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My 2003 Opel Agila steering wheel shakes and the car vibrates from 65-80mph, and I think it's because my wheels aren't balanced as I have had new tyres, tracking and wheel balancing about two months ago.

I went on the motorway today, and the car shakes and vibrates really badly at high speeds. I am convinced the garage didn't balance the wheels as they gave me a tracking printout, which shows the tracking is fine. I cannot take it back to the garage as I do not trust them after this is happening. I have not been doing any excessive driving, and my tyres were GoodYear Duragrips, which weren't exactly cheap.

I can't afford to go to a garage as the original one charged me £60 extra for wheel balancing and tracking (or wheel alignment), on top of the tyre price, as it doesn't come as standard when fitting new tyres - they also charged me £10 for 2 plastic valve caps, so go figure - I do not want to have to shell out another £60 for this repair. I need my car at the moment for work and things, so I cannot really go without my car.

Can I balance my wheels at home?

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    Sorry, is "tracking" what we would call a "front end alignment" in the US? Balancing tires should be pretty inexpensive. I'm not sure if there is a good home method - interested to see. – JPhi1618 Apr 13 '16 at 20:51
  • Yeah, but it's on all four wheels – George Apr 13 '16 at 20:53
  • Well, alignment is where the money is going. I just had that done for $89 here, so the price for tracking and balancing seems fair. Maybe the wheel threw off one of the weights? Seems like they should re-balance for free if it's still bad. – JPhi1618 Apr 13 '16 at 20:56
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One "at home" option is to use a manual wheel balancer like this model:

enter image description here

These are normally used for people that want to balance their own trailer tires or for off-road vehicles, but in many cases you can do a good enough job to balance a car tire with one.

Of course, once you pay $70-$90 USD for the device and buy a set of wheel weights and take the time to remove the wheel, balance it and reinstall it on the car, you really have to want to do it yourself for this to make sense.

The tire shop should re-balance the tire if it hasn't been long since the tires were purchased. Aside from purposely taking off a wheel weight, there's nothing you can do to make the tire unbalanced. It almost has to be the shop's fault for not balancing it correctly, or not installing the weight properly.

  • I use this to balance my motorcycle rims on at home and it works great. – DucatiKiller Apr 13 '16 at 21:41
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    That's a very balanced answer. – timbo Apr 14 '16 at 2:57
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No, you need a machine to balance wheels. If a wheel weight is off even a fraction of an inch it can throw off wheel balance.

What you can do is rotate the tires and see if your problem moves to the rear.

  • Bunk. You can totally balance wheels yourself with inexpensive tools. You don't need an expensive piezo electric machine. A bubble balancer from Harbor Freight will get you 99% of the way there. There are also straight shaft, two cones and bearing rest systems out there. – zipzit Apr 13 '16 at 20:58
  • @zipzit To be honest I've never seen one of these before. How well do they work? I would think static balancing a tire would be a waste of time for a high speed vibration. – Ben Apr 13 '16 at 21:10
  • Dynamic balance is recommended for very wide rims... The bubble tool just does static balance. From what I've seen they can determine a 1/2 ounce imbalance (but not a 1/4 ounce static imbalance.) Here's an image describing static vs dynamic imbalance. Its not clear to me on what type of shops test for dynamic imbalance. Most shops talk expensive machines, but they almost always install the weights in a single plane (same as the guys using a bubble level...) – zipzit Apr 13 '16 at 21:39
  • A dynamic balance involves spinning the wheel at speed. The centripetal forces cause differences in the distribution of the weight of the tire, which shows up as a dynamic imbalance (i.e. an imbalance that will only appear while the tire is spinning at a certain speed). This is something you can't do with a static balance. Installing the "weights in a single plane" has nothing to do with static/dynamic balancing. – Shamtam Apr 14 '16 at 13:41
  • I do my own motorcycle tires (mounting and static balancing) and have no issues. I haven't tried with car wheels/tires, so I can't say definitively just how much benefit you get from a dynamic balance vs a static one. To be honest, I wouldn't expect the difference to be huge, but I have no data to back up my claim (besides the claims of tire shops and balance machine manufacturers, who have an arguably biased point-of-view). – Shamtam Apr 14 '16 at 13:43
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I'd take it to a different garage if you don't trust the first one - and I wouldn't pay more than ~£5/wheel for balancing - but then I'd also never go to a garage that charged extra for it, the vast majority include it in the cost of fitting the new tyres. (I also refuse to go anywhere near one garage local to me after they charged me £2 extra for Nitrogen filling after I had a puncture repaired - not because of the cost, but because they didn't ask me first)

Tracking/Alignment is different, £60 sounds about normal for a full 4-wheel alignment, and extortionate if they just did the fronts...

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