Tire maintenance & safety

Tire balance: Overview & balance tests

Tire balance is synonymous with the term tire imbalance. Usually, when you have tires mounted, they're also balanced. Wheel and tire coupling creates a specific tire balance or imbalance for real-time, road-worthy travel. Tire balance is often a term used with other tire procedures such as tire rotation or tire and wheel alignment, yet these are not interchangeable. They're different aspects of tire and wheel maintenance. Tire balance is always the goal and is a process used in order to make a vehicle its most efficient and gentle ride with all factors considered.

What is Tire Balance?

Tire balance focuses on the distribution of the tire's mass around the wheel on which it's mounted. A tire can have heavy and light spots, meaning the tire's weight is unevenly distributed around the wheel. This imbalance can cause significant issues with ride comfort, tire wear, an overactive suspension, and safety concerns when maneuvering, braking, and accelerating. In order to achieve a balanced tire and wheel setup, mechanics and tire technicians will use a series of balancing instruments and simple weights to achieve the desired tire balance.

How to Achieve Tire Balance

The technology in tire balance tools used in most mechanical garages, dealerships, and advanced tire shops has increased in the last several years. There are two ways in which these professionals measure tire balance. They are static balance and dynamic balance.

Static Balance Test

A static balance test requires a balancing machine. The tire is placed on the machine and based on the imbalance in the tire and wheel setup, the machine produces data showing where the imbalance takes place in the setup and how much imbalance occurs. Tire balance is restored by adding simple weights to the inner and outer flanges of a wheel or rim.

Dynamic Balance Test

Dynamic balance is more complex than static balance. Vehicle manufacturers perform this when engineering the automobile and testing tires on a replicated test wheel. A dynamic balancing machine tests the wheel setup and tire in a vertical position and spinning at a high speed. More data can be collected from this tire balance test as it simulates real-time driving rotation, but few shops possess the machine capability to perform a dynamic balancing test.

The Weights Used to Achieve Tire Balance

There is a good chance that you've actually seen tire weights. If you look on nearly any set of wheels that have been replaced, more often than not, the wheel has a small lead or zinc weight protruding slightly where the rim and the tire bead meet. These weights are manufactured to offer the very slight changes necessary to achieve optimal tire balance.

For decades, these balance weights were manufactured from lead (Pb). Due to the growing problem of tire and automotive waste (and the fact that lead is a toxic element), these weights are now most commonly manufactured from zinc (Zn) in response to the requirements and requests from many environmental agencies.

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