Tyre Rotation, Wheel Alignment and Wheel Balancing
- by Team Zigwheels
- Jun 12, 2014
- Views : 60598
Tyre rotation, wheel alignment and wheel balancing are the three essentials to make sure you get the best out of your tyre. Be it a brand new car or a used one, these techniques will go a long way in reducing wear and keeping your tyres in the best shape possible.
Tyre rotation refers to the timely shifting of a car's wheels and tyres’position to ensure uniform tread wear and longer tread life. Usually, front tyres get subjected to more pressure than the ones at the rear due to both front-wheel-drive configuration in most modern cars and the added constant weight of the engine and gearbox. Even with cars that have an all-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive setup, the front tyres still tend to wear out faster as most of the weight is offset to the front of the car. Other reasons for general wear for the front tyres include the fact that they do most of the steering and almost all of the braking in any vehicle which in turn results in varying degrees of pressure exerted on them.
To reduce excessive wear on a single pair of tyres, rotation should be done periodically as recommended by the car manufacturer. There are two ways of rotating one’s tyres. The two methods, the 4-tyre and 5-tyre as explained below.
1. Four Wheel Rotation Method
This method is applied when only the running wheels are being used. In India, it is common to have one damaged or worn tyre is spare, such rotation is handy. Also it cannot be done on a selection of modern cars (Usually imported) that come with a space-saver tyre (a smaller, limited-use spare tyre) provided by the manufacturer. The 4-tyre method is also applicable if your car has a combination of tube and tubeless tyres.
For front wheel drive cars, the front wheels and tyres are to be installed on their corresponding rear hubs. The rear tyres should in turn be criss-crossed with the front hubs. So, the front left wheel will be installed on the rear left side whereas the rear left wheel will be crossed over and installed on the front right side.
For all wheel drive and rear wheel drive cars, the rear wheels and tyres are to be installed on the corresponding front hubs. The front tyres in turn should be criss-crossed with the rear hubs. In this method, the rear left wheel will be installed on the front left wheel and the front left wheel will be crossed over and installed on the rear right side.
2. Five Wheel Rotation Method
The five wheel method is slightly complicated but if mastered can ensure even wear on all five tyres. One must have a good quality and a full size spare wheel if one intends to use this method of wheel rotation. Also, as before, all tyres or wheels have to be either tube type or all tyres have to be tubeless for rotational purposes.
For front wheel drive cars, both front wheels are to be installed on their corresponding rear wheel hubs. The rear left wheel is then supposed to be used as the spare wheel while the spare wheel is to be installed in place of the front right wheel. The rear right wheel then goes in place of the front left wheel completing the rotational procedure.
For rear wheel drive and all wheel drive cars, the swap is a little more complicated. First, both front wheels are to be criss-crossed and installed on the opposite rear wheel hubs. The rear left wheel then gets installed on the front left wheel hub while the spare wheel gets installed on the front right wheel hub. In this method, the rear right wheel finally goes in the place of the spare wheel thereby completing rotational procedure.
Rotation of one’s tyres is essential if one wants to ensure the best performance out of their tyres. One must remember though, if you have unidirectional tyres, you cannot swap them from left to right and vice versa unless you invert them face-to-face on the rim.
The wheel alignment of a car is the basis on which it runs in a correct and straight driving line. However, if the alignment is not right, which essentially means that if all four wheels aren’t pointing in as straight a direction as they are supposed to as specified from the manufacturer, a number of problems would crop up while driving the car. The problems can range from the car struggling to keep a straight line at normal speed to the vehicle pulling to one side and vibrations in the steering wheel. Prolonged ignorance will not only promote irregular wear and tear of the tyres, but will reduce the life of the suspension as well. Hence usually one should make sure to get their car’s wheel alignment checked as per car manufacturer’s recommendation or every 5,000 kilometres.
The main parameters while getting tyres aligned are the camber, caster and toe. Always make sure that the alignment is right and the suspension and steering linkage is in good condition. This is the key to long tyre life. Always remember to get your car aligned after a set of new tyres or after changing even the smallest suspension components like bushes or major changes like struts and springs.
These factors aside, bear in mind to drive in a controlled fashion and avoid rash driving on bad roads. Since, the car ages with each passing day, it is important to take care of both the car as well as tyres. One must always also remember that unless one visually sees uneven tyre wear, or has directional stability problems, you need not get alignment done. As a precaution, as your service centre to get your wheels aligned every third service. That said, many modern cars do not have built in adjustments anymore, which can adjust toe in, camber and caster. If one still faces directional stability issues despite correct alignment, the problem can usually be amounted to older tyres or suspension and balance rod issues. Other tyre related issues may be tyres with “One side shoulder wear” or unequal air pressure.
Wheel and Tyre Balancing:
Since the tyre is the only patch of contact between an automobile and the road, having the right tyre aside, it is critical to keep its ‘balance’ perfect to avoid irregular wear and tear. When the tyre rotates, imbalance in the tyre-wheel assembly causes it to wobble, which eventually results in vibrations in the steering wheel. The technical term for vibration in the steering wheel is known as 'shimmy.' Usually the shimmy occurs at a particular road speed and can die out as the speed increases, coming up again at a higher speed. When the shimmy is set in, it has a severe effect on the suspension ball joints. These ball joints can wear and usually any worn ball joints in the steering linkage can be heard as a distinct rattle. At higher speeds when the vibrations increase the risk of tyre and suspension damage and increased wear and tear also increase.
Wheel balancing is done by adding clipped on or stuck on counterweights on the wheel using a balancing machine that judges the irregularities and tells the technician where to add counter-weights to essentially balance off the imbalance in a tyre. Counter weights are small weights that have a certain mass and help in counter-acting the forces acting to imbalance the weight. Whether an alloy or a pressed steel rim, balancing is important for both. Keeping these important factors in mind will surely prolong tyre life. Under ideal conditions, wheel balancing should be done whenever you find uneven tyre wear or uncomfortable feedback on the steering wheel. That said, when balancing a particular wheel, if you require weights upwards of 100 grams it is advisable to get your rim or tyre (or both) changed.