Wheels – Balancers – Tires

Thanks to Bob Caffee for his ongoing maintenance tips.

The whole idea behind this column is to help you save money by doing maintenance or repairs yourself.  Any ideas or suggestions for future articles would be appreciated just leave a not at the bottom of the article.

I have been thinking about the things we have done to our truck to help save money on our wear items, to help them last longer.  Tires are a very large expense that, when maintained properly, can last a very long time.  When tires are installed out of necessity instead of preventive maintenance (cheapest tires to get you by) this can cost you more in fuel mileage then you saved on initial cost.

Different tires have different rolling resistance, the lower the resistance the better the fuel mileage.  To check your tires rolling resistance go to Michelin truck tires http://www.michelintruck.com/michelintruck/index.jsp.   For straight trucks you cannot check without a trailer so I just used the lowest rolling resistance for trailer tires and I changed the tractor as if it were on my straight truck.  Once you get your tires, whichever style you choose, you must take care of them the best you can.  To begin with start when you purchase tires (steers, drives or trailers), and be sure they are mounted properly, true to the rim.  A lot of manufactures recomend balancing once mounted, I have found if you use a dynamic balancing system, such as Centromatics  or Balance Masters, balancing before you install on the truck is an extra expense I don’t feel is necessary.  Centramatics use lead pellets suspended in oil to balance and Balance Masters use mercury to balance.  Both products do what they designed to do and are about the same price so it’s a wash either way, but I do recommend using them.  Using these products will keep your tires on balance even if you get mud or asphalt in your wheel; versus balancing with weights which works only until your tire gets dirty or you have tread wear.

Another product that makes sense is the True Balance.  The name is deceiving as the product doesn’t balance anything.  It centers the wheel to the wheel stud; in doing this the wheel assembly is running a true circle with the axle spindle.  This will also help the dynamic balancer do its job easier.  Unless you have an air compressor, jacks and air tools you cannot install these yourself, but these products can be installed when rotating tires, fixing a flat, installing new tires or you may talk the dealer into a discount on installing with purchase of product.  Using these products will save you in fuel economy and extend your tire life.

One thing you should and can do yourself is keep an eye on your tire pressure.  Bumping tires with a club or hammer is no way to check your tire pressure.  To do this properly you must use a gauge (ten to twenty-five dollars and another tool for the tool box).  Keep your steers the same pressure (check on the tire sidewall) I use 5 psi below the max pressure, also keep the drives the same pressure (not necessarily the same as the steers) one tire low on one side will cause its mate to work harder, wear faster, and could blow out if not found soon enough.  Most truck stops have air hoses on the fuel islands or at the shop.  While sitting waiting for the next load, checking tire pressures is worth the 20 – 30 minutes.  Just remove the valve caps, push the gauge and read if low push on the hose and add air a little at a time until done.  Tire pressures need to be checked when cold not after just coming in off the road.  I like to check my tires after sitting overnight.  If you overfill the tire just put  the gauge on the valve stem and lean gauge slightly until you hear air leaking – let out to much – just put some air back in.  If this is your first time and your are not sure of yourself just ask the shop personnel who should give you a quick demonstration.  Don’t be afraid to ask until next time smooth rolling.

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