For RV enthusiasts who enjoy traveling and camping in the great outdoors, one of the most common concerns is whether one needs to balance the tires of the trailers. It is a hotly debated topic where seasoned trailer owners argue that balancing tires is critical when others contest it is a total waste of money.
So, is it necessary to balance trailer tires? Is it a worthwhile expense? Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all answer. It all depends on several factors, as we shall discuss in this article.
This article examines what balancing a tire entail, why we need to balance tires, how to balance the tires, whether it is necessary to balance the wheels of a trailer, how to balance travel trailer tires, challenges of balancing trailer tires and 5 best travel trailer manufacturers in the market today.
Understanding Trailer Tires Role/Balance
First, the primary role of a trailer tire is to support the vertical load, instead of gripping the vehicle through turns. So, trailer tires do not necessarily need balancing as passenger vehicle tires do.
In addition, balancing the tires on a vehicle helps provide comfort for passengers traveling by minimizing the irregularities and bumps on the road. Even though some trailers may require smooth rides, most of them only transport cargo and equipment instead of passengers, making the quality of the ride less of a concern. Well, unless you are transporting fragile cargo that can easily break when jostled around in the RV.
This confusion about balancing travel trailer tires stems from the fact that trailer wheels and tires are not balanced when released from the factory-like typical passenger vehicle tires. Moreover, most of the garages and auto shops are not equipped with the necessary setup to balance the tires of a trailer.
Whether upgrading the tires of your journey trailer or you simply want to replace a blown-out tire, you need to know at least, the bare minimum about handling the tires of travel trailers.
Before we address the confusion surrounding the balancing of travel trailer tires, we need to back up a bit and find out what balancing a tire means and the repercussions of driving with an unbalanced tire.
What Is Balancing A Tire?
Vehicle owners need to balance the wheels and tires of their vehicles because the manufacturing process does not guarantee symmetry in the tire weight or the wheel. This could mean that the tire could have more rubber on one side than the other, which is the the same as the metal used on the wheel.
To balance the tire, you have to mount the tire on a set of rims. They are then both placed into a machine that spins the tire while measuring the centrifugal force. Weight is then added to the opposite side to compensate for the unbalanced rubber then it is retested.
Once the initial tests prove that the balancing is symmetrical, then you are good to go. For a newie hopping to utilize the DIY websites, it could take a while but for experienced tire dealers, this process can only take minutes.
Repercussions of Driving with an Unbalanced Tire
When a vehicle tire is unbalanced, it tends to create more heat than is required. The excess heat can cause the tire to prematurely wear out, and even cause a blowout on a hot afternoon. Besides the heat, towing an unlevel trailer could also lead to a blown-out tire.
Having a blown-out tire could easily ruin your camping vacation on a travel trailer. Imagine being stranded at a desolate area with no phone reception and no one to assist with towing services. It is unfathomable.
Unbalanced tires can also cause vibrations on your RV, which can shake the screws, rivets, and other accessories loose from your trailer. Since trailers already experience a lot of vibrations and jerky movements, adding unbalanced tires could lead to further travel damages to your vehicle.
The excess vibration of the vehicle can also result in the axle bearings not working. The hub, which contains the axle bearings typically, holds the frame and wheel of a car together.
Therefore, when you damage the wheel bearing, the wheels fail to spin, as they normally would, incurring extensive damages to your trailer. To counter this, ensure that the bearings are always greased to the manufacturer’s specifications, and are always taken better care of.
How to Balance a Travel Trailer Tire
Before purchasing travel trailer tires, consider doing market research to discern the most reputable tire dealers in your neighborhood. Such tire dealers tend to have a tire-balancing machine ready to ensure the tires are symmetrical.
If for any reason the dealer tries to convince you that you do not need to balance your tires, consider canvassing for a more willing tire dealer. In addition, you should also remember that when you pay for the installation of new tires, the price should cater to mounting and balancing your new tires.
There are two ways, which you can use to balance the wheels on your travel trailer. You can either opt for the traditional way or employ the modern method of utilizing dynamic balancers.
1. Traditional Way
Though considered antiquated, the old method of balancing attires involves adding fixed counterweights to the wheel works. There is a caveat, however. This method only balances the wheel and the tire in the current state, failing to account for the rest of the gear and the tire wear. Normal balancing only caters to the wheels and tires disregarding the hubs and drums.
This means that, while you can fix a well-balanced tire to an unbalanced hub or drum, the whole system will be unbalanced. Moreover, the fixed weights usually applied on the rim could easily come off while traveling making the tire unbalanced.
This means that by employing this traditional method, you have to keep rechecking and balancing the tires regularly, making it a very time-consuming option.
2. The Modern Way
© NACV Show
The new method of balancing tires involves using centramatic dynamic balancers. The modern way uses a bolt-on system that constantly adjusts and balances the whole running gear. The system contains a flat disk made with a hollow tubular ring full of oil and a weighted shot. The disk matches the lug nut patterns on the wheel of the trailer, placed between the wheel and hub assembly.
The system helps balance the running gear, the wheel, and the tire through the centrifugal force generated while cruising down the highway. The dynamic element of this modern method ensures that the ring can move and adjust its position to handle the conditions of the running gear, which are always changing (dynamic).
When the weighted shot moves into place inside the hollow ring, the unbalanced position is remedied. If by any chance you pick up a rock on the tire treads and the point of balance shifts, the weighed shots also move to counteract it, ensuring that the entire system is always balanced.
Well-balanced tires help increase traction with the road surface, reduce the rolling distance, less wear, better performance, and overall, save you money. You can purchase centramic dynamic balancers from Amazon for as little as $180.
Why do we need to Balance Tires on a Travel Trailer?
When traveling in a trailer, your wheels are your lifeline. The quality, health, and stability of your trailer wheels are very important because an unexpected blowout could leave you stranded in the most desolate of places.
When wheel assemblies and tires retail in the market, they are never really perfectly symmetrical. Weight distribution is always an issue. Since tires are always rotating at high speeds, when the weight goes off balance, it can alter the force applied to the area making the tire vibrate and even bounce at extreme speeds.
Since the disturbance is caused by a lack of balance, whenever the wheel of the car rotates faster, the worse the wobble becomes. This can lead to the car losing traction and causing erratic behavior from the trailer, swaying, and even losing control.
This makes for a very uncomfortable car ride. The driver can even sense the out-of-balance motion in the steering wheel. In worse situations, even the passengers can perceive the wobble in the vehicle. Since many towed trailers do not carry passengers, they can easily go unnoticed.
However, just because one does not detect the wobble does not mean it does not exist. Travel trailers have to deal with a lot more extra weight in comparison with regular automotive tires. In extreme cases, the wheels may collapse, and the cargo in the travel trailers could end up severely broken.
Thus, having properly balanced wheels will decrease the wear and tear on the tires, bearings, and hubs. It also reduces the vibrations on the vehicle as well as increases the fuel economy of your trailer. By eliminating the pesky vibration on your trailer, you experience a smoother ride and all the components get to stay together in the process.
Challenges of balancing the Wheels and Tires of Travel Trailers
Over time, trailer owners may have trouble keeping their wheels balanced because they tend to throw weights. This means that the balancing weights used on the wheels may come off during normal drives for several reasons.
It is common for weights to come off if you tow an unladen trailer. Without a load, the trailer will excessively bounce especially when riding through rough terrain or a road laden with potholes. Triple-axle trailers also throw their weights when making tight corner negotiations as well.
Balancing trailer tires is also challenging since many automotive service centers are rarely fully equipped with balancing machines for trailer tires. In addition, many trailer wheels are lug-centric; the wheels tend to be centered on the hub by the lug nuts. Since automotive service centers use a computerized cone balancer (great on automotive hub-centric wheels), they may not produce the desired results on lug-centric trailer wheels.
Therefore, to get the correct balance on trailer wheels, you must use an adapter on the cone balancer. Expert recommend that one should always first consult with their automated service center to ensure that they have the correct adapter installed beforehand to balance the trailer tires properly. This would save up on the time, money, and effort expended on balancing the trailer wheels.
The other challenging factor of balancing travel trailer wheels is the fact that most of these trailers use galvanized wheels, which are not designed for balancing. If the steel wheel is galvanized by hot dipping, some of the liquid zinc tends to pile up in one end, which makes it hard to balance the wheel.
However, there is an upside to using galvanized wheels. The coating helps to reduce corrosion from harsh elements in the environment such as salty waters. Whenever you doubt if your trailer wheels are galvanized, consult your trailer or wheel manufacturers for specific instructions on how best to go about it if at all you can do so.
5 Best Travel Trailer Tire Brands in the Market today
Now that you know you can balance the tires of your travel trailer, the next logical step is to find out the best travel trailer wheel brands retailing in the market today. We understand that choice paralysis is a legitimate problem when it comes to purchasing tires for your trailer, and with a little bit of research, you will be in a better position to make a worthwhile purchasing decision.
We have taken the liberty to highlight five tire brands that should make your decision wiser and much quicker.
Founded in 2003, the Task Master brand has ardently been making quality tires for trailers, trucks, and other towable automobiles. Their products deliver exceptional performance even when produced under demanding conditions.
Taskmasters is especially a popular brand among travel trailer owners. Their tires contain full steel sidewalls or double steel belts, polyester cord bodies, and nylon overlays to add more endurance in difficult loading conditions.
Moreover, their tires are very strong, making them a preferred choice for campers fond of driving off-road in tough weather conditions.
2. Trailer King
If you are looking to buy new travel trailer tires, Trailer King is the best option. This brand manufactures its tires to provide reliability and high safety standards without compromising on comfort. The brand offers everything that a travel trailer enthusiast might need including high-end ST radial sizes, which provide incredible value for their price. You should be able to find a variety of trailer tires and wheels that can fit in any kind of trailer.
3. Cooper Roadmaster
Another noteworthy brand in the world of travel trailer tires is Cooper Roadmaster. They produce and sell tires for different types of trailers and vehicles. They feature a high-end, high scrub tread material whose protection on the treads improves longevity against chipping and cutting.
In addition, they feature stone ejector ribs in the grooves of the tire to help preserve the casing which helps assist in retreading. Cooper roadmaster also features a rounded shoulder design to minimize the effects of high lateral forces on the tire.
The Deestone brand offers nine different tire varieties for trailers. Every one of these tire options is meticulously designed to minimize rolling resistance. Moreover, the tire options reduce heat buildup in the tire, which ensures the longevity of the tires more than many other options available today.
If you want tires that offer optimized tread depth to ensure maximum efficiency and longer tread life, consider purchasing Yokohama tires. They feature a cut and chip resistance element that protects the tires from damages. It does so without compromising on wear performance and resistance.
Perhaps their most successful component is the Zero Degree belt, which creates a stable footprint for longer and even wear throughout the tire. Yokohama also offers stepped grooves in a funnel shape to prevent debris from being stuck on the bottom of the grooves and causing irreparable damage.
Other noteworthy features of this brand include new design tread patterns, which ensure an even distribution of the ground contact pressure. This results in greater stability, better fuel efficiency, and better tracking.
So, is it necessary to balance the tires of a travel trailer? The final answer is that you should balance the wheels of your travel trailer if you feel that you should. Even if you do not balance, the trailer might be rickety, making for an uncomfortable ride, but it will still do the job. While it might be necessary for passenger vehicles, it is not essential for travel trailers.
There are some advantages associated with balancing the wheels on your trailer; however, you must get tires that can comfortably handle the vertical load. You might experience a few bumps on the road to your destination, but the trailer and all the cargo inside will be secure. Whenever you are in doubt it is always wise to consult a professional before you balance the wheels of your travel trailer.