Tools-On-The-Cheap

Wheel Balancing - PERFECT balancing every time with beads.

 

    I know that some of you will think I'm crazy with this next one, but believe me, it works and works well.  Every wheel that turns more than 20 miles per hour needs to be balanced or you will experience shaking that will ruin the tire and, in time, damage your vehicles suspension.  When you get your typical car/truck tire balanced it costs around $10-$15 per tire.  If the rim is steel, you have ugly lead wheel weights clipped to the rim.  For those with aftermarket aluminum rims, you have to deal with ugly lead weight squares stuck to the rim with tape.  These weights are not only unsightly, but they will damage the finish of your wheels, by promoting corrosion beneath the weight.  Pull those weights in a couple years when you get new tires, and you're left with a corrosion "shadow" where the weight used to reside.  There is a solution to lead weights. . .

    Welcome to balancing beads.  The weights are actually perfectly round beads that give you a custom balance every time you pull away from the curb. There are a couple ways you can balance your car's tires with beads.  The commercial way is to buy balancing beads in a kit.  Of course this is "Tools-On-The-Cheap" so I have a cheaper alternative: high density air-soft BBs!!  The reason I use these BBs is simple; they're perfectly round, will not corrode (and go out of round which cause them not to be able to roll) and of course, they're cheap.  If you buy one of these bottles of beads, you can balance 2 sets of tires (8 tires) for under $15. 

    Your typical car tire requires 3.5oz of beads.  I used a postal scale to measure out 3.5oz and then places them into a zip-loc bag.  I repeated that 3 more times until I had 4 bags with 3.5oz in each.  Then when you have the tires mounted, tell the tire installers to simply pour one bag per tire in before they seat the tire bead on the rims with air.  Once mounted to the rims, air the tires as normal.  Mount them on your car and drive away happy.

NOTE:  Many tire shops do not have separate charges for mounting/balancing, so of they don't have to balance the tires they'll mount them for free.

    The way these work is simple;

- You start driving and at around 10-15mph, the beads are flung out by centrifugal force and are stuck to the inside of your tire.  

- They roll around naturally distributing the weight evenly.

- Whenever your wheel tries to move up, the beads counter that movement by moving down momentarily.

- This constant countering of the wheel movement produces an incredibly smooth ride and is an active wheel balance system.

- When coming to a stop, the beads will stay in place until about 3-4mph.  Below that they will simply fall to the bottom of the rim.

- Drive above 10-15mph and the process starts all over again. . .

 

    So what are the advantages of balancing beads??

- No unsightly wheel weights on your stock or custom rims.  This is a big deal on a show car or if you put a couple thousand $$$ into custom rims/tires.

- Never have to worry about loosing a wheel weight on a pot hole and having a wheel go out of balance.  Again, a big deal when driving at high speeds

- A perfectly balanced wheel every time you pull away from a stop.

- Longer tread life due to better balanced wheel/tire assemblies.  This is especially true of large tires on 4X4s which are notoriously difficult to balance and typically wear unevenly or "cup" as they wear.

    This active balancing will even counter for the weight of gravel that gets momentarily stuck in your treads!!  Like a I said earlier, I know some of you are saying, "Nate's lost it, he's certifiably nuts!!"  Well that point IS debatable, but this actually does work and works well.  I have done this to all my cars over the past 3 years upon the installation of new tires and I have never experienced a single balance issue.  This includes my prized 1975 Porsche 914 that sees speeds in excess of 100mph and some pretty extreme driving conditions!!

WARNING: NEVER use tire sealer like Fix-O-Flat or Slime in your tires once the beads are installed.  This will inhibit them from being able to roll freely and actively balance the wheel.  These products will cause the beads to clump together and severely un-balance the wheel.

 


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Revised: December 18, 2009 .