Why Balancing is Important

November 2013, - Department

by Jim Park, Equipment Editor - Also by this author

SHARING TOOLS        | Print Subscribe

In the absence of any hard statistics, reliable estimates suggest only about 20% of heavy-duty truck tires are ever balanced.

That math suggests steer tires are the most likely candidates for balancing, and the reasons are fairly intuitive. Steer tires seem to exhibit balance-related irregular wear more rapidly than drive or trailer tires, and if there’s a balance issue drivers will notice the vibration and complain about it.

On top of that, distributors of premium-brand tires will tell you that modern manufacturing processes are so exacting that their tires do not need to be balanced. While that’s probably true, it’s only part of the story. You’re not balancing the tire alone.

The aim is to balance the entire rotating mass that’s mounted onto the axle spindle, including the hub, brake drum, the wheel and, of course, the tire. When new, the tire may not need balancing, but as rubber wears off the tire, it seldom comes off evenly, especially if irregular wear – however caused – is present.

Continuous lifetime balancing keeps the entire wheel-end assembly in balance as long as some balancing medium is present.

The problem with tire weights, according to Mike Beckett of MD Alignment in Des Moines, Iowa, is that balancing a wheel when new often doesn’t account for irregularities in the hub and brake drum, and it certainly doesn’t adjust for tire wear.

“Correct balance derived using wheel weights gets you a single-point-in time balance,” Beckett says. “If some other problem produces uneven wear, the balance of the tire will change, but the weights won’t.”   

According to Robert Coolidge, president of Centramatic, wheels using fixed weights need to be balanced repeatedly over the life of the tire.

“Balancing isn’t something a fleet will do every time a tire is changed or a flat is repaired,” he says.

“I’ve heard that it’s recommended that tires be rebalanced every 20,000 miles, but that’s just not practical. I know some fleets that do it at 50,000, but they are the exception.”

If a wheel assembly were rebalanced regularly, it would probably wear better – barring other wear-inducing problems, such as poor alignment. The better brands of internal, or in the case of Centramatic, external, balancing compounds can maintain proper balance over the life of the tire, because the medium is free to move about the tire and react to high and low areas of imbalance.  

If you look at balancing from a life-cycle point of view, the value of extending tread life speaks for itself. There’s also casing integrity to consider, retreadability, and to a growing degree, and disposal costs. Yes, 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.

Related Article: Getting the Lead Out (of wheel weights)


  1. 1. Ken Reilly [ November 12, 2013 @ 10:26AM ]

    I have been in the automotive business for over 35 years and the best fomr of balancing is the older high speed storbe on the vehicle method. I rarely see anybody doing it that way especially ever since the computer machines come on the scene. I currently work in a fleet enviroment and we balance every time we change a tire or repair one.

  2. 2. Henry Wilkins [ November 13, 2013 @ 08:33PM ]

    The balancing is important especially for the heavy load carriers. Even though the fleet drivers or the truckers don't do it as consulted, it is good to do rather than learning it in a worse way. Rotating the tires every 20,000-30,000 miles and checking for their wear and tear is a must. It is always good to check in to a good truck service and balance your tires, before you load your truck.

  3. 3. David Drown [ November 14, 2013 @ 08:49AM ]

    After 31 years with a major a tire manufacture, I have heard a lot about not having to balance today's quality built tires. I totally agree with this article and the fact that new tires may not require balancing. But once they are put into service and begin to wear, they all benefit from being balanced. Internal balancing products, be it powders, beads or liquid are the best way to go for continuous balancing. One application for the life of the tire is all that is needed and that makes it economically feasible to maintain tire / wheel assembly balancing of all wheel positions. Each internal product offers it's own benefits. I suggest you look at to see the added benefits liquids have to offer

  4. 4. Greg Brock [ November 14, 2013 @ 09:14PM ]

    Every tire manufacturer will dedicate multiple pages in their technical manuals related to practices to ensure proper mounting to achieve concentric assemblies to reduce/prevent radial run out. Only a paragraph, maybe two, will discuss balancing. Radial run out forces have a greater impact on ride quality and tire wear than imbalance forces. To prevent and solve balance and non-imbalance vibrations, look for the Hunter Engineering Forcematch HD balance/uniformity system.


Comment On This Story

Comment: (Maximum 2000 characters)  
Leave this field empty:
* Please note that every comment is moderated.


We offer e-newsletters that deliver targeted news and information for the entire fleet industry.


ELDs and Telematics

sponsored by
sponsor logo

Scott Sutarik from Geotab will answer your questions and challenges

View All

Sleeper Cab Power

Steve Carlson from Xantrex will answer your questions and challenges

View All