In this post, we’ll have a closer look at the need for balancing ATV tires.
- Whether balancing ATV tires is actually a thing, do they balance ATV tires?
- Can you even balance ATV tires?
- Whether you really need to balance them?
- When you should and when you should not balance ATV tires.
- And finally what is the best way to balance ATV tires.
Do they balance ATV tires?
Many ATV owners are used to having to balance the tires of their cars, and therefore wonder if the same principles apply to ATV tires. In most unbalanced ATV tires, you will feel some degree of vibration, and this raises the question:
Do you balance ATV tires? It’s optional to balance ATV tires. Off-road and utility riding at lower speeds usually do not require a balanced tire. Aggressively threaded mud tires are hard to balance successfully. Trail riding, racing, or other higher speed applications, will benefit from balancing the tire.
The purpose of balancing any wheel is to reduce or preferably eliminate vibrations caused by damages or imperfections in the rim or the tire.
Any imperfection will create a heavy spot that throws the wheel out of balance as it rotates. When the weight balance is off, the wheel will start vibrating more and more as speed picks up.
You bring it back into balance by adding small weights on the light spot of the tire. Just enough weights are added to shift the center of gravity back to the center of the wheel.
The vibrations in some unbalanced tires are so small that it’s practically unnoticeable, while at the other end of the scale you have tires that vibrate so much that it negatively affects the rideability of the bike.
Rider preference and what type of riding the rider do the most, is often what determines whether he chooses to balance the tires/wheels or not.
Can you even balance an ATV tire?
But even if you decide you that your tires really need to be balanced, and the kind of riding you do require it:
Can you balance an ATV tire? Yes, you can balance an ATV tire as long as it has a removable center cap. Or at least, you can drastically reduce any vibrations that are present. Traditional methods do not, however, work that well if you ride a lot in terrain with a lot of mud and debris.
Note that some ATV steel rims have a center hole that is too big to utilize the taper that is used to center the rim on most budget tire-balancing tools. If that’s the case, you will need to look up some creative DIY methods or bring the tire to a dealer that has the proper tools.
So what is the best way to balance ATV tires?
There are three methods commonly used for balancing ATV tires. They are:
Sticky weights and clip-on weights
The traditional way of balancing a tire is by adding fixed weights to the rim, so-called static balancing. Self-adhesive weights or weights that are clamped to the rim bead are the most common types of fixed weights used. This method works fine on most on-road tires.
The problem with these methods for balancing ATV tires is that the weights may come loose and bring the tire back out of balance. This happens due to the rough handling these tires are exposed to compared to car tires and other on-road tires.
If you mostly ride on smooth gravel trails, on paved roads and just some occasional light off-road, you will likely have no issues using this type of weights, even if they are somewhat exposed.
Sticky weights are the most common of the two for ATVs, as they are fast and easy to use.
For them to stay put it is however essential that you use weights that have a quality sticky tape, and clean the rim with a degreaser when you install them.
All you need is a simple bubble balancer tool and a variety of weights.
If you don’t want to do the balancing procedure yourself, you can ask a tire shop to do the job for you. Expect to pay $10-15 per tire.
But because of the common issue of weights coming loose from ATV tires, you may struggle to find a tire shop that is willing to do the job for you. They simply just don’t want to deal with the hassle of lost weight complaints all the time.
Some will even claim that ATV tires don’t fit their tire machine. While this may be true, it is often just an excuse used so that they won’t have to deal with ATV tires. Most ATV tires will fit just fine on a standard tire changing machine.
Ceramic tire balancing beads
In general, static balancing is considered better over methods where you put a balancing medium inside of the wheel.
But if you ride a lot in deep mud, and on trails with a lot of rocks, dirt, sticks and other debris, sticky weights may not be your best option. The wet mud, rocks, and debris will knock the weights off in no time.
For this kind of riding, using so-called tire balancing beads is your best option. These are small ball-shaped beads that go inside of your tire.
As soon as the tire starts spinning, the pellets will spread out inside the tire. The beads will naturally resist the force of the heavy spot of the tire, effectively self-balancing the tire as you go.
The beads are just a couple of mm in diameter and are usually made out of a ceramic material.
You use a special tool to inject the beads through your tire valve. Some, however, find this method quite tricky.
If you know how to break the bead on your tire, it’s likely both faster and easier to do so and simply pour the beads straight into the tire before you reseat it.
A word of caution: Do not use tire beads in combination with green slime or any other tire sealant that you put inside of the tire. The sticky slime will prevent the beads from spreading out properly. As a result, you may get a tire that is even more out of balance, as well as a huge mess if you need to remove the tire to repair a leak.
Dynabeads are one brand that offers this product. Their website will list the recommended amount of beads needed for various ATV tire sizes. An alternative is to ask at your local truck tire shop as tire beads are commonly used to balance semi tires.
Another benefit with tire beads is that they are reusable when you replace your worn out old tires. Read this guide if you want to know how to change an ATV tire at home.
Tire slime for balancing an ATV tire?
Some riders use tire slime to balance their ATV and other off-road tires. The principle of the method is called hydrodynamically balancing.
Tire slime is meant to prevent or repair leaks on all non-highway tires. Because it is liquid, it will have some balancing effect on the tire, but it is not recommended by the manufacturer or other riders that you use it for this purpose.
The slime will stay liquid only for a year or two. As soon as it sets, it will lose all balancing effect, and you will need to apply more slime.
An alternative product is the Ride-on tire sealant and balancer. This product is advertised as both a sealer and a tire balancer and will stay liquid for a longer time.
Should you, or should you not balance your ATV tires?
Whether you should or should not balance the tires on your ATV depends on what tire you have, on what type of riding you will be doing, and what kind of conditions you will be riding in.
It may be a good idea or necessary to balance ATV tires when:
- The majority of your riding is at speeds above 30 MPH, on smooth trails, paved roads or racing applications.
- You use standard size tires with smooth thread pattern, or tires intended for on-road use.
- You regularly use large, aggressively threaded tires at higher speeds.
It may not be a good idea or not necessary to balance ATV tires when:
- The majority of your riding is at speeds below 30 MPH, such as playing in the mud, technical off-road riding, rock climbing or utility work.
- You ride a lot in mud, debris, and rocks.
- You use large, aggressively threaded mud tires at lower speeds.
How tire type and speed affects the need for balancing an ATV tire
You can get ATV tires for a wide range of riding applications, stretching from smooth and stable radial tires intended for on-road use, to extreme big lugged mud tires.
The on-road type of tires will benefit from being balanced as they are typically used at higher speeds.
Any imbalance that is there will become much more noticeable when the speed picks up. The stick-on weight is more likely to stay in place as well, as you probably won’t ride as much in rough, muddy conditions.
Mud-tires, on the other hand, are used at lower speeds for the most part. At speeds under 20-30mph, you should not have any big issues even if the tire is well out of balance.
The big lugs on these tires make them not suitable for high-speed trail riding, as well as making them very hard to balance. You will have a hard time keeping the weights in place, and the vibration from the big lugs is always there anyway.
Another aspect to consider is that larger ATV tires may need months to straighten out after being banded. If you balance a new tire like this using sticky weights, you will likely have to redo the job after just a few months.
Any unbalanced wheel will put a lot of extra strain on your bikes suspension, bushings and bearings when used at higher speeds.
The heavy lugs on mud tires make things even worse, so if you plan on riding them at higher speeds now and then, a balance job may pay off down the line.
Your best option for balancing a mud tire is internally balancing them using tire beads.
How riding conditions affect the need for balancing an ATV tire
When you’re playing in the mud, it doesn’t really matter that much whether the tire is in balance or not. Any amount of mud in the rim will throw the tire out of balance, and no amount of weight can prevent this.
And as we’ve already discussed, sticky weights, clip-on weights or any other type of weight that are mounted on the outside surface of the rim will not last for long in rough riding conditions. But again, because of the low speed, this will likely not be an issue for you.
The same applies to any other type of riding where speeds are low. In technical off-road riding, rock climbing and most types of utility work, you will hardly notice a difference if you balance the wheels.
It’s when you ride on smooth, hard surfaces such as groomed trails or paved roads you will be able to notice the improvement of a balanced set of wheels. It will reduce bike wear and make the ride a lot more comfortable.