Should you balance your travel trailer tires?

21

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!” But here’s why you should balance your travel trailer tires.

Why do tires need to be balanced?

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 shouldn’t 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.

What are some consequences of an out-of-balance tire?

An out-of-balance tire 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 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.

Related:

RV trailer tires: To balance – or not?
RV Tire Safety: Bad ride? Can’t “balance” your tires? Maybe it’s something else
From Les Schwab Tires: How do I know if my tires need to be balanced?

##RVDT1508

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Bob Weinfurt
1 month ago

I balance any tire that’s used at a speed of more than 30 MPH.

KellyR
1 month ago

I had a Ford van that “vibrated” and thought it was an out of balance tire/wheel – lead weights have been known to come off. It turned out that the drive shaft was out of balance. It is worth it to have any “vibration” checked out.

Tom Sippel
1 month ago

I bought new trailer tires(4) on line, and Walmart was one of the places who would mount other company products. They mounted the tires, and did lifetime balancing for $20 per tire. Well worth it for extra peace of mind that they are rolling properly.

Jim
1 month ago

I noticed the front tires on my Mercedes Benz Sprinter motorhome had uneven wear so I asked my MB shop to check the alignment, which turned out to be way off. The service manager told me this is common because MB aligns the tires for just the chassis and then manufacturers build on top of the chassis which throws off the alignment.

Roger Marble
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim

My Chevy chassis Class-C from Forest River was out of line the day I brought it home. Had it checked at local shop and they fixed it. Of course, the RV dealer claimed it was Ok from the factory but how do BOTH front tires get 2° of Neg camber in the 200 mile trip from Indiana to Akron. It’s easy to do as increased load results in increased neg Camber so going from a cut-away chassis that is aligned by GM at end of the production line ( I have seen this first hand as i have worked in a number of different assy plants) but not after thousands of pounds of cab-over RV body gets put on by Forest River.

Gary Broughton
1 month ago

I always had new trailer tire balanced not only for balance but you could get a bad tire and not know it.

Roger Marble
1 month ago

I suggest that all tires should be balanced. Not just to improve ride but to also find and “weed-out” a tire with a manufacturing defect. I have seen a few tires that required a lot of weight to balance and while it should be possible to balance any tire (see my blog post where I balanced a cement block) when you find a tire/wheel assembly that needs excessive weights, (more than 5 – 6 Oz is considered excessive by some) it might be an indication that the wheel is bent or the tire is not properly mounted or even in a very small number of cases, that there is a structural issue with the tire. Balance can sometimes be used as a quality check.

Al Figone
1 month ago

This is such a no-brainer. Every wheel, whether a tire or gear or roller, needs to be true round in order to roll as equal as possible. In order to assure this balancing is required. Its “True Round”.
In addition to “true round” every axle or sprocket or what ever the wheel is attached to also needs to be “true round” to prevent transferred shock to the mechanism its attached to that will cause eventual damage.

Steve
1 month ago

I couldn’t believe the amount of weights it took to balance my stock fifth wheel tires. Made a balance believer out of me.

Steve Dew
1 month ago

Check out Dyna beads. http://www.innovativebalancing.com/ You can balance your own tires, in your campsite or back yard. You not only balance your tires, but the whole rotating assembly. You will notice the difference.

TIM
1 month ago

What about the difference between lug centric trailer wheels and hub centric car/truck wheels? Unless a shop has the correct adapters to balance trailer wheels they could actually make the situation worse.

Crowman
1 month ago
Reply to  TIM

If a tire shop doesn’t have the right tools to do the job you shouldn’t be going there.

Wayne
1 month ago
Reply to  TIM

”Make the situation worse”? I don’t know but it seems to me the difference between lug or hub centric would be minor (especially with machined wheels) compared to the amount of weight I see added to my wheels. I’m not disputing using the correct method should be used, but it seems to me the wheel/tire assembly would be more closely balanced even if the incorrect method were used.

I balance all tires on all vehicles that travel fast enough to shake. Passenger comfort is minor compared to wear and tear.

ron
1 month ago

Pay a little now or a lot later. Always balance all tires.

Alan
1 month ago

I had the Manager of a Tire Shop in Augusta Maine argue with me why spend the $13.00 to balance a tire it only cost $8.00 to mount them they are only trailer tires! My reply was then it with be $21.00. And my final statement “I want them Balanced!”

Bob P
1 month ago

When i first started RVing in 1978 it never occurred to me to balance trailer tires, I mean you can’t see or feel out of balance trailer tires. The last two 5th wheels not only did I balance the tires but I installed shock absorbers, it is amazing how much better a trailer tows with the tires on the road surface all the time. After the shock absorber install the trailer would just ride without the porpoising effect at the rear of the trailer. If you have a rear kitchen you can see the difference when you open cabinets, everything is still sitting where you put it when you closed the door. We followed our daughter and son in law one trip and their 5th wheel was bouncing all the way. He installed shocks and was amazed at the way it smoothed out the ride on the truck. It works for a relatively low cost especially if you’re handy with tools.

Drew
1 month ago

This was a great article- thanks for posting it. I liked the paint can shaker comment:)

Glen Cowgill
1 month ago

Out of balance tire might be felt in the steering wheel if the tire out of balance is on the front of the vehicle. A rear tire out of balance will be felt in the seat or body. A driveshaft, on a rear wheel drive vehicle, will also be felt in the seat. Tires are just one balance problem while other balance problems such as a driveline or an engine balance problem.
I agree all tires should be balanced whether on the trailer or on the vehicle itself.

Curt Rissmann
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen Cowgill

Possibly could possibly cause bearing failure??????

Bob P
1 month ago
Reply to  Curt Rissmann

If a tire out of balance is constantly bouncing that is putting a shock load on your bearings. Bearings are not designed to absorb shock, they take radial and axial loads. Even a sliding surface type of bearing will be damaged if the surfaces bounce together long enough.

Glen Cowgill
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob P

Any type of vibration will cause lateral damages from screws coming loose to bearing failure and then start thinking about all that cabinetry.