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A tire’s life hangs in the balance
Besides proper tire selection and alignment, tire pressure and wheel balance have a major effect on tire life

by René Tankersley, feature editor

Balance refers to the masses acting around the tire’s axis of rotation. According to Technical Editor Paul Abelson, if there is more mass on one side, the tire will try to rotate so the masses balance each other. That means it wants to rotate around an axis other than the axle. Because this is impossible, the tire instead rotates with a force that alternately wants to lift the tire, then slam it back onto the pavement. The unbalanced forces wear the tire unevenly, making the problem worse. If you’ve ever noticed an empty trailer with a spring suspension rolling down a smooth highway with its rear wheels bouncing up and down, you’ve seen the effects of unbalanced tires.

Any out-of-balance condition in the wheel and tire assembly creates uneven tire wear, reducing tire life. Several companies have formulated and designed products to prevent this condition. Whether chemicals or hardware systems, most balancers are designed to spin balance the tires while you drive.

Using centrifugal force, Balance Masters Active Wheel Balancing [(818) 882-8431] positions liquid in counterweight positions. This system works with gravity to create a down-force effect to hold the tire down on the road, giving the tire a better footprint and better control in cold, icy and wet conditions.

The system, which mounts directly behind the wheel assembly, also helps reduce wear on steering, suspension, driveline, brakes and wheel components ordinarily subjected to excessive vibration. It also helps reduce trailer bounce during hard stops, reduces driver fatigue, improves passenger comfort and reduces costly downtime.

Balance Masters offers a 100-day unconditional money-back guarantee and a three-year factory warranty against defects in workmanship or materials.

To get the full potential from your tires, you must use a system that addresses all factors affecting tire wear. This is the standard on which Centramatic (1-800-523-8473, bases its balancing system. These balancers use a bolt pattern that fits both hub-pilot and stud-pilot assemblies. This new design fits more centrally to ensure even more precise balancing.

A major factor that affects tire wear is the operating temperature of the tire. Centramatic says a recent study showed that tires on vehicles equipped with its balancers ran 8 percent to 10 percent cooler compared with vehicles without balancers. Lower tire operating temperatures increases tread life, casing integrity and saves money.

Through the laws of physics TAABS (Tregor Automatic All-Purpose Balancing System) wheel balancers cannot go out of balance. This precision balancing is transferred to the whole wheel assembly and compensates automatically as imbalance is picked up or thrown off the wheel while driving. Each TAABS wheel balancer will offset approximately 29 ounces of tire imbalance.

Because of the balancing achieved with the installation of TAABS, tire sidewall flexure due to improper balance is eliminated. This reduces heat buildup and increases the tire footprint traction to the road surface by 63 percent. Safer steering and handling into and out

of corners is promoted. At the same time, better controlled braking in shorter distances without fishtailing of the tractor and trailer is attained. Rolling resistance is reduced, which increases fuel mileage.

TAABS wheel balancers do not contain lead, PCBs, mercury or any other hazardous goods. Peter and Olga McGale, the owners and developers of TAABS Balancing Systems (1-888-553-3005,, market their product directly to independent owner-operators. TAABS wheel balancers come with a five-year warranty and 90-day money-back guarantee.

While Balance Masters, Centramatic and TAABS use balancing hardware, other products use sand-like or liquid formulas to balance tires.

Equal, a product made by IMI Products Inc. [(717) 264-5819,] is a dry, granular polymer. This sandlike compound is placed inside the tire where it is forced outward by centrifugal force as the tire spins. Following the laws of physics, it distributes itself more heavily at the lighter spots of the tire. This brings the tire into balance, reducing vibration levels of the tire and wheel assembly.

Unlike some of the liquid compounds used in tires, Equal is not a tire sealant and does not adhere to the tire liner. It does not absorb moisture and will not harm tire or wheel surface areas. Equal is non-toxic, non-hazardous and requires no special disposal. It is easily removed when a worn tire is dismounted for retreading or disposal.

Equal is installed by placing a self-opening bag — containing a specified amount of the product tailored to the tire size — inside the tire at the time of mounting. If the tire is already mounted, Equal can be installed through the valve stem using a special installation tool called the Equalizer.

Sometimes chemicals meant for other purposes get used as balancers. This is the case with Tire Life, a tire life extender from Fuller Brothers (1-800-547-7785, Morry Jones, vice president of sales for Fuller Brothers, explained that although customers often use Tire Life for wheel balancing, the product has not been tested for this purpose. Actually, Tire Life is a coolant, light sealant, anti-oxidant and rust inhibitor for rims. Its sealing capabilities include effectively sealing off bead seats, liner porosity and blistered or cracked inner liners without sealing rim cracks and/or other injuries that should receive a proper repair.

When using the recommended quantity, Tire Life provides rust protection from the day it is installed. Tire Life will reduce labor associated with tire demounting, eliminating the need for messy coatings of the rim or wheel, and will reduce rim loss from scale and pitting.

Tire Life is nonflammable consisting primarily of ingredients consumed in food products. It is also non-hazardous under the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission rules.

Tire Life for commercial over-the-road tires comes in a convenient premeasured 20-ounce bag, which provides easy application for new and retreaded tires — just drop the bag inside the tire. The product is also available in one-gallon jugs, six-gallon pails, 55-gallon drums and 275-gallon totes, and may be installed with a pump.

René Tankersley can be reached at

Bridgestone says:
These golf balls were ruined by running inside a truck tire for several thousand miles. They also probably did irreparable damage to the tire.

The user had a ride disturbance and heard that a few golf balls inside his tires

would correct it, by automatically positioning themselves to counteract the vibration.

We often hear of home-brew solutions like these, but we can’t recommend them. Here’s why: First, in this case, it didn’t work very well. The ride disturbance and vibration continued.

Second, notice how dirty and black these golf balls are? What’s covering their surfaces is rubber, of course — from the innerliner of the tire.

The innerliner is a specially made, multilayer component, with the important job of preventing air from getting through it and escaping. The rubber dust coating on these golf balls came from their banging into the innerliner, probably damaging it.

We’re not sure what caused the balls to change shape so radically. Perhaps high heat and high-speed collisions with the wheels?

Anyway, as we said, we can’t recommend golf balls as a means of balancing truck tires. So far as we can tell, they don’t work and could seriously damage your tires.

Originally published in Bridgestone’s Real Answers magazine, volume 6, issue 2. Copyright 2001, Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire LLC. More stories of this type can be found at the Bridgestone Web site at in the section of the “Library” called “Publications.” Visitors to the Real Answers portion of the site can search by key word to find topics of interest.

Don’t let a flat tire get you down
Just as keeping tires balanced is important, retaining air pressure is paramount to even tire wear and better rig handling. Nothing frustrates a driver more than being stuck along a roadside with a flat tire. Or, even worse, shelling out hundreds for a tow truck. For this very reason, manufacturers have developed chemical formulas to seal leaks and punctures as they happen.

SpartySystems (1-800-443-8833, has developed an industrial strength tire sealant called Simoniz Sealtite Pro. When a puncture occurs, the multifibers in Sealtite Pro instantly build a plug. The vehicle weight helps by expanding the hole opening when it is on the road’s flattened surface, allowing the sealant to cross hatch and form a permanent plug inside the tire during the first quarter mile.

Ride-On Tire Protection System by Inovex Industries Inc. (1-888-374-3366, is designed to prevent flats caused by punctures, help with pressure maintenance programs and aid in balancing of truck tires. While you drive, a protective layer of Ride-On tire sealant, containing fibers six times stronger than steel, evenly coats the inner surface of the tire. If the tire is punctured, the centrifugal force of the rotating tire and the internal air pressure force Ride-On into the hole, sealing it instantly for the legal life of the tire. Ride-On also helps balance truck tires, thus reducing tire imbalance and vibrations that cause the tire to hop and bounce on the road. These vibrations increase the tire’s operating temperature and promote irregular tread wear, thereby reducing the life of your tires.

Bar’s Products (1-800-521-7475, developed Bar’s Leaks Tire Stop Leak and Sealant to prevent flats, stop leaks and seal punctures up to a quarter inch in diameter. It’s safe for all tires. Simply release the air from any tire, squeeze in the proper amount of Bar’s Leaks Tire Stop Leak, and re-inflate. The tire is now protected against future punctures and leaks. If the tire already has a leak, the flexible fibers in the product should create a seal to eliminate it. Imagine — virtually no downtime in the future caused by tire leaks and no more piles of tires waiting to be plugged.

Ultraseal International (1-800-346-9090, has formulated a tire sealant designed to convert any pneumatic tire into a self-sealing tire that will maintain air pressure. When a tire is punctured, Ultraseal is forced against and around the puncturing object by the inner air pressure, thereby preventing air from escaping. If the puncturing object is thrown out of the tire by centrifugal force or is pulled out, the inside air forces Ultraseal into the wound and immediately stops air loss. Special fibers entwine, forming a clot. Then as the rubber recovers, aided by the tire flexing as it rotates, the inner air pressure forces the clot well into and through the wound. Once Ultraseal is exposed to the outside air, a chemical curing process begins. The cured clot extends well into the wound, providing a repair impervious to water (rain, snow, mud, etc.). As this clot cures, it is transformed into a permanent rubberized seal, protecting the inner casing and steel belts against contaminants entering the wound.