By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Have you ever tried to raise the subject of whether to balance your fifth wheel tires at the potluck or community campfire? Who wants to talk about it? If informal polling holds true, the majority of RVers that tow probably don’t balance their tires. Their argument against it? Many have never thought about doing it. Others say their dealer never recommended it. Some don’t think the expense is necessary. Or is it?
We called in the official industry spokes-folks about it: Wilson Beach, a director with the Tire Industry Association, the group recognized as representing tire makers and maintainers. In a previous life Beach was a tire shop owner. His first reaction to the question “To balance or not to balance” was a question: “Have you ever driven down the freeway and watched a vehicle with an unbalanced tire? The tire can bounce so hard it can actually leave the pavement,” says Wilson Beach.
In Beach’s view, a balanced tire is one that runs cooler and smoother and will have a far greater lifetime than an unbalanced one. “It’s money in the bank,” Beach told us. But are all tire shops ready to balance your trailer’s “rubber donuts”? That depends. Some trailer wheels are not designed like the typical car or truck wheel, with a nice round hole in the center for the bearing cap to protrude from. If your wheels don’t have a center hole, some shops won’t be able to balance them unless they have an adapter that uses the lug holes to hook up.
That leads to an interesting point: Beach says that in reality, the truest “center point” of any wheel is not the center hole, but rather the center indicated by the lug holes. To get a truer wheel balance, it’s best to go to a shop that uses an adapter and balances wheels based on the lug holes.
Keep ’em cool? Keep ’em smooth? Sounds a bit like taking care of our loved ones. And with the expense of tires today, it may be worth thinking about.