The cost of tire balancing is minimal, yet many people try to avoid it because they think it’s unnecessary.
Tire balancing is crucial, both for driver comfort and safety. It’s often included for “free” with new tires. Otherwise, you might pay between $20 and $40 for all four wheels. A few factors might influence this, and I’ll go into them in greater detail further on.
This article will explain what tire balancing is, how much it costs, and why you should do it.
- Tire balancing cost
- Tire balancing cost breakdown
- What is tire balancing?
- Tire balancing – how often?
- Tire balancing – how long?
- Symptoms of imbalanced tires
- Why should I balance tires?
- How the balancing machine works
- Tire Sidewall Damage: It’s Time To Replace, Never To Repair
- Wheel Alignment Cost Walmart: The Cost Of Tracking Services
- TPMS Sensor: What Is The Tire Pressure Monitoring System?
- Tire Rotation Cost: How Much Does It Cost And Is It Worth It?
How Much Does Tire Balancing Cost?
Let’s get straight into it with the central question of this article: what does tire balancing cost?
With new tires, the cost of tire balancing is often included as part of the fitting fee. Thus, with new tires, it’s usually (technically) free.
Some shops will charge you a flat fee for new tire installation. Others will break it down into the tire and the fitting charges. They might also include the balancing and wheel alignment costs separately.
Depending on a few factors, you can expect to pay between $5 and $20 per wheel. On average, you’ll probably end up paying out about $10 per wheel, coming out to $40 in total.
What Is The Cost For Tire Balancing Made Up Of?
When a technician balances your tire, they use different techniques depending on whether you have alloy or steel wheels. I’ll explain those techniques in more detail in one of the following sections.
The majority of the cost of tire balancing – which shouldn’t be too much of a cost in itself – is labor. You’ll be paying per minute for the technician to lift the car, remove the wheels and balance them before reinstalling everything.
The only material the mechanic will be using is the wheel weights. Although these are technically part of the price you pay, the cost is often less than a few cents per weight – negligible, so far as most businesses are concerned. You probably won’t see this cost itemized on your invoice or receipt.
Is Wheel Balancing The Same Thing?
Wheel balancing is the more accurate term for tire balancing, but, yes, they’re the same thing.
“Wheel balancing” is more accurate because you apply weights to the wheel (the metal) itself, not the tire’s rubber.
You might often see “wheel balancing” and “tire balancing” used interchangeably. For this article, we’ll be sticking with “tire balancing” for the majority of it.
What Is Tire Balancing?
Here’s a short video from KwikFit to explain how wheel balancing works.
To look at what tire balancing is, I’ll split it into the two categories of wheel: steel and alloy.
There are a few things that you’ll need to do, whichever type of wheel it is.
First, of course, you need to remove the wheels from the car. In a shop, this usually involves lifting the car up on a ramp to a safe working height and buzzing the wheel nuts off.
The tire doesn’t need to be removed from the wheel for balancing. In fact, it would be useless to do so. The tire itself can have imperfections, and so the wheel will likely end up imbalanced anyway if you balance it without the tire.
You would then put the wheel and tire onto the tire balancing machine. Although not everyone does it, you should remove the old weights from the wheel and start from scratch.
Here is where we’ll split it into steel and alloy categories, exploring how the wheel balancer works in a further section.
Steel Wheel Balancing Technique
Steel wheels are cheaper to make, and therefore the average lower-priced car probably has them rather than alloys. Usually, manufacturers use simple plastic hub caps to cover the wheel and give it a nice-looking appearance.
When the hub cap has been removed (usually done using a plastic tool or simply a firm tug), you’d put it onto the wheel balancing machine and set it spinning.
The machine then instructs you where to put weight and how much to apply.
Since the steel is robust and not really expected to look shiny and smooth, the weights are simply hammered onto the wheel’s rim.
You would then repeat this process until the machine informed you the tire was balanced. It’s then ready to go back onto the car.
Alloy Wheel Balancing Technique
The basic technique is the same when working with alloy wheels, but the weights are applied differently.
When working with alloy wheels, the weights are stuck onto the inside of the wheel like stickers. You do it like this so that the alloy metal doesn’t get damaged.
Wheels get dirty from grease, dirt, and other deposits. These prevent the stickers from gluing to the surface of the wheel’s interior, so it needs to be cleaned. A basic parts cleaner is usually enough for this, although occasionally the cleaning part takes more time than you’d expect.
At the garage I worked at, we would often clean the inside of the wheel when it was on the machine. It’s easier that way. We’d also clean the outside of the wheel and the spokes when we’d put it back onto the car, as our gloves would leave dirty-looking handprints on them.
After cleaning the wheel’s inside, you’d stick the weights where the machine told you to and in the correct amounts. You’d then repeat the process until the device informed you that the wheel was balanced and put it back on the car.
For either type of wheel, you’d put the wheel nuts back on by hand to start with (to make sure you don’t strip the thread) and then probably use a pneumatic gun to buzz them on. With the car back on the ground, you’d finish the job off with a torque wrench.
How Often Do I Need To Balance My Tires?
Tire balancing is critical. People often overlook it until a problem arises.
In reality, from a financial point of view, it’s not worth spending all that time and money having your tires balanced every month. You’ll get simply be spending more money than you’ll ever hope to save. That is unless you drive on incredibly expensive rubber.
I would always recommend having your tires balanced when you get new ones. This should be done as standard practice, but it’s still worth checking.
After that, it’s worth having the tires balanced once or twice per year. I usually ask for this to be done when I take the car in for its annual service.
It would be best if you also asked for tracking/wheel alignment services at the same time. Both of these function to protect your tires (especially the front ones) and keep everything running smoothly and safely.
How Long Does Tire Balancing Take?
If you’re in a rush, you may like to have an idea of how long tire balancing takes, as well as the cost.
In most cases, tire balancing should take about 5 to 10 minutes per wheel. Including arrival, checking in, and paying at the end, you should expect to spend between 25 and 45 minutes waiting for your car.
There are, as always, exceptions.
- If you’ve lost your locking wheel nut key (usually for alloy wheels), it’ll make it very difficult to get the wheel off the car. This happens more times than you might think, with maybe 1 in 10 (an approximate guess based on my experience) people misplacing it before coming to the garage. If the shop has its own kit for locking wheel nut removal, it’ll be quicker, but they may have to call out a specialist.
- Sometimes, wheels are infuriatingly tricky to balance. Equally, sometimes you get it right on the first go. As a result, some wheels take 30 seconds to balance and remove. You also get the odd one that can take 20 minutes.
- The technician might find something else wrong with the tire, wheel, or suspension that requires further investigation. For example, they might notice that the tire has worn down to an illegal tread depth or that your brake discs are cracking. Both of those would be immediately concerning and need fixing straight away, although they should always consult you first. There would, of course, be extra costs involved here.
- How many technicians are working on your car? One person alone might take 20 to 40 minutes, but when there’s a group? Much faster. When working with the other two mechanics on one car at my workplace (for example, in a quiet period), we could get the customer in and out in 10 minutes. That is, depending on the factors mentioned above.
You may need to consider how long tire balancing takes if you’re in a hurry or being charged at an hourly labor rate rather than a fixed cost. Make sure you’ve agreed on the cost before the technician commences the tire balancing work.
What Symptoms Indicate That The Tires Need Balancing?
This video is a few minutes long but really gives you an idea of the kind of things to watch out for.
These are the most common things to watch out for that indicate an imbalance in your wheels.
- A vibrating steering wheel (and/or seat or floor) – when there’s a severe tire imbalance, you’ll undoubtedly feel it through the steering components, in particular as you reach higher speeds. The wheel isn’t traveling “straight” – it’s sort of rolling slightly from side to side while it’s spinning. This motion is happening very quickly, and thus it feels like a vibration. The imbalance travels through the wheel assembly and the axle, into the steering rack, and up the column to the steering wheel and your hands. When it’s bad, you really do notice it. Don’t ignore it – take it to the nearest tire shop.
- To check for imbalanced tires, you should look at the tire tread patterns. Uneven tire wear could indicate this problem. You might find that the tread on one tire is wearing down faster than the tread on the opposite side of the axle. Uneven tire wear can also be an indication of poor wheel alignment.
- Finally, you might also notice a drop in fuel economy. Information from the S.11 Energy Conservation Group of the TMC shows that, in the context of trucks, balanced wheels improve fuel economy by 2.2%. Others report fuel losses of up to 10% due to imbalanced or improperly inflated tires. This drop-in fuel economy comes because the tire isn’t correctly in contact with the road, thus losing friction and traction. It’s a bit like walking on dry sand compared to wet sand – you’re using more energy to go the same distance.
Do I Need Balancing Or Alignment?
Both of these services help to look after your tires. Tire health is often overlooked but incredibly important.
When you need your wheels balancing, the leading and most noticeable symptom is vibration through the steering wheel.
When your wheels as misaligned, you’ll probably feel the car pulling to one side or the other. Try holding the steering wheel perfectly straight while you’re driving along a straight, empty road. Does the car pull to one side? If so, it’s an indication that the tracking is out, and you should get it fixed.
That being said, you won’t always notice a vibration when you have imbalanced wheels. Also, I’ve seen occasions where both front wheels have been misaligned but to exactly opposite amounts. Thus, they canceled each other out. It wasn’t noticeable while driving, but the tires were both scrubbed down to illegal levels.
So, the overall lesson is that you can’t always tell without an in-depth look. If you have the facilities, you can check out the car’s tires yourself. You’ll want to jack the car up until the front wheels are off the ground and use axle stands to secure it. Use a tread depth gauge to see if there’s anything wrong and otherwise visually inspect them for uneven wear.
If you’re in any doubt or don’t have the equipment to do it yourself, take it down to the local shop. Ask them to check the alignment and balancing. You should be able to agree to a deal where you only pay if the technician discovers that work needs doing.
Check out this video from KwikFit to see how alignment works.
Why Do I Need To Get My Tires Balanced?
It’s vital to get your tires balanced for these reasons:
- Fuel economy.
Safety – Why Do I Need To Get My Tires Balanced?
First of all, safety is paramount. I love cars as much as any petrolhead, but the fact remains that they’re a ton or two of metal traveling at high speeds. Even a low-speed crash could be deadly in the wrong circumstances.
Some would consider tire balancing to be a minor issue compared to things like seat belts and even wheel alignment. However, I’d argue that anything that could compromise a vehicle’s safety needs to be addressed. It’s the responsibility of the owner. One should include tire balancing there.
There are two main issues with imbalanced tires regarding safety: decreased traction and tire wear.
Imbalanced tires cause uneven tire wear, as we’ve previously seen. Left for long enough, your tire could blow out while driving, which is a hazardous situation to be in.
As previously mentioned, imbalanced wheels are most noticeable at higher speeds. Although it’s unlikely, your tire may not be gripping the road quite as effectively and, in the wrong set of circumstances, may lead to a crash.
Comfort – Why Do I Need To Get My Tires Balanced?
Comfort is perhaps a modern-day luxury, but it’s important in itself. When driving, you want to be comfortable to look after your body. (Equally, you don’t want to be so relaxed that you aren’t fully concentrating on the car and road.)
If your tires are imbalanced, it can lead to surprisingly uncomfortable levels of vibration in the cockpit. As the driver, you’ll feel it most, but the passengers might feel it too. It can be pretty unsettling. As, to be frank, it should be.
When you notice vibrations through the steering wheel, in particular, take your car to the nearest tire shop for tire balancing. It’ll make your ride feel more comfortable as well as all the other benefits.
Fuel Economy – Why Do I Need To Get My Tires Balanced?
Imbalanced tires are bad for fuel economy, as previously discussed. They don’t grip the road as well as a balanced tire.
Taking the 2.2% figure from the Energy Conservation Group study, the average American can expect to save about $66 per year by having properly balanced tires. This figure assumes that the average American spends about $3,000 per year on gas.
Now, factoring in the cost of tire balancing, that isn’t a tremendous amount of money. However, you could think of it as free safety and free comfort, and I think that’s the best way to approach it.
How Does The Tire Balancing Machine Work?
The featured image for this article – the one at the top – is from Tyres on the Drive, a home-call-out tire company in the UK.
Nowadays, tire balancing machines use dynamic balancing – that is, balancing in motion. Sometimes they’re also called two-plane balancers in that they measure lateral and radial force.
Once you’ve placed the wheel on the machine, you’ll insert the tire’s information into the machine.
Next, you close the guard over the tire. This guard prevents damage to equipment or injury to yourself. When the guard is fully closed, the machine automatically begins spinning the wheel.
While it’s spinning, the computerized machine measures the amounts of vibration through the lateral and radial forces. It visualizes the tire in two parts – the inside and the outside. After a few seconds, it begins to slow down, and you can manually apply the brake to help this process.
The machine will then instruct you on where to place the weights within a few millimeters. It’s quite accurate. As long as you apply the weights in the right places, it should be perfectly balanced when you repeat the process. In reality, this rarely happens, and it often takes several goes before you achieve this state.
In the past, tires were balanced statically – without moving. However, when a tire is dynamically balanced, it is therefore also statically balanced.
These machines typically cost between $2,500 and $4,000.
Here’s the basics of how the machine works.
In this article, we’ve looked at tire balancing, the cost, and why it’s essential. When getting your tires balanced, remember that it will probably save you money in the long run. You’ll also be more comfortable in the car. Most importantly, the vehicle will be safer to drive.
The cost of tire balancing is likely to be about $40, give or take.
Looking after your tires is extremely important. It’s easy to become nonchalant about it and take them for granted. However, if you look after your tires, they’ll look after you.
I hope this article has helped you out. Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave a comment down below.
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