Tire Rotation vs. Wheel Alignment: What’s the Difference?

Tire Rotation vs. Wheel Alignment: What’s the Difference?

Many aspects of car maintenance are intimidating to those not in the automotive industry. For example, two easily confused car services are wheel alignment vs. tire rotation (or tire balancing). “Aligning” and “balancing” are near-synonymous terms for making something even or equal, so the misunderstanding is understandable. For those looking to expand their knowledge on the topic, here’s our guide to the difference between these two important services.

Tire Rotation

The purpose of tire rotation is to ensure every tire on your car experiences even wear due to use. This is necessary because, depending on whether your car is Front-Wheel Drive (FWD) or Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD), the tires treads do not wear down equally. FWD cars deliver the force of the engine to the front two wheels, and due to the greater friction, the front tire material wears quicker than the rear wheels. Similarly, RWD provides force to the rear, wearing the back tires quicker. This means that after approximately 6,000 to 7,000 miles you will need to get your tires rotated. During which, a mechanic will switch your front wheels with the rear wheels, or vice versa. One difference between tire rotation and wheel alignment is that tire rotation is an expected service with a predictable timeframe. Tires wear differently if they’re over- or under-inflated, and your make and model may have different recommendations for when to rotate. However, tire rotation is something everyone has done regularly.

Wheel Alignment

The purpose of wheel alignment, on the other hand, is to make sure your wheels’ orientation lines up with the direction of the steering wheel. This allows your car to drive straight when your steering wheel is straight, rather than the wheels pulling right or left. Wheel alignment involves adjusting the angle of your car’s axles and wheels to make this possible. Having your wheels aligned differs from rotating your tires in that alignment is not a regular service for a car. Alignments are most often necessary after colliding with something, running over a significant pothole, or other extreme circumstances. You can have a professional check your wheels every 10,000 miles or so to make sure nothing is amiss though.

Regardless of their differences, each of these services is an important solution to maintenance problems for your car. If you happen to need either a tire rotation or wheel alignment in the future, look into RNR Tire Express—a leading tire shop in Colorado Springs. We can perform these tasks and get your car back on the road in no time.

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