When you are equipping your off-road truck for the trail, weight is a definite concern. You may want to add certain equipment like larger tires and wheels, tougher axles, and durable steel bumpers. Yet the added weight can affect your vehicle in negative ways.
Why would you want to weigh down tires by adding ballasts? Even though adding more weight in the tires may seem counterproductive, it can actually benefit your truck by improving its off-roading capabilities.
Why Add Weight to Off-Road Tires?
Ballasts, or weights added to the inside of a tire, have traditionally been used on tractors and other farm equipment to help steady them and prevent the tires from tracking over rows. Added in the form of a fluid material that can freely shift inside the tire, this extra weight can be beneficial for off-road vehicles in some very interesting ways.
Even though ballasts increase the overall weight of the vehicle, they lower the truck’s center of gravity which is a main concerns when trying to keep a truck lighter. Because the loose material always remains on the bottom of the inside of even moving tires, there is a stabilizing effect which increases the truck's traction. With this increase in traction and lower center of gravity, many off-road truck owners find ballasted tires perform better, keep trucks better balanced, and increase climbing ability.
How Are Off-Road Tires Weighed Down?
While most off-roaders weigh their tires down by adding water and some antifreeze, others use lead shot, sand, and other loose material that can move while the tire rolls and always settle to the bottom. Ballasts are usually added before inflation and just before the tire is mounted on the wheel.
Ballast can also be added to a tire that is already mounted by using a special water hose adapter that screws into the tire valve stem. Depending on the size and weight of the tire, it is not uncommon to see ballasted tires being weigh as much as 200 pounds each.
Any Downside to Adding Ballast?
As with every modification made to your off-road truck like custom bumpers, there are both positive and negative points. The main downside to ballasting tires is if the material inside the tire becomes unbalanced, you will feel a bad wobble in the tire and wonder what happened. For ballasts to actually work, the weight needs to always fall to the bottom of the tire. Fortunately, this is an easy problem to correct by just stopping or slowing down to let the ballast settle again.
Ballasts also work best in slower spinning tires. You probably will not want to add weight to your tires if you use your off-road vehicle double-duty and also drive it on the road. You will experience the terrible wobble from unbalanced weight at higher speeds and the extra weight will increase braking distance and slow acceleration a bit. On the trail, this really does not matter quite so much since you are usually traveling slower.
Given the potential advantages and disadvantages, should you add weight to your off-road truck tires? As with any potential upgrade, this decision depends on what you do with your truck. If you spend a lot of time rock crawling and hill climbing, ballasted tires could help improve your traction and ground level stability. If your weekend trail rider is also your daily driver, you might want to think twice. Test it out, evaluate the results - and empty the tires if the results are simply not what you expected!