Star Wars may be set in “a galaxy far, far away,” but it’s no stranger to real-world controversy.
Don’t believe us? Just ask the biggest Star Wars fan you know for their opinion on…well, any movie after The Empire Strikes Back. Or the concept of “midi-chlorians.” Or whether or not Han shot first. Believe us, there’s a lot to argue about here.
The topic of semi-truck wheel balancing might be less widely discussed than one of the biggest movie franchises of all time, but this subject can get just as contentious. Unlike many aspects of heavy-duty maintenance, industry professionals hold varying views on everything from how often this service is needed, to whether it should be done for all tires or just those on steer axles, to whether you need a wheel balancing schedule at all.
While wheel balancing for semi trucks is a surprisingly heated subject, we here at Fullbay believe in taking a balanced approach. (Get it? Because it’s a blog about…never mind.) Here’s how you can bring balance to the Force—and by “the Force,” we mean “your fleet’s wheels.”
Is Semi-Truck Wheel Balancing Necessary?
Wheel balancing, which you might also hear called tire balancing, comes with loads of perks, but it’s not a service you’ll need done constantly. Before you decide how often it’s necessary, it’s wise to consider the advantages and drawbacks associated with this job.
When you take tire balancing seriously, you and your drivers will benefit from:
- A smoother ride. Perhaps the most apparent perk of balanced truck tires is a ride that feels less bumpy than usual.
- Reduced driver fatigue. Your drivers can feel the vibrations associated with a less-than-smooth driving experience in the steering wheel, making it hard for them to hold on tight. This can lead to driver fatigue and could even contribute to conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Improved fuel efficiency. When your tires weigh precisely the same amount, your engine won’t have to work as hard to make them spin. That means reduced fuel usage.
- Extended component lifespans. Your steering wheel isn’t the only component that vibrations can affect. Rumbling from imbalanced tires can also cut down on your wheels’ lifespan and the service life of other components.
On the other hand, potential issues related to tire balancing for heavy-duty vehicles include:
- Extra expenses. While tire balancing is far from the most expensive form of truck service out there, any service your trucks receive comes with an associated cost.
- More time in the shop. For “normal” vehicles, tire balancing is a relatively quick job—it should take no longer than 15 minutes per wheel, after all. But when it comes to vehicles that have 18 wheels, you’re looking at four and a half hours of work.
- Questionable necessity. There’s no denying that tire balancing should be done at regular intervals—for passenger tires, that is. Things are different for commercial heavy truck tires, which are built differently from “normal” tires and even light truck tires. Some experts say you should also balance these tires regularly, while others say you shouldn’t bother with this service until a driver complains.
Finding a Balance
Wheel balancing has quite a few benefits, but it comes at the cost of extended downtime and added service expenses. So it’s time to consider the obvious question: how often should you take care of semi-truck wheel balancing?
Though there isn’t a cut-and-dry answer, thinking about your fleet’s unique needs should help you build a schedule that works for you.
Some people swear by not worrying about wheel balancing until drivers say something, but this probably isn’t the best approach for your fleet. Many of the drawbacks associated with improper wheel balancing are surprisingly subtle. That means even highly attentive drivers might not notice a problem until it’s already been affecting their truck for months.
But you don’t want to rebalance truck tires too often, either. While the consequences for doing so are less dire than they are for waiting too long, rebalancing 18 tires requires a significant investment in terms of time and money. You may not want to balance truck tires as often as you would balance tires for passenger vehicles.
Instead, most fleet managers should fall somewhere between these two extremes by getting tire balancing service on a semi-regular basis. The exact timing of your wheel balancing schedule will vary based on factors like the length of your fleet’s routes and whether you focus on city or cross-state driving. Once you’ve created a plan for wheel balancing, you can make this service as efficient as possible by combining it with other tasks like tire rotations.
May the Force (And Fullbay) Be With You
Scheduling semi-truck wheel balancing for your fleet may seem like an impossible job, but it doesn’t have to be. By thinking about your trucks’ needs and the conditions they typically deal with, you can create a tire balancing schedule that provides the benefits of this service without constantly putting your fleet out of commission.
When you’re thinking about how to maximize fleet efficiency and reduce downtime, look into maintenance management software for your fleet. Fullbay offers mileage/engine hour tracking to remind you of upcoming preventive maintenance appointments, service order workflow guidelines to ensure your inspections catch everything, and more. Set up your Fullbay demo today—the fate of the galaxy depends on it!*
*DISCLAIMER: Fullbay assumes no legal responsibility for the fate of the galaxy.