Fleet Maintenance Supply Experts

Wheel Weights Bring Good Vibes by Fixing Troublesome Vibrations

Wheel Weights

You’ll know it when you feel it. You’re accelerating easily without a care until you hit 60 or 70 mph, and then it hits…

Suddenly there’s a bone-rattling, teeth-chattering vibration shaking your hands, feet and seat from the steering wheel to the floorboard.

It’s the telltale sign that you have an unbalanced tire or tires and you’ll be needing wheel weights.

So let the fleet supply experts at Imperial help smooth things out.

How Wheel Weights Work

Wheel weights are small weights of just a few ounces that are applied to tires to keep them in balance. It doesn’t matter whether you’re driving a sports car or a big rig, all wheels require balancing and it’s done with wheel weights made of soft metals like lead or polymer-coated zinc and steel.

Shops regularly perform the precise work of applying weights using balancing machines. It’s all a matter of physics. Small weights are applied to the wheel in specific locations where they provide a counterbalance that distributes the wheel’s mass evenly around the axis of rotation.

Balanced wheels rotate without vibration, but no wheel is perfect. Even brand-new ones require balancing. And things happen along the road of life that knock them out of adjustment.

That makes balancing an important line item in preventative maintenance. Balanced tires support efficiency and protect equipment by eliminating vibration. Conversely, unbalanced tires bring inefficiency and increase the wear and tear on equipment, tires—and even drivers.

Why You Need Wheel Weights

1.    Vibrations from out of balance wheels damage shocks, springs, bearings and more

2.    Imbalanced wheels lower fuel efficiency

3.    Tire wear is accelerated when wheels are out of balance

4.    Shaking from unbalanced tires causes driver fatigue

5.    A rough ride from tire vibration can damage freight

6.    Instability from imbalanced wheels makes driving in slippery conditions harder

Balancing Tires with Wheel Weights

Maintaining proper wheel balance is key to keeping a vehicle’s tires and suspension in good shape. Applying wheel weights is a job for experts using special machines. Local garages and fleet shops are well familiar with the task.

The process starts with a tire mounted on a wheel being attached to the balancing machine. As the wheel spins, readings are taken which inform the tech whether the wheel’s weight is evenly spread or if weight needs to be applied to balance the wheel. The machine directs the tech where and how much weight to add.

When to Balance Tires

It’s a good idea to get tire-balancing done whenever a vibration is felt in the steering wheel, seat or floorboard. Tire balancing is also in order when you purchase new tires or get a flat and the tire is repaired. If you see that a weight has fallen off the rim or that a tire has uneven wear, you should balance the tires.

For convenience, tires are often balanced at the same time they’re rotated. Which brings up an important point. Tire balancing is different than tire rotation which shifts the positions of the tires so they wear evenly. Balancing is also different than wheel alignment, which adjusts the angle of wheels.

Two Main Types of Wheel Weights

The two main types of wheel weights are clip-on wheel weights and adhesive wheel weights. Clip-ons are the classic design applied directly to the rim flange. Adhesive styles tend to be less noticeable because they sveltely stick directly to the area inside the rim.

Clip-on wheel weights or knock-on wheel weights can be faster to attach and replace on the inside or outside of rims. You can often balance a tire with less clip-on weights than adhesives, too. Because they’re attached to the rim, they are out of the way of wheel components. On the downside, some people don’t like the look of clip-ons. And because they are hammered into position, they can ding or scratch rims. They can also be more expensive than adhesive weights.

Adhesive wheel weights apply right to the inside of the wheel. They don’t scratch or stain rims. They have a low profile and tend to be less expensive than clip-ons. They’re easier to remove without dinging the rim, too. Some of the negatives are that they can take longer to apply because you must clean off rims before sticking them on. Their adhesive can also wear off over time.

Weighty Benefits for Heavy Trucks

For owners of semi-trucks, fleet managers and fleet owners, the benefits of keeping tires in balance add up.

1.    Fuel efficiency - Balancing every wheel on an 18-wheeler can save up to 2.2% of fuel compared to trucks with non-balanced wheel assemblies.  

2.    Tire savings – Tire life can be extended 30% through consistent balancing, according to the Commercial Carrier Journal.

3.    Less maintenance – With less vibration from out-of-balance wheels, there is less wear on suspension.

4.    Better reliability – The wear that results from excess vibration can take tractors off the road unexpectedly and lead to expensive breakdowns.

5.    Driver satisfaction – Keeping equipment running smoothly with no steering vibration supports drivers—and driver retention.  

Why Many Fleets Resist Balancing Tires

It’s plain physics and the business benefits are there. So why do so many fleets and truck drivers not balance their wheels? If they did, they could make solid gains on fuel economy, tire longevity and more.

The plain truth is that 18-wheelers have a lot of wheels to balance. Balancing one wheel can take 10-15 minutes, multiply that by 18 and you could be talking 4-1/2 hours.

That’s real time that a truck is off the road and not making money. It’s additional workload to a busy shop and added labor expense, too. For a fleet of 100 or 1000, balancing tires is a new responsibility that would tap into existing resources.

Weighing in on Alternatives to Wheel Weights

There’s no way around the reality that balanced tires breed efficiency. But the effort required to keep 18-wheelers in a state of balance remains a stumbling block for truckers and fleets.

There are two ways around clip-ons and adhesive weights. One goes inside the tire and the other goes on the outside.

Balancing beads, also known as balancing compounds, can be injected into tires through the valve stem. Once installed they keep tires in a constant state of balance as wheels rotate. The compound inside the tire distributes itself inside the tire depending on where weight is needed. A smooth, vibration-free ride results.

Onboard balancers, also called balancing rings, are mounted outside of wheels. These devices dynamically balance the whole wheel assembly—brakes, tires and wheels. They react to the balance condition of the wheel assembly and move weight where it is needed continuously.

Seeking a Balanced Solution

Fleets and truckers have options in balancing beads and onboard balancers. They are also benefitting from advances in balancing machines that are making the job of adding wheel weights faster and easier than ever.

Implementing workable practices, especially for fleets, may require a larger compromise, nonetheless. One workaround advocated by industry professionals is to balance the steer wheels of tractors at regular intervals—oftentimes at 20,000 miles—and not balance drive and trailer wheels. Then at least the wheels most important for safety and control are taken care of.

What’s your most effective and efficient tire strategy? Discuss your options with your team at Imperial Supplies. With over 60 years of fleet maintenance experience and 567 wheel weights in stock, we can help you find a balanced solution.

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