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Discussion Starter #1
I spent a couple hours on Sunday at the tire shop waiting for one of my tires to get patched due to a screw in the tread that started leaking air when I pulled it out. They did a good job with the repair, but didn't really balance the tire and so highway driving was pretty rough, especially above 75 to 80.

Instead of going back this week, I picked up a bubble balancer from Harbor Freight and some wheel weights and much to my surprise the thing actually works. Car is now driveable on the highway. Its not perfect but its close and I can keep up with the flow of traffic in comfort. While the patched tire was the right rear, the left rear tire also wasn't completely centered on the balancer and could use some attention but I didn't have time to clean it up and rebalance it. I'll work on the other three wheels throughout the week as time permits, and hopefuly that will clean up the minor jitteriness that remains. I also rotated the tires myself but its been about 10,000 miles since they were all balanced last so it perhaps its time for a rebalance simply due to wear.

The hardest part was actually removing the leftover foam adhesive from the old wheel weights. I ended up soaking it with Gunk Tar & Bug Remover (which is essentially kerosene) and letting it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before scraping it off with a plastic edge. It took a good amount work, although perhaps some heat from a hair drier would have made it easier and quicker.

The balancing process itself is pretty simple:
  • Set up the wheel facing up on the balancer, make sure its centered properly
  • Place weights on the edge of the rim in the direction the bubble is rising until things even out. Tap on wheel at a couple different points and allow to settle to confirm the reading. Also lift the wheel off the balancer and rotate to confirm the reading in a different orientation, but do not twist the wheel while on the balancer (that may damage the pivot point).
  • Mark with chalk the center point of where you stacked the weights (this will be on the outward facing side of tire/rim)
  • Transfer chalk mark onto inside part of rim behind the spokes, I did this by placing the wheel vertical and orientating the chalk mark closest to the floor at 6 o'clock position
  • Find & mark center point of the rim & tire: with wheel flat on the ground, lay a straight edge across it and measure total thickness to the ground. Mine was 8 & 9/16ths inches, half of which is just over 4.25 inches. With the straight edge across the whole wheel measure down 4.25 inches and make a mark perpendicular to the transferred chalk mark showing the center point of the balance weights.
  • Arrange and stick on the needed amount of wheel weights equally around this cross mark. Equal amounts to inside and outside of the cross mark, and equal amounts fore and aft of the cross mark.
  • Place the wheel back on the bubble balancer and check for balance again. Balance was improved but still slightly off and I had to place a second set of weights approximately 45 to 60 degrees away from the first set. After applying the second set of weights, the wheel checked out as balanced.
I watched a number of youtube videos before attempting this but the above procedure is essentially from youtube channel Charlie Sarsfield and his "Bubble Balancing An Automotive Tire To Correct A Static Imbalance" video. It was the most complete I saw in terms of also explaining precisely where to place the stick on weights with respect to the inside/outside of the rim orientation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCLVcsRbqYU

For setting up the bubble balancer, I found Ratchets and Wrenches "How to Balance a Tire Yourself - Using a Bubble Balancer by Harbor Freight" video very helpful.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KB1Xu6Zr_KE

Hopefully this helps anyone else thinking about doing home tire balance. The wheel shop I go to is a good shop, and they do the alignments right, but their tire balancing is hit and miss and I often go back a second time before they get the balance right. I have the lifetime alignment, tire balance & rotation, and road hazard warranty, so it doesn't make sense for me to go elsewhere just for the tire balancing. My tires are wearing in evenly so at least the allignment part is done right.

Last and most important, not having to plan around their working hours is also a big bonus. Its not always possible or easy to go in during the week and on weekends they are usually very busy. It always seems to be an hour minimum and often a couple hours, so avoiding or minimizing all that just for tire balance is kind of nice.
 

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I bought one of these from harbor freight and it turned out to be defective, wasn't balanced on its own so haven't retried. The downside to this method is that its only a static balance and cant do the dynamic balancing that all tire shops can do now. Glad it worked out so well

Sent from my Pixel 2 using E46Fanatics mobile app
 

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2004 325i automagic
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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Bpat,
HF quality control can be hit and miss, but in order to get mine to properly level out I had to fine tune the balancer level using the 3 small Philips head screws surrounding the bubble. Once I got that set it remained level so long as I didn't move the balancer to a different spot.

I'd prefer the tire shop do it right, but the dynamic balancer they use is only as good as the guy operating it and that's not 100% either.

My understanding is that static is weight balance around the circumference of the rim, while dynamic is axial balance along the width of the rim (inside to outside). Maybe I got lucky, but it seems that placing the weights in the center point of rim has achieved both, at least on that rim. I haven't done the others yet.

RRRM8E,
I read the same thing. Mine are just stock rims with 205/55 r16 tires. Nothing special.

I also read that race teams still use bubble balancers but not sure what to make of that ... I am pretty skeptical.
 

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I don't know but i'd suspect a race team wouldn't have time to put the car on a rack if they need to replace a damaged suspension component or when a wheel digs into the dirt and bends something. i'd think as long as they get a rough alignment done they'd be ok? would be interesting to see what vorshlag does. they have a cool race blog
 

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Static balancing worked pretty well for the first 70 years of automotive history- yup, a good bubble balance does the deal 90+% of the time.

Race cars went pretty damned fast before dynamic balancers-
and yes, a 2 minute alignment with a laser pointer OR a long stick will get you back on track
with all 4 wheels pointed in the right direction.

t
 

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While not automotive, the best balancers for motorcycle wheels is a manual bearing hub balancer. You put a shaft through the center of the wheel and spin it on the balancer. Let the heavy section of the wheel find the bottom, then add the appropriate weight to the light side until the wheel will not move at any place in the rotation when left alone.

I stumbled on this method when I was at the world super bike races about 15 years ago and was talking to one of the Michelin tire guys in the Michelin tent installing race tires. This is the way they balanced all the superbike wheels. I asked about spin balancers like all the dealerships used and he laughed. He said the only way to get them right was to do it the manual time consuming way.

I say this to support bubble balancing. If you take your time, you can get a good balance. The main reason for spin balancing is a time reduction for the tire tech. It also allowed minimum wage morons to balance wheels, and do it quickly. How many of us have had bad balance jobs done at multiple shops? I know I have. How well is their machine set up? Calibrated? level?
 

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Thanks for posting Lever, that was a good video on balancing... getting a bad balance is one of my main gripes at the mainstream tire stores because the techs are pushed to get things out fast... recently had to rebalance all four new tires from an Evan's tire shop... I took them in separately in pairs to Pep Boys, and to their credit, did an excellent job... but I'm up for trying static balancing next time...
 
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