By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Tire balance may be one of the most hotly debated subjects among RVers. Motorhomers will agree, balancing tires on their rigs is critical — after all, it’s a motor vehicle. But trailer tires? Perhaps the most frequent argument is: “I’ve never balanced my trailer tires, and I haven’t seen a bit of difference. It’s just a waste of money!”
Let’s back up to why tires, in general, need balancing. Tires (and wheel assemblies) aren’t perfectly symmetrical. There may be just a bit more weight here or there. As the wheel assembly rotates, those slight differences can cause the tire to hop or wobble. Since this disturbance is caused by a lack of balance, the faster the wheel rotates, generally the worse the hop or wobble becomes.
In a car or truck, the driver may perceive the out-of-balance condition in the steering wheel. If the situation is severe, even the passengers may detect the out-of-balance condition. Since we rarely (if ever) carry passengers in a towed trailer, it’s not likely to be noticed. But just because vibration and hop isn’t noticed doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
An out-of-balance wheel that causes shaking, vibrating or “tire hop” can have some nasty consequences. First damage comes in the form of tread wear, often seen in unusual tread wear patterns. The possibility of tread separation from the tire itself can’t be ruled out, and tire separation at freeway speed can have some serious consequences. We know — we “totaled out” a tow vehicle when a tire separated and tore apart a wheel well and did extensive body damage to one of ours.
Besides tire wear issues, out of balance tires can also negatively impact the axle spindle, wheel bearings, and suspension components on your trailer. Damaged spindles or bearings can lead to visually funny, but too often tragic, wheels coming off your chariot.
Finally, shake and vibration will be transmitted into the coach itself. Imagine having your kitchen cabinets hooked up to a paint shaker. Maybe the illustration is a bit extreme, but prolonged shaking and vibration can actually shake the interior components of your rig apart.
The few bucks charged for a dynamic spin balance on your tires can go a long way to reducing the bad consequences of out-of-balance tires.