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Do Improperly Balanced Tires Affect Bearing Performance?

With the changing of the seasons, drivers must remain vigilant over the condition of their tires. Balanced tires play a vital role in the ability to avoid obstacles and maintain control over the vehicle during the winter, as well as throughout the year. Unfortunately, unbalanced tires contribute to poor tread depth, uneven wearing of tires, and accidents; however, an unbalanced tire may also cause damage to the wheel assembly and bearings. Take a look at steps to prevent premature bearing damage from incorrectly balanced tires and how this occurs.

Incorrectly Inflated, Unbalanced Tires and Bearings

When the tires contain more air than recommended by the manufacturer, the tire may be more susceptible to premature wear on the center of the tread. As a result, a sudden jolt to the tire may cause the weakened tread to rupture. Furthermore, uneven wearing of the tread leads to disproportionate weight distribution in the tire. As a result, the tire may shake violently when driving and be more likely to incur a blowout.

Typically, tapered wheel bearings used on earlier applications required repacking between 25,000 and 30,000 miles, explains Brake & Front End Magazine. Today’s Gen 1, 2, 3 style hubs do not require this service although they should be regularly monitored for any signs of failure, such as noise, vibration, and leakage. An unbalanced tire can create bearing damage and premature need for replacement.

Balanced tires enable a driver to stay on a straightforward path; however, an unbalanced tire will cause the steering column and the vehicle to shake. This shaking tends to be more noticeable when driving at higher speeds. Unfortunately, faster speeds on unbalanced tires could cause the tire to blowout, or the wheel bearings to become locked, or create other vehicle damage.

Preventing Bearing Damage From Unbalanced Tires

Drivers and automotive technicians can reduce the incidence of premature bearing failure by learning to identify the chief causes of unbalanced tires.

Checking Tire Pressure

If a vehicle has been manufactured after 2004, the vehicle must contain an on-board tire pressure monitoring system, explains the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This system will automatically alert drivers when a tire’s pressure drops 25% below the recommendation. The responsibility of inflating the tire to the appropriate pressure rests with the driver.

Drivers should check their tire pressure manually with a tire pressure gauge at least once per month. Tires have the ideal air pressure embossed on the sidewall. Even when no leaks occur, the air pressure reading will change throughout the year. During the summer months, the tires require less air to reach the appropriate pressure. As the seasons change, the air in the tire contracts, and the tire’s air pressure drops. Therefore, drivers will need to add air to their tires when the cooler months arrive.

Watching For Shaking and Checking For Bumps in the Tires

Once the vehicle reaches a speed of 45 miles per hour, unbalanced tires will cause the vehicle to shake. The driver may feel as though the vehicle is driving over dozens of bumps in the road. If the shaking resolves when driving at slower speeds and returns at high speeds again, there could be an unbalanced tire. Furthermore, drivers can check to see if any weights have fallen off the tires. The best way to monitor for this issue is to look at the wheel rim for a clean spot on the outer edges and center where a weight may have been and has fallen off. Additionally, drivers should look over their tires for any visible signs of bumps or balls on any part of the tire.

Maintaining properly balanced tires is crucial to ensuring the vehicle operates efficiently. Incorrectly balanced tires waste gas, cause blowouts, accidents, and contribute to the premature failure of wheel bearings. As winter returns, road conditions will worsen, and the opportunities for tires to become unbalanced will grow, such as snow-caused road damage. Monitoring for signs of unbalanced tires could mean the difference between spending approximately $10 for balancing, and hundreds for bearing replacement or wheel assembly repairs.