Alignment technicians place sensors on the wheels of the car to check the alignment and removing the wheels to place them on a machine to balance them. Although the symptoms of these two issues are sometimes confused, they are different.
You know your wheels are out of alignment when the automobile pulls to one side or the other. Check this by driving slowly on a road with little or no traffic, and release the steering wheel. If the vehicle drifts one way or the other, have a technician look at it. Bad alignment causes rapid and uneven wear and tear on the tires.
The best sign letting you know wheels are out of balance is vibration. If you feel the vibration in the steering wheel, the problem is the front wheels. If you feel the vibration in the seat, check the back wheels.
Inspecting the tread of the tires allows consumers to know how bad the alignment of the wheels is. One way to inspect the tire is to stick a coin inside the tread at several locations on the tire and take note of the difference. Another method requires looking at the tread. If the tread on a tire wears on one side more than the other, replace that tire, as this leads to misalignment.