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I just bought a new car and I have heard three things about tires:

  1. They need to be aligned
  2. They need to be balanced
  3. They need to be rotated

Now, what I do not know is how often each needs to be done?

Can any of these two(or may be all three) be done together?

If my car not driving properly, how do I know if it is lack of balance, alignment or rotation?

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They need to be aligned

Well, technically the wheels need to be aligned. This doesn't have much to do with fitting tires and is more of a mechanical maintenance item on the car. It's a good idea to have an alignment done when you buy new tires because poor alignment will make your tires wear out very fast. Since its a new car, if you drive on good roads and don't hit any huge bumps or potholes, you can probably skip getting an alignment on your first tire change. Most people won't get an alignment unless the tires show obvious tell-tale wear patterns, so this is up to you. If your car wants to drift to one side of the road, or you notice that you have to hold the steering wheel off center to drive straight, you probably need an alignment.

They need to be balanced

Normally tires only need to be balanced when they are installed. A properly balanced tire will wear evenly and should remain balanced over its lifetime. The balancing weights can come off, and it is possible for the tire to become unbalanced for other reasons, so its possible to need a re-balance, but this is only done if you feel an obvious vibration. Some tire shops might sell you a "lifetime balance" and they will check them when you come in for a rotation.

They need to be rotated (assuming this was the third point)

This definitely needs to be done at regular intervals. Each tire manufacturer will have a recommended interval to do this, and its important to follow their guidelines if you want your "mileage warranty" to mean anything, and to get the most life out of all four tires. Typical intervals are 4000-6000 miles. Most tire shops will do this for free if you bought the tires there, but you can also do it yourself with the right tools (Jacks, jack stands, torque wrench). There's no way to tell if you need to rotate the tires - you just have to do it on a schedule. If there is an obvious difference between the wear on the front and back tires, you've waited too long to rotate them.

  • Good words...plus 1 – DucatiKiller Mar 16 '16 at 18:09
  • I agree, and would also point out that tire rotations are a good time to check the brakes and suspension. – Tom Penny Mar 16 '16 at 18:49
  • Great point. While you can't really do any of what the OP asked "at the same time", it does make sense to check brakes and suspension. Change your oil, check filters, and make a fun afternoon out of it while you're at it! – JPhi1618 Mar 16 '16 at 18:50
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    My car persistently wants to drift off the road to the right, but that's because the roads here are crowned to improve drainage, and the car's just trying to turn in the downhill direction. Not all drift is alignment issues. – Mark Mar 16 '16 at 23:10
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    Probably the most important bit of tyre maintenance you can do is missing from both the question and the answer; Tyre Pressure Checks. These should be carried out regularly. Typically every week or so. Ideally every time you re-fuel the vehicle as most filling stations will feature a tyre machine on their forecourt. The most common reason tyres fail is improper inflation with some owners never checking their tyre pressures at all. – Steve Matthews Mar 30 '16 at 13:43

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