Dear Tom and Ray: I have enjoyed reading your help for car owners for years. Now I need your help. When I was working and had my car, I took care of my own maintenance. When I had the tires rotated, I always paid to have them balanced. Now retired, my husband and I share a car. We recently had the tires rotated on our 2007 Toyota Corolla. My husband would not pay to have the tires balanced. He said this is not necessary unless new tires are put on. He said the tires had been balanced when they were first put on the rims, and balancing is not needed just because they are now in a different position on the car. Is he right?
Ray: You might want to sit down, Dorothy. Because he is right.
Tom: Take a few deep breaths, Dorothy. The lightheaded feeling will pass. Generally speaking, tires get balanced for specific wheels, or rims, as you call them. So if you move the whole package (tire and wheel) to another position on the car, it shouldn't need to be balanced again.
Ray: Now, there are exceptions. Tires can become unbalanced. Like my brother.
Tom: Sure. The most common causes of unbalanced tires are wheel weights that fall off, bent rims or tires that have been damaged. Those events often are associated with hitting a curb or driving over a really nasty pothole.
Ray: If a front wheel were to go out of balance due to some such event, you'd probably notice that right away. You'd get a shimmy or wobble that would get telegraphed up the steering wheel. But if it happens to a rear wheel, it might go unnoticed for a while.
Tom: And if you then have your tires rotated, and that unbalanced rear tire then gets rotated to the front, you'll suddenly notice a problem. In that case, a rebalancing would be necessary.
Ray: But your husband is right, Dorothy. The tires don't have to be balanced automatically whenever they're rotated. If you drive away and have a problem, then you can go back and try to blame it on the guys who rotated the tires. And when that doesn't work, you can pay them to rebalance the tires.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)