Do you have to balance a motorcycle tire?

Motorcycle tires should be balanced at all times to keep drivers safe. A set of unbalance wheel will affect the motorcycle’s performance and might lead to an accident when neglected. Keeping your motorcycle tires balanced will also help keep them longer. Unbalance increases the damage to motorcycle tires through easy wear and tear.

How do you know when your tires need to be balanced?

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You will feel an unusual vibration, similar to that of driving on a bumpy road when tires are out of balance. Tires will also show an uneven and faster tread wear. Here’s what you should do if you suspect that your tires are out of balance:

  • Check if your motorcycle has been driven in road conditions that might cause the tire to be out of balance.
  • Inspect the wearing of the tires.
  • Get your motorcycle balanced or aligned if you see an uneven wearing.

Wiggly and Wobbly? How to Tell If Your Motorcycle Tire is Out of Balance

Motorcycle tires are the most vital components of your motorbike that get you going on the road. That’s why you need to keep them properly balanced. A motorcycle only has two tires and an out-of-balance set makes you more prone to accidents.

You must check your tire once you suspect that there is an imbalance. Tires that are incorrectly balanced will damage your motorcycle and will lead to loss of control or an accident if left uncorrected.

Do you have to balance a motorcycle tire?

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When your tire is out of balanced, you need to take it for a tune-up of your wheels. Tire balancing ensures that the weight is distributed evenly. Here are things you should know on how to tell if motorcycle tire is out of balance:

  • It’s easy to tell a possible tire imbalance. You will feel an unusual vibration at a certain speed when tires are out of balance. The vibrations are noticeable. Imbalance begins with uneven weight on the rim of the wheel or tire. An imbalance tire feels like a wobbly steering.
  • Tires will also show an uneven and faster tread wear. Out of balance tires show scalloped or cupped wear pattern or a bulge on the sidewall.
  • One common symptom for vehicles with imbalanced tires is poor fuel economy.
  • A balanced tire will roll smoothly and will help the tire prolong its life. Aside from comfort, balance tires will make the trip safer for you.

What will happen if I get an unbalanced motorcycle wheel?

An unbalanced motorcycle tire spells danger. The misalignments and vibrations affect the wheel spindle and the wheel bearings causing premature wear. Too many vibrations could also lead to loose fasteners and tires will go hotter leading to uneven wear.

What causes tires to go out of balance?

Balanced tires have a uniform distribution of weights of the wheel and tire around the axle. When you’re driving on the road, the weight distribution is shifting and as you keep using your motorcycle with the same set of tires, the shifts of weight add up causing tires to go out of balance.

Tires experience wear and tear as it regularly gets direct contact on pavements, potholes, and rough roads. The wear and tear could cause the tires to become unbalanced. Taking a sharp turn over a curb also puts stress on tires that might lead to imbalance.

If your motorcycle has been driven on road conditions that might want to check it immediately for unusual wear and tear and get it aligned. A visible inspection should tell you if the motorcycle tires need replacing or just balancing.

How often should you have your motorcycle tires balanced?

Motorcycle tires should be inspected before going on a ride. Balanced tires ensure the driver and his passenger’s safety. Here are some tips for you to do if you suspect that your motorcycle tire is out of balance:

  • Check the motorcycle tire’s pressure.  Motorcycle owners should also read up on the manual to check the recommended tire pressures. Tire pressures on tires are also found on the bike’s swing arm.
  • Avoid reducing the PSI (pounds per square inch) just so you could have a “softer ride.”  Other motorcycle drivers tend to do that. However, the load capacity of a motorcycle rests on the air pressure you put on them. Lowering the recommended PSI will compromise your tires and your safety.
  • Run the tire pressures between one to two PSI above the recommended PSI. Average tires lose one PSI every four weeks under normal conditions. Consider weather changes, too.
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Source:  Motorcycle Industry Council
  • Inspect the wearing of tires. Motorcycle tires that are out of balance would form patch-wear, a pattern that is random and is found in different spots around the tires. These are due to the vibration and shaking of the motorcycle tires that are out of balance. If you would like to know how to tell if motorcycle tires need replacing, check the tread wear. The tread wear will tell you whether the tread depth gauge of your tire is still road-worthy or if it’s time for you to replace them.
  • A difference of 1/16” or more would tell the tires are uneven. When you see the tread wear in random flat spots, it might be caused by an imbalance in the tire.

How should I check the motorcycle tire pressure?

We have already mentioned the importance of keeping the proper tire pressure and how this could affect the balance of motorcycle tires. Check out the following tips for checking tire pressure:

  1. Check the cold tires first. Tires are cold when your motorcycle is unused for at least three hours or if you have driven it less than a mile at a moderate speed.
  2. Consult your motorcycle dealer if you cannot find your manufacturer’s recommended PSI. You may also consult a tire professional.
  3. Take note of the PSI for each tire. Avoid getting confused by writing down the required pressure levels for each tire.
  4. Use your gauge to check the pressure. Place the pressure gauge on the valve stem from one of your tires and press down hard. You gauge will give the reading. Write it down and do the same process on the other tire.
  5. Use the recommended PSI when refilling tires with low pressure. Use the gauge to check the pressure again after refilling. Avoid overinflation and underinflation.
  6. Check the tire pressure monthly.

How do tires get balanced?

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Out of balance tires need to be placed on a tire-balancing machine to take its measurements to identify the lighter or heavier areas and adjust them. The mechanic or technician will spin the wheel and take note of the measurements of its vibrations. The mechanic will aim to spread the weight evenly and identify where to put how much weight.

The mechanic will adjust the weight or move the tire on the wheel to rebalance it since there might be an alignment on the heavy spot on the wheel and on the tire. Balancing tires regularly, for example, every 4,000 to 6,000, miles during ordinary use will be good to keep your tires on their best shape.

The difference between tire balancing and wheel alignment

Wheel alignment and tire balancing are different things. Both should be part of your regular motorcycle maintenance. Aligning the wheel involves correcting the tires’ angles to correct their position as recommended by the motorcycle manufacturer. Alignment gets the wheels traveling in the same direction and ensures that the tires are making contact with the ground properly.  

While wheel balancing should be performed frequently, wheel alignment, sometimes referred to as “front end alignment” or “tire alignment”, is not needed often. During wheel alignment, the technician will inspect the tire tread for any sign of poor alignment and the wheel orientation. To know if you need an alignment, check each tire and look for uneven patterns of tire wear. But a wear on the tire might be a late symptom of a tire that needs to be replaced already. Most motorcycle manufacturers recommend getting a wheel alignment check-up every 10,000 miles.

In tire balancing, on the other hand, the tread wear’s effect on the distribution of weight around the tire will be checked. During wheel balancing, the technician uses a calibrated spin balancer and will check the static and dynamic wheel balance.

What are the main types of tire balancing?

If you know how to tell if the motorcycle tire is out of balance, you might probably be familiar with the three types of tire balancing:

  1. Static – In static balancing, the uneven tires are placed on a verticle supporter with a spindle tool. A bubble balancer could also be used. This involves adding weight across only one line, also called one plane, of the tire. Static balancing is a method that is easiest and efficient for light cases of out-of-balance tires.
  2. Dynamic – In dynamic balancing, the tires are placed on a machine which spins them at certain speeds. The machine measures the weight and provides information on how much weight should be added. The spin balancer also shows the stiff spots in motorcycle tires when there is an imbalance.
  3. Road Force Road force balancing is more advanced and precise than static and dynamic balancing. It creates simulations of road conditions where the tires are placed under a larger roller to apply the estimated weight of the vehicle. A computer will then show the variations in the tread and translates the reading indicating what causes the issue. The technician will then take measurements and rematch the tire with the wheel.

Can I balance my motorcycle tire on my own?

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Yes, you could balance motorcycle tires by yourself in your garage if you are familiar with the mechanical parts of your motorcycle. A static balancer includes a frame and a horizontal shaft where you could place the wheel and rotate them on. You may build your own balancer and use your own axle to get a perfect fit, or, to make it more convenient, you may get a factory-made balancer online at a price of around $100.

If you are using a balancer, here’s what you should do:

  • Use a flat-end screwdriver and a jack in removing the wheel.
  • If you have regular static balancer you must remove all the weights you have on your tires before balancing them. Make sure your balancer is placed on a stable surface and the shaft is on the correct level.
  • Take off the wheels from the motorcycle and prepare them for rebalancing by cleaning up the tires, rim, and other parts.
  • Place the tire on the balancer and follow the manual.
  • Mark the spots where you will place the weight using a chalk.
  • Add the weight and check if the balance is already achieved.
  • Adjust the weight as needed. 
  • Place the wheels back on your motorcycle.

Consult the manual before using any balancing routine as balancing varies with each machine used. If you do not have a balancer or any machine, you may try to balance it performing a trial and error test. To detect which tire is out of balance, rear-rotate your tires and take note of the vibration. Here is how you could balance your tire without using a machine:

  • Pick a wheel which you suspect is having an imbalance. Remove the additional weights you have on your tires before balancing them. Clean the wheel and other parts completely.
  • Spin the tire gently and allow it to stop on its own. The tire will stop spinning with the heaviest portion below. Mark this on the rim using a chalk or a masking tape. The lightest portion, which will be at the highest point of the wheel is the spot where you should add more weight.  
  • If there is still vibration, try to replace the weight at 45 degrees from its first position. Use the same speeds when you accelerate and check whether the vibrations moved higher or added more weight. Repeat the same procedure if the vibration does not disappear.
  • This may take longer than using the machine, but once you find the spot, add more weight and your balancing will be completed. A balanced tire will stay still when released because there will be no more heavy portion that will pull it around.