We all love to pamper our cars. Although we spend thousands of rupees on their detailing, Wheel Alignment and Balancing remain one of the often-neglected areas in car care. The unfortunate reason being they are one of the most critical aspects in the well-being of our cars.
What exactly is Wheel Balancing?
What is Wheel Alignment?
What are some important things to keep in mind?
What is the role the right equipment plays?
These are some of the questions that might bother you and to find the answers to these mysterious sets of questions, we decided to visit the Madhus Garage Equipment Corporate office and training center in Bangalore without a second thought. Madhus is the authorized importer and distributor of Hunter Engineering Company’s critically-acclaimed products in India. Hunter Engineering manufactures the some of the world’s best wheel alignment and wheel balancing equipment along with other products.
More importantly, we are going to understand the importance of using the right equipment from Hunter Engineering Company and the role that Hunter Road Force Elite plays in this critical process.
But, before we get into the alleged-complex process (trust me by the end of this article, you would be puzzled on how simple the process is), let’s take a quick recap on the basics.
Why is Balancing necessary?
Tyre imbalance can occur when the tyre tread wears down and the weight distribution changes. However, putting undue strain on the tyres through poor road conditions, heavy braking, and cornering may speed up the process.
Just like the dreaded Coronavirus (apologies for the analogy), the need for balancing could be symptomatic or asymptomatic.
Consider yourself fortunate if the symptoms are shown in the early stages. Some of the common symptoms could be:
- The car experiences vibrations at high speeds;
- There’s uneven wear on the tread;
- There are issues with the suspension.
Hence, Tyres are balanced to counter these anomalies.
The primary goal of tire balance is to distribute weight equally around the entire circumference of the tyre.
How is it done?
Dynamic balancing is a technique using spinning computer balancers to measure the tyre and wheel assembly’s imbalance forces. The technician places a fully assembled tyre on a machine and rotates it at a speed ranging from 16-25 kmph. As it is spun, the sensors of the machine measure the total vibration forces, and then using the data that has been input (like the size of the wheel, tyre, etc, the computer is able to compute the imbalance of the assembly in grams and also identify at which spot the weight has to be placed.
With the analysis complete, the computer then specifies how much weight and where the technician should apply to balance the tyre. The small weights – either clip-on or adhesive – are added to both the inner and outer sides of the wheel rim to provide the highest precision and balance. Hunter’s Wheel Balancers have a special SmartWeight feature which minimises weight consumption while ensuring that the vibrations are reduced to zero.
But, isn’t this like practicing rifle shooting against dummies?
The real world scenarios are supposed to be far more complex! The process of wheel balancing also succumbs to this.
Unfortunately, when you get your car balanced at a shop that has normal equipment, it does not consider the most important factor while doing the operation. That is, it does not consider the real-world scenarios, the force exerted by the road on the tyre.
Isn’t this unfair?
Say Hello to the World of Hunter engineering. Hunter Road Force Elite to be precise! The world’s fastest diagnostic wheel balancer. Contrary to the traditional balancing machines, it also takes into consideration the force exerted by the road on the surface of the tyre, that’s why – Road Force! Not just that the Road force elite can also identify and minimise tyre and wheel-related pulling and vibrations.
For example, if we feel that the car is causing vibrations in a particular speed band, say 80-100 kmph, that could largely be possible due to the difference in stiffness of the sidewalls in 2 parts of the same tire. This is due to a phenomenon called ‘radial force variation’ The Hunter road force elite identifies these variations and tells us if it is within the tolerance limit and if not how we reduce the anomalies by following a procedure called force matching.
Imagine you are on your much-awaited road trip to Goa, playing Dil Chahta Hai. Everything seems fine on the way but suddenly your car starts to behave weirdly. It starts pulling on your left or right. This gets irritating over time and the first thing you do the next morning is going to the nearest wheel alignment shop called ‘ABC Best in town wheel alignment’. Of course with the limited equipment that they have, the only solution they suggest apart from the wheel alignment is by swapping the position of tyres from left to right and front to back. With all multiple permutations and combinations possible. You drive out and after a couple of days the problem persists and you end up spending a significant chunk of your bandwidth on this by visiting multiple shops.
Thankfully, that won’t happen in the Hunter Roadforce Elite because it can measure and identify the tyre-related pulling problem and it will also suggest the respective best positions for all 4 tires so that this pulling does not persist. There are laser-guided mechanisms that help out in chalking the dimensions of the entire tyre. As we discussed earlier a whopping 650 kg of force is exerted when balancing them to imitate real-world conditions.
But, isn’t something so advanced supposed to be complex? Exactly wrong. The road force elite is one of the most user-friendly machines for balancing. Firstly, the UI is brilliant and easy to understand. All you have to do is just place the tyre in the machine and inflate it. No, don’t worry you won’t have to go anywhere else for the inflation as the machine comes with an inbuilt inflator. Once you are done just close the hood and watch the magic unfold! The secret recipe of this magic is that the lasers and cameras are measuring the dimensions of your tire through a 3D scan and then the massive 650 kg of force is exerted on the tyre.
If you decide to decode the secret recipe further, you can see the sidewalls of the tyre flexing. This is as real-world simulation as possible. After approximately 70 seconds, the machine displays the health of your tire with a detailed report. In this case, you can see the radial force variation of xN. If we have to reduce this, we need to do something called force matching. That’s matching the hardest spot on the tire to the lowest spot on rim runout.
But, what’s further interesting is how beautifully the road force elite diagnoses the pulling issue we spoke of. It displays that with the current tyre setup the pulling force is expected. You can drag and drop the tyres using the seamless touchscreen interface and see the amount of pulling in different combinations. Don’t want to ponder over it? Simply tap the ‘show least pull’ and the machine cleverly suggests you the best, or rather the most feasible combination of all 4 tyres.
Intelligent enough? Not that the system is far more accurate than what the human intervention would lead to but it saves some serious time. All this alleged-complex process takes place in just a few seconds as compared to the endless hours you would have to spend manually figuring out the ideal swapping positions with trials after trials and endless wastage of precious man hours.
If the equipment has such extreme capabilities, pretty sure many of the leading automotive manufacturers might have them in their workshops, right? Of course, worldwide, from Mercedes to Porsche, from Kia to Nissan everyone approves of this dynamic, world-class wheel balancing machine. However, in India, outside of a few BMW, Porsche and Lamborghini workshops, this is found more often in premium tyre stores near you. An easy way to find a Road Force Balancer near you is to go to www.hunterindia.com and click on the equipment locator and filter for all road force balancing equipment in India.
Myth: Wheel alignment refers to adjustments of wheels or tyres
Fact: Wheel alignment refers to the adjustment of the car’s suspension in order to achieve a suitable angle at which the tyres make contact with the road.
But, how will the car communicate to you if it needs an alignment?
- If it seems hard to keep the car straight even while cruising at low speed. Basically, if it pulls on a particular side;
- If the steering wheel begins to transmit heavy vibrations;
- If you observe indented tread wear on the tyres;
Hunter Engineering Company Recommends a regular wheel alignment check every 5,000 km or 1 year to ensure longer tyre life and a safer, smoother and more comfortable highway drive. Most modern cars are designed quite well and a slight misalignment doesn’t cause major problems but they can accelerate the tyre’s wear and tear.
How do we achieve proper alignment? We need to focus on 3 major aspects:
- Camber Angle
- Caster Angle
- Toe Angle
Camber Angle: The camber angle is perfectly visible when viewed from the front of the car. The camber angle could be positive or negative. A negative camber angle improves the cornering of the car
Caster Angle: Before we go further let’s understand the importance of the Caster angle with an example. Once you take a turn, the steering has the ability to return to its original position, this is possible due to the caster angle. Your caster angle helps balance steering, stability, and cornering. Specifically, it’s the angle of your steering axis when viewed from the side of your vehicle. If you have a positive caster, the steering axis will tilt toward the driver. Negative caster, on the other hand, means the steering axis tilts toward the front of your vehicle.
The technician tends to find the fine balance between positive caster angle and negative caster angle to correct misalignment. Also, most cars in India don’t have adjustable caster. Very few cars have it mostly consisting of Body-on-frame vehicles like the Innova, Safari, Scorpio, etc.
Toe Angle: The most sensitive of the 3 angles. Ideally, the toe angle should be zero for minimum wear and tear on the tire but this is not practical. Toe alignment is the extent to which your tyres turn inward or outward when viewed from above. If that’s confusing, just stand up and look down at your feet. Angle them inward toward the center of your body. When the tires on your car are angled the same way (remember, we’re thinking in terms of bird’s-eye view), we call this toe-in alignment. Angle your feet outward and you have toe-out alignment. Both require adjustment.
It’s very clear now that wheel alignment is a very crucial aspect of well being of your car. But, the equipment and machinery are just as important in order to achieve precise alignment. That’s exactly where the wheel aligner from Hunter engineering comes into the picture. The aligners are made in the USA in 4 manufacturing plants. With a staggering market share of 80% in the US with over 350 patents, it has a very strong reputation. Let’s take a quick look at what is also called the World’s best wheel alignment machine.
Hunter Hawk Eye elite:
The Hunter HawkEye Elite is the world’s best alignment machine by far. It has 4 high-resolution cameras to ensure the highest level of accuracy while also increasing the speed of measurements. The measurement can be done in approximately 70 seconds by a trained technician. The special quick-grip wheel adaptors are unique in their design that they ensure there are no scratches on the nice alloy wheels available even as standard from the factory.
The premium WInAlign software comes loaded with powerful features to ensure that any vehicle, whether a city runabout Maruti 800 or a track beast like the Ferrari 488 Pista, can be aligned perfectly. It comes with a large database that has the alignment specifications of pretty much every car ever made in the last 40 years. It also comes with a ton of help and information features which guide the technician to perform a full alignment on any car, even supercars he may not be familiar with. Let’s take a quick demonstration of what makes it one of the most accurate machines yet extremely easy to operate.
What happens in those crucial 70 seconds?
- Drive the vehicle on, stop before turnplates;
- Chock wheels and raise the lift to work height;
- Mount targets and set air pressure;
- Roll forward to compensate sensors;
- Recall specs and perform enhanced caster steer;
- Vehicle results print automatically;
5 Reasons to get Wheel Alignment and Road Force Balancing done
- Misaligned wheels result in uneven tyre wear which means you could end up replacing your tyres way sooner than they actually should be.
- Even unbalanced wheels can result in uneven tyre wear due to the way the tyres make contact with the road continuously.
- An imbalanced wheel can cause serious steering vibrations thus increasing the effort to steer the car. This can also cause serious fatigue for the driver resulting in loss of concentration and muscle injuries if not rectified.
- Misaligned tyres can also cause the car to pull to one particular direction thereby increasing the probability of accidents.
- A lot of driver-assisted systems like ADAS read the input data from steering, if the wheels are misaligned the readings can be wrong thereby leading to the inaccuracy of these sensitive systems which could be a potential safety hazard.
Advantages of Road Force Balancing
- Unlike traditional balancing machines, it takes into consideration the force exerted by the road.
- Road force elite can also identify and minimise tyre and wheel-related pulling and vibrations.
- It can measure and identify tyre-related pulling problems and can also suggest the best positions for all 4 tires so that pulling does not persist.
- Laser-guided mechanism and 3D scanners for extreme precision.
- Very easy to use the balancer with a crisp interface. Can be easily learnt by anyone with limited knowledge.
Check out our video about the Art of Wheel Balancing & Wheel Alignment, featuring Hunter Engineering Road Force Elite by clicking here!