Properly balanced wheels are important for all types of vehicles. However, not everyone can recognise, or is even aware of the symptoms of unbalanced wheels. 

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 the wheel is unbalanced, this is not the case.

man balancing wheel

In this article, we will explore what is wheel balancing, how often you should use this 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 imperfections of car tyres and wheels.
  • The incorrect arrangement of a tyre and wheel
  • Inaccurately fitting 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.
  • Worse 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 be distinctive and abnormal noises when driving

How are wheels balanced?

To balance a wheel, the mass needs to be 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 balancing 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 indicates that something has unbalanced at least one of your wheels and you should get that checked out immediately. Otherwise, you should always balance wheels when changing summer tyres to winter tyres, or from an old pair to new tyres. This provides the ideal opportunity to balance your wheels and it is regular enough to keep your wheels in good 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.