Whether you’ve just installed new wheels, changed a tire and are having issues, or lost some weights, wheel balancing could improve how your vehicle drives.
Most manufacturers also recommend having tire balancing done routinely at about every 5,000-6,000 miles.
Normally, cars in need of a wheel balance are in for a bumpy ride, as one or more of the tires doesn’t rotate evenly.
Fortunately, getting your tires balanced is a cheap and easy way to preserve your tires and extend the life of your vehicle.
The average cost of wheel balancing is $40-$200. However, this works out to $12-$50 per tire. You may not need to have all four tires balanced. In addition, you may want to have your wheels aligned or rotated at the same time to save total costs.
The table below shows a quick price comparison of wheel balancing cost estimates from reputable suppliers:
|Supplier||Tire Alignment Cost|
How Much Does Wheel Balancing Cost?*
The cost of a wheel balance normally depends on several factors.
These normally include how many tires you’re having balanced, where you got the tires, and what other services you need at the same time.
For example, most mechanics recommend aligning wheel balancing with tire rotation and wheel alignment.
That’s because the time to take the wheels off and remount them makes up most of the work. Having everything done at once could reduce the total amount you pay for the work.
Of course, that isn’t always true. Many chain shops will charge you a flat rate fee per tire, per service, no matter how many services you stack on.
So, always make sure you check. Here, the average rate per car, per tire is $12-$50, with most hovering around $20 per tire.
|Vehicle||Wheel Balancing Cost|
|Lexus Rx 350||$160-$280|
*Note: Prices are estimates and were correct at the time of writing (June 2022). Cost estimates may have changed since, our figures should be used as a starting point for your own research.
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Wheel Balancing Price Factors
In most cases, you can expect wheel balancing to be relatively flat rate. Costs are normally per wheel. However, that isn’t always the case.
Depending on your mechanic, you might pay a variety of different costs. Or, for example, if you go to a dealer, you might not be able to do the work without also paying for tire rotation and wheel alignment.
Therefore, costs can vary significantly between locations.
Number of Wheels
In most cases, your mechanic will charge a flat rate of $12-$50 per wheel or tire. While this won’t always be the case, it’s a good rule of thumb.
In addition, if you’re paying an hourly rate, you can generally expect your mechanic to spend 10-15 minutes per wheel. So, four wheels will be right around an hour of work plus shop and machine fees.
Do you need all of your wheels balanced at once? Generally, no. However, it may be a good idea.
If you notice that one of your wheels isn’t rolling smoothly but the others are fine, just having one balanced is fine.
However, most manufacturers recommend having your wheels balanced about once a year or every 5,000-6,000 miles, or when you have your wheels aligned and rotated.
On the other hand, you’ll usually have a better experience if you at least balance wheels in pairs. That ensures both wheels are balanced the same, which means you’ll have a smoother ride.
You probably won’t have to balance all four unless you’re doing a tune-up or are doing a yearly balancing to prevent issues.
What’s Included in the Rate?
Rates differ significantly between providers. However, you also get different things for the rate.
For example, Walmart offers wheel balancing and rotation for $14 per tire. If you go to Costco, $12 per tire has your wheels taken off the vehicle, balanced, and remounted. That’s it.
On the other hand, Valvoline offers a “full tire” care package, where wheels are removed, balanced, rotated, and aligned for a $200 fee.
If you need more than one service, it’s often worth calling around to see what you can get as a package deal.
For example, if most of the work is taking the wheels off and remounting them, you’ll probably get a cheaper rate on doing everything at once.
But many chain shops don’t offer these discounts, so always call and ask.
Location/Cost of Labor
Generally, the largest cost of balancing wheels is labor. That’s because there’s really nothing to balancing wheels other than taking the wheels off, putting them on a balancing machine, attaching weights, and then remounting them.
In fact, most weights are also extremely cheap. If you have to add new ones, you can expect them to be included in the cost or a few dollars extra. Otherwise, the local labor rate is your biggest concern.
Here, you’ll either pay a flat rate per tire or an hourly rate for your mechanic. Depending on the mechanic, that will average between $50 and $100 in most shops.
However, the national average rate varies significantly and the amount you pay will depend on geographic area and whether you go to a dealer or an independent shop.
5 Symptoms of Unbalanced Wheels
In most cases, it’s best practice to balance your tires preventively, or before you start to see issues.
If you pay to have your tires balanced when rotating your tires, it’s unlikely that you’ll have issues. However, things can go wrong.
For example, if you had to change a flat tire, if you lose a weight, or you’ve been in a car accident, you might start having issues with the wheel balancing.
Uneven Tread Wear
If both of your front or back tires are having issues with uneven tire wear, it normally means something is wrong with the suspension. However, uneven tire wear can also mean that your tire balance is off.
That’s especially true if you have random bald patches in your tires. While you can get these from skidding or slamming on the brakes too fast, unbalanced tires wear in patches.
That’s because one or more spot on the wheel is heavier than the rest, meaning it makes more contact with the ground.
On the other hand, if you have a tie rod or a steering knuckle or ball joint issue, you’re more likely to see uneven wear in strips around the tire, on the left or right side.
So, patchy tread wear is a good sign you have to have your tires balanced.
Vibrating Steering Wheel
If at any point you feel vibration through the floorboards or steering wheel, it means something is going wrong with the suspension, steering, or the wheels. The worse it gets, the more you’ll get vibrations.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell which issue is causing vibration, so look at other symptoms and have your tires and suspension checked.
Tire Thumping or Humming
If you hear a rhythmic thumping when driving at speeds, it’s a good sign your tires are out of balance.
The thump happens when a heavy or light spot on the tire hits the asphalt. You might also get a bumpier ride.
On the other hand, your tires might also simply hum. If you hear a hum or buzzing, especially when cornering, it’s a good sign your tires are either unbalanced or are having other issues.
Reduced Fuel Efficiency
Balancing is used to decrease the rolling resistance of your tire. When your tires are unbalanced, the vehicle uses more power to make the same number of rotations. Therefore, you’ll normally see light increases in fuel consumption.
Of course, if the issue is bad or affects all of your tires, the difference in how much fuel you use could be quite a lot.
If you’re seeing the gas gauge go down faster than you’re used to, it’s important to remember that tires could be the culprit.
Issues with the Wheel Assembly
If you keep having issues with the wheel assembly such as tie rods having issues, the ball joints having issues, etc., it may mean your tires are out of balance.
Of course, if you replace tie rods, it’s always best practice to simply rebalance the tires when putting them back on.
So, if you’ve been to a mechanic and had the work done and your tires are still out of balance, you should complain.
At the same time, consistent or multiple issues with the wheel assembly or suspension are a good sign that something is causing damage, and an uneven or bumpy ride from unbalanced tires is a major cause.
How To Balance Wheels: 7 Steps
It’s almost never a good idea to balance wheels yourself unless you intend to keep doing so.
Having your tires balanced is a cheap job and you can normally find somewhere to do the full job for less than $15 a tire.
In addition, doing the job right requires custom machinery. Here, you’ll want a spin balancer or a road balancer.
If you really can’t take your car into the shop, you can also try an older method, known as static balancing with a bubble balancer.
However, static balancing is significantly less accurate and will never achieve the same results as a spin balancer.
Using a Spin Balancer
- The mechanic places the tire on the balancer and spins it at manufacturer-specified speeds. Usually, these are 5-11 miles per hour and 50-60 miles per hour. There, vibrations are measured to determine balance with front-to-back and side-to-side measurements taken.
- Sensors point out exactly where the wheel is imbalanced.
- The mechanic will then either take the tire off the hub and move it and then test again or add weights.
Of course, you can’t do this at home because spin balancers usually cost around $2,000.
You’d normally have to have your tires balanced about twice a year over 10-15 years to make up that kind of cost.
Using Static Balancing
If you want to balance tires yourself, you can choose to do so.
While the job will never be as accurate as having it done at a shop, you can take your time and do a good job with it.
Things you’ll need:
- Bubble balancer
- Lug wrench
- Replacement wheel weights
- Car jack/jack stand
- Needle nose pliers
- Place the balancer on a flat and level surface. Make sure the foundation is solid. Set the balancer up according to instructions. Here, you’ll want to use the screws to adjust the bubble to the middle of the bubble on the top.
- Loosen the lugs on the wheel you’d like to balance.
- Then, jack up the car and remove the wheel.
- Put the wheel on the balancer.
- Check the bubble on the balancer, if it’s dead center, the tire is correctly balanced. If not, pull the weights off and move them around until the bubble goes in the middle of the tire.
- If your wheel is old, you may want to adjust the tire on the hub in case imbalances in the tire line up with imbalances on the wheel.
- Clean the wheel before putting the weights on.
This process is never as accurate as a wheel balancer as a shop because it doesn’t test for vibrations at different speeds. However, you can get a “good enough” job.
On the other hand, you will have to spend $70-$200 on a bubble balancer. At the same time, you can keep reusing this tool every time you want to balance your tires.
In addition, some gas stations have bubble balancers you can use. Some mechanics shops will also allow you to use their balancer for free – but you will have to ask.
Frequently Asked Questions
Balancing tires is a relatively simple job, but it can impact your car a great deal.
If you still have questions, this FAQ should help.
How much does it cost to balance a wheel?
Normally you can expect to pay $12-$50 per tire. This often includes other services, such as rotating tires.
Do you have to balance all four tires?
You should normally balance wheels when you rotate the tires or when you change them. When you rotate tires, you should balance all four.
However, if you just notice something going wrong with one tire, it’s normally okay to just balance the one. On the other hand, you may prefer to balance both wheels on the axle, just to be sure.
How long do balanced tires last?
Normally, you should balance tires every 5,000-6,000 miles – or when you rotate tires or have the brakes checked.
Making tire balancing a standard process every time you take the wheels off will greatly reduce the chance of having to pay to have the work done separately.
Eventually, that will cost a lot less, because if the wheels are already off, most of the work is done.
Can you drive with unbalanced tires?
Driving with unbalanced tires can cause vibration and shock throughout the suspension and the wheel assembly.
Eventually, this could cause thousands of dollars in damage. In addition, you will spend more on fuel while driving with imbalanced tires.
So, it’s safe to drive for a bit without balancing your tires. However, it’s always better for your car to do the work as quickly as possible.
Wheel balancing should be a routine job that you do as part of preventive maintenance. Manufacturers normally recommend having wheels balanced every 5,000-6,000 miles. Wheel balance costs are also low, with many shops offering rates from about $12 per tire.
If you choose to do the work yourself, you’ll need a tire balancer to get started.
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