In Summary
  • Some motorists do not understand the importance of wheel alignment and tyre balancing and how this can affect the tyre’s lifespan, as well as possibly having an effect on other mechanical factors.
  • After measuring pressure, the mechanic puts cramps on the tyres to hold sensors before switching them (sensors) on and thereafter they go to the computer to select the type of car whose alignment is to be done.

Tonny Mugabi owns a saloon Nissan Skyline. For the greater part of 2017, he had to buy new tyres almost after every three months. One day, his mechanic advised him to take the car for wheel balancing and alignment at a service station in Kampala.
“When I went to the recommended station, after carrying out a diagnosis, I was told that my rims were slightly bent which was causing faster, uneven wear and tear of tyres. I was told that I had to do wheel balancing and alignment to fix the problem,” Mugabi recalls, adding that since late 2017, he has not bought any new tyres.

Hamza Massadda, a wheel balancing and alignment technician at Wamuco Motors Uganda Limited in Industrial area, says wheel alignment unlike car service does not have a specific time frame or when it is supposed to be done, say after covering 10,000 kilometres.
He adds that being advised by a mechanic to do wheel alignment after a specific distance is misguidance. It is something he says is done whenever you feel your car is not stable on the road, especially when you release the steering wheel for a second and the car goes off the road.

“If you are driving, the steering wheel has to be straight even when you release it. There are times when the steering wheel is upside down or not upright that it affects either the inner or outer part of the tyres. If it is the inner part, it means the car is out of alignment and on the diagnosis machine, it will show a lot of negative signs,” Massadda explains, adding that sometimes the problem could be with the tyres themselves.

Causes of poor alignment
According to Massadda, during car service, your mechanic may alter the car suspension system, tyre rods, rack ends and sometimes the suspension bushes. “After rectifying either the tyre rod or suspension bushes, the mechanic does not bother to carry out alignment. This explains why you sometimes see vehicles on the road whose bodies go in a different direction while the tyres are also facing another direction,” he says.

Potholes
Potholes, too, make your car wheels lose alignment. However, Massadda says when you only drive in Kampala, it is possible to do alignment once in a year compared to driving upcountry where you drive on rough roads and into potholes, thus subjecting your car to frequent alignment. Hitting humps frequently also forces your car to lose its alignment. Massadda advises that for saloon cars, such as the Toyota Premio and Toyota Mark II, you have to ensure that your mechanic aligns both the rear and front sides. “When they align the front and neglect the rear, it means your wheels will not been aligned,” he advises.

Wheel balance
TSW, an online motoring portal defines wheel balancing as the process of balancing the weight of a tyre and wheel assembly so that the car travels evenly at high speeds.
Unlike alignment, wheel balancing is done on rims, which are in mainly two types. There are ordinary rims and sport rims. For sport rims, Massadda says balancing stick-ons are used to aid the mechanic in balancing wheels while balancing hooks are used in ordinary rims.

When it is to be done
Edgar Kaweesa, a mechanic at Sam’s Motor Garage in Wandegeya, says when you drive and the speedometre reaches the 80 kilometre mark, sometimes the steering wheel shakes. Your arms also visibly shake. But when you drive on and go above the 80 kilometres per hour mark, to say 100, the shaking surprisingly stops. And when you hit the 120 km/per hour mark, the shaking reappears.
“If you drive as you slow down to 100 and slow down further to 80 kilometres per hour and the shaking suddenly disappears compared to when you were accelerating, it is a sign that your rims need wheel balancing,” Massadda explains.

Advantages of wheel balancing
Edgar Kaweesa, a mechanic at Sam’s Motor Garage in Wandegeya, says the greatest advantage of having a balanced car is that it renders you very stable on the road and keeps you from panicking when the car suddenly shakes. You also feel comfortable that you can afford to do other things such as sip your coffee.
“So when you notice that either your wheels are not aligned correctly or an imbalance with your tyres, ensure that you find a mechanic that you can trust to address the issue as it will result in an increase in excessive tyre wear and more importantly but yours and others safety at risk,” Kaweesa advises.

Process of doing wheel alignment

The car is driven onto a pit from where it is diagnosed. After the car has been raised, the first procedure is to measure tyre pressure because it is also an effect of alignment. The front tyres must have the same tyre pressure as the rear tyres to get standardised alignment results. When the tyres do not have balanced pressure, the car will be bent and when it bends, the adjustment also tends to change.
After measuring pressure, the mechanic puts cramps on the tyres to hold sensors before switching them (sensors) on and thereafter they go to the computer to select the type of car whose alignment is to be done.

The advantage of having your car aligned is that it prevents the tyres from bursting. It also prolongs the durability of the tyres. If your car is not aligned, the tyres wear out unevenly.
“While carrying out alignment, you have to be present and ensure that mechanic is clear on the exact type of car for which alignment is to be done and all this is done on a computer. For example, for Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) such as Toyota TX or Toyota Prado, these come in different types,” Massadda advises.

Processes of wheel balancing
At the service station, the tyre nuts are unscrewed after either raising the car using the car lifter, which is also called a pit or after jerking it. The tyres are then put on a balancing machine to test the status and condition of the rim.
“Sometimes the tyre balancing could be in a fine state but when the rims are bent, the movement of the tyre on the balancing machine helps you understand and detect if the rim is bent,” Massadda says.

“If your car is being balanced, you have to be at the balancing machine to see what the mechanic or technician does to have an understanding of what wheel balancing is. When the grams on the inner and outer part of the tyre are the same, your rims are balanced. If it is 15 grams on the outside, the inside has to be 15 grams as well,” Massadda explains.
After putting the tyre on the wheel balancing machine, the technician feeds the machine using the keyboard the size of the rim they are balancing to enable it give them the digits or measurements of the same rim size.