Know Your Car Basics: Mistakes Between Alignment & Balancing

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alignment and balancing

(Do you know the differences between tire alignment and tire balancing? It is not necessary that both need to be done at the same time but usually it is done as it is convenient for the mechanic and more income for the workshop. Image Source: https://tamages.blogspot.com)

I did one of the dumbest things when I was driving my car early in the morning yesterday – I drove my car into a pothole even though I had plenty of space to avoid it. I will do a separate post on that as this has a long story on its own.

Anyway, I was at the car workshop to get a fix done when I saw a Honda SUV driven into the workshop. There were 2 guys – probably in the mid 30s – well dressed. They seemed to be young, successful executives. They got down and looked around, probably looking for the chief mechanic or the owner.

The mechanic, who was attending me, looked up and asked them what the problem was. One of the guys said that he wanted to do tire alignment and balancing for his car and handed over the keys to this mechanic.

With the car inside the workshop and another mechanic attending to the alignment and balancing, the 2 guys was standing around, not knowing what else to do (I guess). They were seeing what others were doing and then sheepishly ask the mechanic the difference between balancing & alignment. They asked this in Chinese but I understood nonetheless.

At first I thought I heard them wrong – did they ask the mechanic what is the difference between alignment & balancing? And this is AFTER telling the mechanic to do alignment and balancing to the car?

At this point, I guess they had noticed me noticing them asking this question – they were looking at me after they had asked this question and I guessed they were embarrassed. The funny part was this – the mechanic was also looking at me, perhaps stunned by the question.

To tell you the truth, it was embarrassing indeed.

The mechanic looked and me and then turned around and explain the difference between alignment and balancing in Chinese. Then again I understood what he was saying and I must say that it was not detailed but for the 2 newbies who asked the difference, it was more than adequate. I noticed that the 2 guys were still looked lost despite the quick explanation.

alignment and balancing

(The best workshop mechanics will do their best to ensure all readings to be in green. So it is important for you to monitor what is shown on the screen and question if it is still showing red. Image source: www.lesschwab.com)

The difference is rather simple because it points to the difference aspect of the tire and different tools used.

  • If it is tire alignment, it is related to 2 front tires, when we turn the steering, both need to turn to the same direction and at the same degree. This of course needs a computerised alignment laser measurement.
  • If it is a tire balancing, it is related to only 1 tire when the tire turns; it should not wobble or swing. Of course, this is very minute and cannot be seen from naked eyes. It needs another specialist machine – tire balancing machine. The tire workshop would do for all 4 tires.

If you asking the workshop to do something to your car, you need to know what is being done and importantly how it is done. This is to ensure that the workshop does not rip you off with some unnecessary changes and bills.

Even if your car is in for a minor service, always take the opportunity to see what the mechanic is doing, what kind of tools used and what brand of oil, lubricant & parts being used. Most of the mechanics that I have encountered are actually more than happy to share on their repairs and explains why some parts needs to be changed (and why sometimes it is not necessary to change), the cost of repair, etc.

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