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Tire Balancing Beads and Automatic Tire Balancers What Are They Used For?

You may not have heard of them, but tire balancing beads are nothing new when it comes to finding economic and efficient ways to balance tires. They may not yet be as mainstream as taking your vehicle into the shop to balance your tires with weights, but they are well on their way.

Let’s learn more about tire balancing beads and see how they work.

What Are Tire Balancing Beads?

Tire balancing beads are tiny beads that internally balance tires. You can find ceramic, glass, or a combination of both materials in them, with the better of those being ceramic. The glass beads can break down more easily, possibly causing damage to the tire’s inner lining. When used properly, these miraculous little tools will give your vehicle a smooth ride. 

Up close picture of ceramic tire balancing beads
These are ceramic tire balancing beads

What Are Balancing Rings?

While balancing beads can be free inside the tire, they can also be contained in a special ring. A company called Centramatic designed a unique product that works with the same principle as balancing beads, but it is much easier to use and install.

Centramatic tire balancer
This is a Centramatic tire balancing ring

These are special rings designed for your vehicle’s hub and sit behind the tire. Inside the ring is a set of beads that rotate around and spin out to the location where the tire is least balanced. They don’t do anything at low speeds but as speed increases the balancers go to work. We personally run these on our overland truck tires and they work great to provide a very smooth ride on the massive tires.

Centramatic balancers installed on our ram 5500
Here is the Centramatic installed on our truck

How Do Tire Balancing Beads Work?

Basically, the beads spread themselves around the tire as the speed and vibrations increase. The upward and downward motions position the beads, keeping the wheel planted on the ground. They help keep the tire balanced regardless of what your tire picks up along the road, like snow or mud.

Should You Put Mud Flaps on Your Pickup Truck? If you spend a lot of time driving on muddy roads or if your tires kick up a lot of debris, the answer is probably yes.

When the heavy spot in the tire goes up, the beads resist this, which forces them downward. The ones that aren’t needed to create balance are distributed equally on both sides of the tire, while the ones that are needed are forced downward to balance the heavy spot in the tire. The beads will now stay fixed in their position, giving you a vibration-free and balanced ride. 

Camera INSIDE a tire with Counteract Balancing Beads

The Benefits

Tire balancing beads offer a convenient and often cost-effective way to create balance throughout the entire vehicle. They adjust as needed to what your tires are driving on, keeping you balanced, comfortable, and confident in the knowledge that your tires will get you safely where you need to go. They’re also easy to install and often take less time than traditional balancing methods. Tire balancing beads are becoming the norm, and people seek them out now more often than in the past.

mud flaps for truck
Whether you’re driving on pavement, dirt, gravel, or snow, balancing beads will adjust to the road surface.

The Disadvantages

One of the biggest headaches has been getting the beads out of the tire when it comes time to replace tires. You can re-use the beads in the new tires. However, you’ll need to get the beads out without them hiding in the rim of the tire, which can cause damage. Depending on how much you spent on the beads, it may be worth it just to get new beads for the new tires. 

A set of tires with tire beads
Tire beads can be a mess when removing a tire.

Other disadvantages lie in the physics of how the beads work. The beads don’t do their job without movement, so the initial acceleration can create a temporary imbalance. Speed bumps, braking, and speeding up can also cause a temporary imbalance.

The mass of the beads naturally sits at the farthest point from the rotation point. This means you need more force to speed up. Because of this, you may notice a small decrease in fuel efficiency, especially if you have larger tires.

The beads also need to be free to work properly so if you inflate and deflate regularly moisture will build up in your tire. This causes the beads to stick together and not work properly. The Centramatic option alleviates this problem by enclosing the beads in a sealed tube.

tire balancing weight
While weights are a common option, they might not be the best option for your tires.

Tire Balancing Beads Versus Weights: Which Is Better?

Lead weights can fall off the tire. Since beads are inside the tire, this won’t be a problem. Because of how beads are made and how they work, they stabilize the entire axle, not just the tire, more than weights can.

Weights take more time to attach than tire beads, about 20 minutes more per wheel. When using beads, you don’t have to remove the tire. You can inject them through the air valve. Plus, weights can break down, which means you have to replace them. With tire balancing beads, you’ll only need to install them once.

How Many Balancing Beads Do You Need Per Tire?

Determining how many beads a tire needs for balance doesn’t have to be a complicated equation. While different size tires require different amounts of beads, a general guideline is to use one ounce of tire beads per 13 pounds of tire. But not all beads will work on all tires.

Tom working on a Goodyear military tire
The number of beads you need will depend on the size of your tire, so you might need to do some measuring.

To make it easier, many dealers and retailers have created specific calculators and charts. All you’ll need to know is the tire width, the aspect ratio/series, and the rim size. Many times they are segmented into bags and you place the entire bag pre-weighed in the tire.

tire balancer bag of beads
These are pre-weighed bags of beads. The entire bag is inserted into the tire.

What Happens If You Use Too Many Balancing Beads?

It’s possible to have too many tire balancing beads in a tire, so be sure to follow your tire requirements. But what actually happens if you have too many? Ironically, having too many beads is almost like not having any at all in that it can cause an imbalance in the tire.

It’s easier to get too many balancing beads in a smaller tire than in a larger one. In a smaller tire, there’s not as much room for the beads to spread out evenly, and this could result in congestion in one spot, causing an imbalance because the beads can’t get to where they need to be. There’s more room for error in larger tires, so if you get too many beads in the tire, they won’t cause any problems.

Think A One Ton Truck Is Big Enough? What Are The Differences And Why You Might Want A 550 or 5500?
We ran balancing beads on our first set of tires and Centramatics on our second.

How Much Do They Cost?

Just as the amount of tire balancing beads vary, so do the costs. The best way to assess the costs versus traditional tire balancing is to determine which avenue is best for you based on both costs and time. For traditional tire balancing services using weights added on at a shop, you can expect to pay anywhere from as little as $15 to upwards of $75. 

Counteract 451-00216 Bag (Tire Balancing Beads, 16...
  • ENHANCED VEHICLE PERFORMANCE - Counteract glass balancing beads...
  • EASY TO USE APPLICATION - The bag-in-bag balance bead application...
  • INCREASED TIRE LIFE - Counteract tire balancing beads reduce...

For tire balancing beads, the cost will depend on tire size and the number of beads you need. You can spend anywhere from $5 to $20 per bag of beads. With larger tires, this cost could be more (with bags ranging anywhere in size from around four to 16 ounces). Take that amount times how many tires you have. It could be cheaper than weights and a service visit, or it could be more.

In addition to balance, tires also need to maintain proper pressure. Check out our recommendations for The Best RV Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems.

Are Tire Balancing Beads Worth It?

For a traditional vehicle, most shops are used to using weights, and it’s usually best to stick with what they know. If, however, you’re running specialty or oversized tires, beads may be an easier and better solution. If you drive in mud and snow, beads or Centramatics are also a good option as they constantly balance as conditions change.

Using tire balancing beads may be a bit more efficient than the traditional method of bringing your vehicle in to get your tires balanced. Still, in the end, your decision has to make you feel confident and comfortable while on the road.

Ram 5500 with Bigfoot truck camper
The tires on our Ram 5500 are balanced with balancing rings.

Have you ever used tire balancing beads? Let us know in the comments below.

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Doug Donnelly

Sunday 7th of November 2021

You have missed the primary disadvantage of balancing beads. As the beads rotate they break down and create bead dust inside the tire. That bead dust will get into the valve core and cause the valve core to be stuck in the open position. That means that when you check your tire pressure, the air will NOT stop escaping and the tire will go flat. In response, you have to use special valve cores that have a stainless steel filter on the inside to keep the bead dust from obstructing the movement of the inner valve core. I did not know this and had almost catastrophic results. Fortunately, my tire dealer acknowledged that they had erred in using regular valve cores, and at their own cost they replaced all 6 valve cores on my motorhome. You really need to warn your readers of the need for the special filtered valve cores when using balancing beads. Check with your tire dealer or balance bead manufacturer: they will confirm that this is an issue.

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