When it comes to tires of any kind, everyone knows that you need balance for a smooth ride. Tire balance may not be a critical issue for off-road trucks equipped with steel bumpers or winch-mount bumpers that rarely see the road. For most trucks that do double duty, it is a concern. The bigger the tire, the harder it can be to balance.
When equipping off-road trucks with aftermarket bumpers, shocks, and tires that can affect the ride, you may have to work harder to keep those tires balanced.
Why Tire Balance Matters
In order for any vehicle to ride smoothly without shakes and vibrations, it’s important for the tires to be balanced. At the very least, driving with unbalanced tires can become really annoying and actually dangerous after a while. All the shaking and pulling can cause premature wear on tires, suspension parts, and custom bumpers, causing issues that could lead to an accident when driving at highway speeds.
Since off-roading is done at slow speeds, balance isn’t much of an issue on the trail. For vehicles that are also driven on the roads, it’s essential to figure out the best way to balance those big mudders and rock climbers for the benefit of your truck - not to mention your own comfort and safety.
Balancing Problems with Off Road Tires
There are quite a few issues with balancing big, meaty off-road tires. To begin with, there’s a higher probability that the tire isn’t exactly round which, combined with all that extra tread, makes balancing even more difficult. Then depending on the types of wheels used and the durability of the bead lock, some tires can spin or slide on the wheel, throwing balance out of whack.
Although technically standard balancing machines can accommodate larger tires, they can’t actually balance them. Most tires underneath steel truck bumpers continue to wobble and shake at higher speeds even after standard balancing. Off-roading can also result in mud and sand getting into the tire and affect its balance.
Options for Off Road Balancing
Considering the difficulty in getting these bigger and heavier tires balanced, here are a few options to consider that might work for you:
----- Stick or Pound On Weights - These are the best starting point when properly applied; however, they seem to lose effectiveness on tires larger than 40”. The other problem with weights is that they are easily knocked or peeled off while on the trails with your prized off-road truck.
----- Newer Tires on Lightweight Beadlock Wheels - Lighter weight wheels with beadlocks are easier to balance than heavier ones and will retain their balance longer with newer tires. Once tires start to get nicked and gouged, the beadlock is more likely to break and the tire more likely to slide. Lowering the air pressure a bit can hold the balance longer and help prevent bead locked wheels from spinning or popping off from under its aftermarket steel truck bumpers.
----- Balancing Mediums - When the other two aren't working well enough, the best option may be using a balancing medium like beads, powder, or even steel buckshot. These work through the effect of centrifugal force, with the beads or powder settling into the unbalanced areas of the tire as the wheel begins to spin at speed. As the medium is not permanently attached to the tire, it shifts inside as needed to create good balance regardless of bead lock or tire condition. It may not offer perfect balance; however, it generally works better than many other methods.
Regardless of how it's done, the importance is to take balancing big off-road tires seriously if you regularly drive your carefully outfitted off-road truck on the street. Unfortunately, no one answer works for everyone, since every bumper, tire, and wheel setup is different and in different condition. Whether it ends up being weights, different tires and wheels, or using a balancing medium, you may have to experiment a bit to find the right solution!