Do commercial vehicle wheels need balancing?

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

The Importance of Wheel Balancing:

Vehicle maintenance is of paramount importance when it comes to ensuring the safety of vehicles and passengers on the road. Wheel balancing is one such aspect of vehicle maintenance which shouldn’t be taken lightly by any vehicle owner.

Balancing the wheels ensures that there are no vibrations to affect the spinning of wheels and tyres. It also contributes towards increasing the life of tyres and in a way our own lives too.

Easy balance wheel balancing compounds can be added to the tyres of vehicles and this prolongs the life of tyres by up to 35% - so putting a little extra thought into wheel safety is never a bad thing, especially when it’s saving you money long term…

The Dangers of Driving on Unbalanced Wheels:

Driving a vehicle with wheels which have not been properly balanced can put at risk the lives of those that tread on the roads. Following are some of the dangers:

• Driving on unbalanced wheels can cause vibrations which can negatively impact the control of a driver over the vehicle.

• Unbalanced wheels can exert uneven forces on the suspension components and bearings. As a result, they are subjected to strains and stress that leads to their rapid deterioration.

• They can cause extensive damage to several components of a vehicle, particularly those associated with steering and suspension.

• Similar to misaligned wheels, unbalanced wheels are also known to increase fuel consumption.

• Unbalanced wheels can lead to costlier repairs in the future.

What is Wheel Balancing?

For a vehicle to run smoothly, weight has to be evenly distributed around the revolving tyre and wheel assembly. This process of weight distribution across a wheel is known as wheel balancing. It is usually required when old tyres are replaced with new ones.

The unit compromising of the tyre and wheel rim should be in perfect balance. These units are known to have heavy and light areas or high and low spots. In order to get the complete unit in balance, the heavy area of one needs to be matched with the light area of the other.

Weight needs to be added to the unit’s light areas as compensation so that the rotation is perfect. These counter weights are added to prevent wheels from having heavy spots which can cause the premature wearing of tyres and vibration. Besides tyres, the condition of many other components deteriorates due to unbalanced wheels and these components include shocks, struts, suspension and steering components.

As speed increases, the tendency of unbalanced wheels to wobble and bounce also increases, putting the vehicle at a severe risk of an accident. The use of responsive lower profile tyres and lightweight suspension systems makes it even more important to get the wheels balanced as they are more prone to becoming unbalanced than the wheels used on heavier and older cars.

Detection of Unbalanced Wheels:

It is important to realise when wheels have become unbalanced, so that the problem can be rectified before it causes any damage.

Following are certain early signs of unbalanced wheels:

• Sensing vibrations in the steering wheel at high speeds.

• The floor surface or seat begins to vibrate once the vehicle has crossed a certain speed limit.

• Cupped or scalloped patterns of wear on tyres.

Older automobiles were heavier and as a result, they absorbed vibrations better than their modern lighter-weight counterparts. When driving modern cars, the slightest imbalance of wheels is immediately felt on the steering wheel as it begins to vibrate at higher speeds.

The following two types of balances are important to achieve in order to ensure that the wheels are appropriately balanced:

Static Balance:

In order to measure static balance, the tyre must be placed on a non-rotating spindle tool where its centre of gravity is on the axis of rotation. Gravity acts on the spot where the mass is greatest causing the tool to deflect downward. The extent to which the wheel is unbalanced can be approximated from the amount of deflection.

Dynamic Balance:

The procedure to measure dynamic balance is quite different from that of static balance. In this method, the wheel is not stationary but rotated at very high speeds and the various forces resulting from asymmetric distribution of mass across the wheel are recorded. It is these forces that bring to our attention the amount of unbalanced forces acting on the wheel.

Basic Tips:

The balancing of wheels should never be performed while the wheel is still mounted on the vehicle. Modern systems used for wheel balancing can do both dynamic, as well as static balancing.

If you experience vibrations on the steering wheel, it is advisable to get all the wheels balanced and not just the front wheels. The imbalance of the rear wheels can sometimes be felt on the steering wheel as well.

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