About 15 years ago, were you balancing truck tires?
Didn’t think so. Today, that should be a different story.
Today’s trucks have traded leaf springs for air ride springs and rigid-mounted cabs for air-cushioned cabs. Going 70 mph down the interstate in adjustable air ride seats is the norm. Cruise control, lane departure and heads-up displays on trucks are commonplace.
All of these items and more have made a smooth ride essential for top-line trucks. And, a smoother ride is just a balance away.
The Evolution of Truck Tire Balancing
Decades ago, trucks used Dayton- or spoke-style rims, which rarely needed to be balanced. Then, Budd wheels came into play.
These types of wheels were centered on the truck and its hub with lug nuts and can be installed perfectly true on the truck rather easily. With Budd-style wheels, trucks rode on tall stacks of heavy leaf springs and didn’t go above 55 mph down the freeway. They also carried smaller loads.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, balancing beads or pouches were added to steer tires to help offset imbalance for driver comfort.
Fast forward to today, and driver comfort and the longevity of tires is more important than ever before. With tires being the second largest cost for fleets, their maintenance is key to a successful tire program. That’s where balancing comes in.
Today’s Fleet Needs
Most commercial tire dealers have customers that demand high-quality rides. This, plus the professionalism of truck drivers today, the evolution of Class-8 trucks and the price of tires has all pushed the demand for balancing.
And, fleets aren’t just balancing steer tires; they’re also balancing drive tires, since it adds to the tire’s longevity and reduces stress on the truck’s suspension. Any part of a truck’s suspension, from the kingpins to the Pitman arms and even wheel bearings, can be affected by out-of-balance forces.
Tire dealers should equip their shops with a good heavy-duty balancer with a proper Budd centering kit. Having proper steel truck wheel weights in a minimum of half-ounce increments is also essential. A tool to center the wheels on the truck helps to ensure the wheel assembly is mounted properly. For example, pins that thread onto the hub at the 12, four and eight o’clock positions will center the assembly on the truck.
As a rule of thumb, any time a tire or wheel is serviced, it should be balanced. All wheel positions should be balanced for the best possible ride and comfort. If a vibration presents itself at speed, the tires should be balanced again to keep them in top shape.