With wheel and tire season coming up fast for the summer driving season, there’s no better time to talk tires. While it’s been discussed heavily that you should always keep your tires inflated to the recommended pressure, there’s another aspect of tire maintenance that all too often goes overlooked – their balance.
By neglecting this basic maintenance need, your tires can make your car shake and vibrate at speed and wear out other parts of your car early by putting extra strain on them. That’s right, by not doing this simple thing, you could be wearing out your tires prematurely and getting worse Fuel Economy than you should be getting.
Worse, the antiquated old balancing machines found in most tire shops today are not Road Force balanced, meaning that while it checks out on their machine, in real life, it may vibrate quite a bit.
Balancing Your Wheels & Tires. Contrary to popular misconception, balancing your tires is not a once-and-done affair. Oh no- the fact is that every bump and corner affects the balance of the tire, and so naturally, over time the tires get out of balance gain. This is why it is important to have your tires balanced regularly. By ensuring your tires are properly in balance, they’ll wear evenly, run smoother – and you’ll get better mileage. (With fuel nearly $5/gallon these days, you need every MPG you can get!)
First and foremost, you’ll probably notice a vibration at speeds over 40mph, especially if the front tires are out of balance. What’s more, besides the vibration, it causes uneven tire wear. The lack of balance, vibration and uneven wear also all put extra strain on the wheel bearings and suspension system, wearing the components out early. Uneven tire wear is difficult to correct once it’s happened and an imbalanced tire takes more effort to turn, which will take a bite out of your fuel economy.
How can an imbalance of a few ounces cause my whole car to vibrate?
A lightweight wheel might come in at 15-20 lbs depending on its size, yet just a few ounces can throw the wheel out of balance. To explain why this is, here’s a simple explanation of the forces at work: Have you ever played on a playground Merry-Go-Round? Did you ever get the Merry-Go-Round spinning really fast and notice how gravity made you feel really heavy and tried to throw you off? Or another example, have you watched what happens when you’ve thrown something heavy in the drier? That’s centrifugal force in action. The weight of that object throwing the drum off balance and making the drier jump around and the merry go round trying to throw you off is a lot like what an imbalanced tire is doing to your suspension and why it vibrates.
Now consider how fast your wheel is actually spinning as you go down the road at 65mph. That centrifugal force becomes stronger, making the wheel act heavier than it actually is – as much as FOUR TIMES its original weight (depending on speed). We should also note the same physics at work here are the reason why a car with light weight wheels will be faster and handle better than an otherwise identical car with heavier wheels. And of course, as that weight increases the weight of the imbalance increases, amplifying the vibration. It’s a bad time.
Does it matter which machine I use to have my tires balanced?
Most people also forget to consider is HOW the tires themselves are balanced. Things have evolved significantly in the automotive world, and much like the carburetor is woefully out of date, so too is the traditional tire balancing machine. The ancient balancing machines of yesteryear still found in some shops today don’t “road test” the mounted wheel and tire assembly to test nearly every aspect of a tire and wheel combination’s behavior that may contribute to vibrations. The reason Road Testing is so important is because a tire is flexible, so this means that when you have the weight of a car sitting on a tire, the tire will deform slightly, shifting the balance of the tire.
We use a Hunter ELITE Road Force Balancer, a versatile test rig that uses a special hydraulic roller to apply up to 1400lbs of rolling road force against the wheel and tire to evaluate the balance of the assembly as a whole to confirm that the wheel and tire is properly “round” when rolling while loaded. In addition, this machine also Laser 3d Scans every wheel and features even more sensitive electronics than our older Hunter GSP9700, which though somewhat outdated relative to our new ELITE, is still superior to 99% of Tire Service centers in the region. This high tech machine can also check lateral and radial rim runout to determine if a wheel is out of round or has any side-to-side movement, independent of testing tire runout.
After it finds an imbalance in either the wheel or tire, this slick system then calculates a solution to balance the wheel and then presents the technician with easy to follow instructions as to how to fix it.
Should a wheel and tire still be at the edge of acceptable tolerances, the ForceMatching feature of the Hunter ELITE Road Force Balancer will then align the high point of the tire with the low spot on the wheel, helping to improve ride quality by dramatically reducing the combined effects of tire force variation and runout of the wheel rim. These modern features and the fine level of detail are why you should have your tires Road Force Balanced.
How often should you balance your tires?
A good general guide to have the tires rotated and balanced approximately every 4,000 to 6,000 miles – or any time that you replace or patch a tire. Considering that you should rotate your tires about this often anyways, it’s a great idea to rotate and balance the tires at the same time.
Need your wheels and tires rotated and balanced? We invite you to let us rotate and balance your wheels and tires for you at our full-service Installation & Tech Center in sunny La Habra, CA. Click here to make an appointment on our HUNTER ELITE Road Force Balancer and get precision balancing done. If you have questions about a wheel or tire package, we invite you to speak to our Enthusiastic and Knowledgeable Modification Experts – Call us at 714-582-3330 or visit www.ModBargains.com today!