Illustration by Lesley WimbushM
Got the shakes?
Ice causes imbalance

If you have aluminum wheels on your vehicle in the winter, I can assure you that this has happened to you – and what you did about it depended on whether you knew what it was or not.
Here is a true story; A young lad heads straight to his local dealer because he has just started his drive to work and his car is vibrating heavily at highway speeds and he is understandably concerned that something is very, very wrong with his car.
When he gets to the dealer, the car sits in the heated reception area waiting on a technician. Ten minutes later, the tech goes for a drive and comes back to report there is no vibration.
What happened?
Well, said car has aluminum wheels and when parked in snow overnight, snow and ice stick to the inside of the rim.
Then, in the morning, off he goes to work and the ice that is on the rim caused the wheel to be out of balance, causing the vibration – a lot of ice equals a lot of vibration.
Wheels have to be balanced, which is done by the little weights you see attached to the rims, so the car doesn’t shake like crazy when you drive it. The ice was acting like an additional weight, causing the wheels to be out of balance. When the car was then parked in the heated reception area, it warmed up, and the ice fell off…no more imbalance of the wheel.
Steel wheels, which are common on ‘winter tire and wheel’ packages don’t have the same problem simply because there aren’t the large gaps that are common on aluminum wheels so the ice and snow can’t build up on them.
So, if you happen to experience this problem, the best thing to do is to pull over – safely – to the side of the road and have a look at the ‘spokes’ of your rims. If you see any ice build-up, simply use your ice scraper to clean off the wheel. I should also say that it might be more than one wheel, so check them all.


Ice buildup causes the wheel to be out of balance....iphoto by Russ Bond

Having wheels out of balance can cause significant problems, as the wheel shakes all the suspension bushings, and other components, which can wear them out quicker.
So, now you know, if your vehicle vibrates when you set out on your journey in the winter, stop, and look for ice on the wheels – and save yourself a trip to the dealer.