We all know that tire management is no straightforward responsibility. Checking a tire's air pressure, tread wear depth, alignment, etc, can all be a very time consuming undertaking. Tires are a fleet's number three operating cost, after labor and fuel.
Most fleet managers agree that balancing steering tires will significantly improve tire wear, and reduce vehicle vibration. It is generally part of their regular tire management practice. What they sometimes overlook, however, is the benefit of balancing all wheel positions—all the benefits of balancing steering tires can easily and economically be realized on the other tires on the truck. It is commonly believed that the rear wheel assemblies and tires are manufactured so uniformly today that balancing is not necessary. If that is true, then why do you have to balance the front? The simple truth is that almost all tires or wheel assemblies should be balanced.
All tire and complete wheel assembly balancing is extremely important in ensuring fleets are getting the most for their tire and fuel dollars. The overall effect of an unbalanced tire and wheel assembly is premature tire wear and increased rolling resistance, resulting in fuel waste. It can also cause damage to suspension and steering components and unnecessary vehicle vibrations, causing mechanical and freight damage, not to mention affecting the vehicles steering and braking capabilities—a safety issue not to be overlooked.
One method of balancing truck steering tires is using lead weights on a balancer. When thinking of having to apply this practice to every wheel position, this practice becomes time consuming and costly. There are other downfalls of lead weight balancing, the most significant being that the tire will eventually lose its balance and have to be rebalanced, equaling more time and money. The lead weights can become detached, a potentially dangerous hazard.
Back to Basics with New Technology…
So you want to balance all the tires in your fleet, but you don't need the added time or cost? Fortunately, there is an easy solution for fleets: an internal balancing agent in the form of micro glass beads with a special formulated coating. Internal balancing agents are not a new technology— the idea was originally patented in 1916— and deal with basic physics. Centrifugal force and inertia will move the material to the unbalanced position of a rotating mass.
Internal balancing agents, such as Counteract Balancing Beads, are economical, trouble free, and easy to install into tires. They are currently endorsed by a major tire company as well as being used by OEMs, on the assembly line of one of the world's largest vehicle manufacturers. The glass beads are engineered to be trouble free and are specially coated to resist the effects of moisture or bead lube. They are packaged in a pre-measured inner bag that can simply be thrown into a tire when it's being installed, or injected through the valve stem. Once inside, the beads will continually re-adjust through the life of the tire. What does this mean for the average fleet owner? It means they can balance all wheel positions once and never worry about the procedure again.
Once balanced, the wheels and tires rotate smoothly, resulting in:
- Reduced vibrations
- Increased tire foot traction, improving handling and safety
- Decreased tire wear
- Even tire wear
- Reduced rolling resistance leading to increased fuel efficiency
- Prolonged life of wheel assembly parts by cutting down on wear-and-tear due to excessive vibrations
The cost of balancing all wheel assemblies with this method is a small fraction of the savings in tire wear alone. The fuel savings are just an added benefit. It takes energy to wear tires prematurely, which can only come from the fuel energy in the engine.
Tests done by the California Energy Commission found that lowered rolling resistance along with proper inflation can significantly effect vehicle fuel consumption. Basically, lowering rolling resistance can result in reducing fuel consumption by two to six percent, depending on driving conditions and other factors. Independent tests have confirmed this.
Proper tire management practices will ensure peak performance from your vehicles and fleet. Include balancing all wheel assemblies with an internal balancing agent in your maintenance practices and make your job a whole lot easier.
Roger LeBlanc is a tire industry professional with over 40 years of practical experience in all aspects of servicing of the tire industry specializing in ride and handling. He is the inventor and president of Counteract Balancing Beads Inc. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.