What is the difference between tire rotation, balance, and alignment?

Do you need new tires for your car? Maybe you are wondering the difference between tire rotation, balance, and alignment. Taking a car to a shop can sometimes be overwhelming. You may not fully understand what is going on with your car.

If you’ve recently been told you need new tires it would be wise to know the difference between tire rotation, balance, and alignment.

What is tire rotation?

Tire rotation is the process of switching the front and rear wheels on a car. This helps the tires wear more evenly over time. You wouldn’t want to have a set of good tires on the rear with completely bald tires on the front. By having your tires rotated they encounter a similar amount of use.

In most cars, front tires wear faster. Not only do they rotate forward and backward but turning wears them down as well.

Is it better to have more tread on the back tires?

Contrary to popular belief you should have tires with better tread on the rear. One might think that having more tread on the front may help you gain more grip or prevent hydroplaning. This isn’t always the case. By having the tires with more tread on the rear you can reduce your risk of spinning out when you encounter slick conditions. Like we mentioned before it’s best to have your tires rotated so you are having to constantly replace your front tires.

Why should you get your tire rotated?

Rotating your tires or wheels will help keep your tires somewhat even. This will allow you to get the most out of your tires and reduce wear. While all tires wear over time there are some steps, like rotating them, that can give you just a little more life.

What is tire balancing?

tire balance

Tire balancing is the procedure where the wheels and tires are balanced. The tires and wheels are unevenly weighted. They may have some areas that weigh more than others. While something like .25 of an ounce doesn’t seem like much traveling at highway speeds can make the issue noticible. Your car may wobble or feel like something is wrong. By balancing the tires your mechanic will add weights to the side or to the interior of the wheel.

By using a tire balancing tool your mechanic can get your car’s wheels into balance which in turn will give you a smooth ride.

Why should you get your tires balanced?

If you are installing new tires balancing is always required. By taking off the old tire and installing a new one you mess with the balance of the wheel. You should get your tires balanced otherwise your vehicle may behave erratically.

What is tire alignment?

tire alignment

Tire alignment is a process where your car’s wheels are aligned. Car wheels have multiple adjustments that can affect the orientation or tilt of your wheels. Things like camber or caster can be adjusted to make sure your wheels are aligned. In most cases, your tire shop will hook up sensors to your car’s wheels.

With the aid of a machine, they will get information on what needs to be adjusted. Some older cars can’t be adjusted so either they will get it as close as they can or you made need to replace some parts.

Why should you get an alignment?

You should always opt for an alignment if you are getting new tires installed. If your tires aren’t aligned you may have uneven wear. If it wears unevenly for too long you could ruin the tire. Even if you have older tires your mechanic may be able to extend the life of your tires if you get an alignment in time.

How to know what tires to get

Different vehicles need different tire sizes. Honda Civics will not need the same size tires as a Ram 2500. There are a few places where you can find your tire size. The easiest place would be an online tool. You could try Tirerack.com. There you can enter your car’s year make and model. You will be able to see what tire size your car requires free of charge.

Check the tire

On each of the tires, there is a tire size listed. The size looks like a sequence of numbers and letters. You may see something like 215-35-16Z. The 215 is the tire width in millimeters. The 35 is the sidewall height. The 16 would be your wheel size. Lastly, the Z is the speed rating for the tire. Based on that information you could go shopping for tires.

Owners Manual

Your owner’s manual is a great place to find your tire size. Usually, by checking the index for “Wheels” you can be given a page that lists the size tires your car needs.

Inside the door

Sometimes on the inside of the driver’s door, there is a sticker on the sill. Usually, it lists information like your tire’s required pressure. Although sometimes it will tell you the tire size. Again look for something like “215-35-16Z”


If all else fails you can use an online tool like Tirerack.com or Google. By typing your car’s year, make, and model you can typically get accurate information. Google tends to give a little more broad results so it would be best to stick to Tirerack.

Lets recap

What is the difference between tire rotation, balance, and alignment? Tire rotation is to even the wear. A tire balance is to make sure that your tire’s weight is evenly distributed. Alignment helps your tires wear evenly and it makes sure that everything is in the correct orientation.

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