Who Balances Trailer Wheels?

December 2013, - WebXclusive

by Jim Park, Equipment Editor - Also by this author

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The more unbalance rubber you have on the road, the more it's costing you. (Photo by Jim Park)
The more unbalance rubber you have on the road, the more it's costing you. (Photo by Jim Park)

"There’s also casing integrity to consider, retreadability and to a growing degree, disposal costs. Sure there’s an upfront cost to balancing, but it’s more than offset in the long run -- if you take the right approach from the start." 

Lifecycle Cost

According to Ian Savidge, marketing manager at Magnum, internal compounds, such as Counteract, Equal and Magnum, and the external balancing rings too, are reusable, won't damage tire casings, are environmentally benign and claim to provide lifetime balancing of not just the tire/wheel assembly but the entire wheel-end from the hub out to the tire. And because of their dynamic properties, they will maintain wheel balance even as the tire changes shape with age.

"You get all that for roughly the price of one dynamic wheel balance," Savidge claims. "And these products last the life time of the tire. It's no surprise that fleets don't follow the recommended 20,000- to 40,000-mile balancing interval for traditional methods. That would be tremendously expensive."

So indeed, who balances trailer wheels? According to Savidge, only about 20% of all heavy truck tires are balanced, one way or the other. That means 80% of the tires out there are literally at the whim of the condition of their tread. When a tire starts to show signs of irregular wear, it's often difficult to stop or reverse the trend. Balancing compounds will not prevent some externally imposed irregular wear, but they will slow the process by compensating for the missing rubber on the tire while maintaining true rotation.

If longer miles to take-off and less suspension maintenance due to unbalanced wheels isn't enough, Coley Wolkoff, National Accounts manager at Counteract Balancing beads, says his product will save fuel too.

Counteract conducted tests at Auburn University's Advanced Vehicle Evaluation facility in Alabama, and found a 2.2% improvement fuel economy. Evaluation in actual customer trucks showed even greater improvement, he says.

"When Counteract Balancing Beads were installed in all the wheels of the truck fleet of one of our customers -- about 100 trucks in all -- running line haul from Missouri to California, they measured an estimated fuel savings of more than 5.5% on fuel per truck," he says. "We also measured a significant drop in casing temperature in properly balanced wheels, which helps reduce tread wear."

CentraMatic's Coolidge also points to potential fuel savings from properly balanced wheels. He calculates that an out-of-balance wheel can sap up to 10 horsepower overcoming the additional tire flex and excess suspension motion.

"If you don't currently balance, or only balance the tire and wheel at initial installation, the direct cost is about the same as a balancing ring," he says. "When you consider the time and labor savings at installation and the reduced tread wear and reduction in driver complaints over the life of the truck, maybe four to 10 years, the savings are hard to ignore."

Maybe now is a good time to take another look at balancing trailer wheels. Some of the less mainstream alternatives such as internal balancing compounds and balancing rings do not require rebalancing and they can stay with the tire or wheel for life. All of which are the traditional arguments for not balancing drive or trailer wheels.

At the very least, these products offer true dynamic wheel assembly balancing all the while the wheel remains mounted on the truck. How long you choose to run that tire at any wheel position is up to you, but tread condition is often a deciding factor in when to pull the tire. If the tread lasts longer, the tire will stay in service longer, and that saves money. Period.

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  1. 1. Mike Pennington [ December 27, 2013 @ 06:03AM ]

    Insightful reporting. Thanks Jim


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