnormal tread wear, such as tread spot flattening.
  • There will distinctive and abnormal noise produced when driving. 

Imbalanced wheels result in poorer grip.

How are wheels balanced?

To balance a wheel, the mass needs to evenly distributed around the rotational axis - this is where the centre of gravity coincides with the centre of rotation. In other words, there should be no spots on the wheel with a higher or lower mass than the rest.

Wheels are balanced by car service specialists, using specific wheel balancer equipment. This determines where a balancing weight must be installed. 

When should I balance my wheels?

If you start to notice the signs of imbalance, this will indicate that something has unbalanced at least one of your wheels. Otherwise, you should always balance wheels when removing tyres, such as during the seasonal change between summer tyres and winter tyres. This provides the ideal opportunity to do so and it is regular enough to keep your wheels in the right condition.

Other than this, you should ensure your wheels are checked every 3,000 miles. As part of this process, you should inspect the overall condition of your wheels. This includes their balancing.

Wheel balancing prices

Fortunately, wheel balancing is not an expensive service. On average, you can expect the following prices:

  • Up to £7 per set (4 tyres) for steel wheel passenger cars.
  • Up to £8 per set (4 tyres) for alloy wheel passenger cars
  • Up to £8 per set (4 tyres) for off-road cars
  • Up to £8 per tyre for lorries.
  • Up to £3 per tyre for vans.