Wheel balance vs. wheel alignment; what is the difference?

If you’ve been wondering what the difference is between “wheel alignment” and “wheel balancing” you are not alone. People often confuse these two completely different processes.

While wheel alignment is the direction the wheels face in relation to each other and the centre line of the wheel, Wheel balance refers to how smoothly (or otherwise) an individual wheel rotates around its own centre. On a wheel that is perfectly balanced, every point on the wheel the wheel weighs the same. This unequal distribution of weight creates an unequal centrifugal force, which typically manifests as a vibration that varies with the wheel’s rotational speed. If you have ever noticed a vibration on the steering wheel, or perhaps through the entire vehicle that goes comes and goes at different speeds, you have experienced the effects of unbalanced wheels.

However, a wheel can be unbalanced in two planes; the first being the rotational plane that causes the wheel to bounce up and down, and the other being in the lateral plane, which causes the wheel to move from side to side, much like a flag flapping in a stiff breeze. Depending on the cause of the unequal weight distribution both conditions can usually be corrected by Professional wheel balancing by your local Repco Authorised Service centre.