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TECH: Buying new tyres

To align, balance or not?

Buying new vehicle tyres in Uganda can be quite tricky. For most buyers the main challenge often revolves around balancing right price with right quality.

Apart from the wide variety of brands, which can sometimes mean very wide margins in price, buyers often have to make a delicate decision about where to buy from. Often the choice is whether to go to dealers that have service stations and those that do not. Often, the dealers with service station appear to charge a higher price per tyre but then they throw in a `bonus’ of free fitting and wheel alignment. Usually, however, they also charge for another critical service at the point of fitting new tyres on an old vehicle – wheel balancing. Taken together, wheel fitting, alignment, and balancing often cost about Shs100,000 on average for four tyres. Wheel balancing alone is about Shs30,000.

That means even if one buys slightly lower priced tyres from down town dealers, they must incur the extra cost of fitting, alignment, and balancing. Question is, are these necessary?

Often the down town dealers – perhaps they aim to look cheaper priced – will insist it is not necessary to do an alignment and balancing.

Do not fall for that.

Wheel alignment is very important whenever you buy new tyres

Wheel balancing is also very important, especially when done using a road force balancing machine. Once again do not fall for the cheaper option that does not use this machine. They are often hapless gamblers who waste your time and money.

Do not let anyone confuse you about wheel alignment and wheel balancing being the same or serving the same purpose. They are different and serve different purposes. Done together they ensure the vehicle runs smoothly and safely and preserve the life of tyres.

Wheel alignment is sometimes referred to as “front end alignment” or “tire alignment.” The alignment adjusts the angle of the wheels to the position the manufacturer recommended in the vehicle specification. It also includes a tyre tread check for signs of poor alignment, as well as inspection of wheel orientation. Following the evaluation, all necessary adjustments are made and the service is complete. This is also a good point to rotate tyres.

What you must know is that wheels need to be balanced more often than they are aligned. For example, it is good practice to balance wheels every six months or after each 10,000kms.

This is because wheels lose balance over time as tyre wear causes the distribution of weight around the tyre to change. Sometimes this imbalance causes the vehicle to shake.

On the other hand, many vehicle manufacturers recommend having wheel alignment is checked every 25,000kms or every time you notice the vehicle pulling to one side or if the vehicle has recently hit a kerb, deep pothole, or been in an accident.

At the end of the day, although buying good tyres and ensuring they are well aligned and balanced appears costly, it is a major saving. A good tyre for an office type person could last years and the cost will be nothing compared to how much you spend on fuel and other vehicle associate expenses.

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