Taking Some of the “Mystery” Out of Wire Wheel Balancing

Below is a compilation of comments/advise from knowledgable persons on the subjuct of balancing wire wheels.

From Peter Cowper:

Here is more on wheel balancing than anyone needs to know, but my brain has gotten so full of automotive trivia I have to get rid of some of it.

I worked for Union Oil Company in the 1970’s “promoting” tire sales to our dealers and selling balancing equipment. The high speed “on the car spin balance” usually uses Hunter equipment. The strobe lights are set up on on the ground on either side of the wheel being balanced.

For the front tires, they push a roller against the tire to spin it up to speed.

For the rear tires the car is run in high gear with the wheel being balanced jacked up off the ground. Always wondered what they do with posi-traction.

This is a horrible job to do, as the balancer (person) has to lie on his back to reach around to hammer weights on, but will give the best balance possible as all moving parts are being balanced… brake disc, wheel bearings, knockoff, etc.

The last time I balanced my 1960 BT7’s 72 spoke wires with half worn out old Michelin X 185-15 tires, I had it done at a shop that will still spin balance on the car. The fronts balanced fine and the passenger side rear balanced fine running it in fourth gear. When we tried running the left rear driver’s side wheel in fourth gear with the wheel jacked up, it almost shook the car off the jack.

We took the wheel off and balanced it on a computer spin machine which balanced it fine with only a medium amount of weight. Bingo! Looks like maybe an out-of-balance brake drum is causing my 60 to 70 mph shaking for the past 32 years. Since the right rear ran fine, pretty much eliminates engine, clutch, transmission or driveshaft causing the shake.

With disc wheels, a large hubcap like balancer can be clamped to the rim and the wheel is spun up to speed. There is a shaft coming out of the center with round chrome collars stacked up which spins with the wheel. The balancer adjusts the collars in or out while they are spinning, the whole time holding his other hand lightly on the vehicle’s fender. You can watch the shaking of the car disappear like magic as the balancer adjusts the collars. Their final position tells how much weight and where to put it on the inner or outer rim. Probably the best balance possible. Do not tell them to “put the weights on the inside” as you cannot get a proper dynamic balance without offsetting both circumference imbalance as well as inner and outer sidewall imbalance.

You might as well use a bubble balancer if you only want to achieve static balancing. The off the car “computer” spin balancers can be set for just a static balance for those who want a pretty good balance yet do not want weights on the outside for appearance sake. At 65 to 70 all the vibration disappears after having the wheels spun balanced on the car.

Years ago when I worked for Union Oil Company, the Firestone Tire Representative told me that a radial will set after 50 to 100 miles and that is when it should then be balanced. I have always bought and mounted my tires at a friend’s shop, then driven a 100 miles or so before going to the old-timer who will still spin balance on the car. It may be just an old wives’ tale, but I have them balanced at another shop anyway, so I go ahead and run them for a while first.

From Jan Andersson:

The easiest way to balance wire-wheels is to use an old Healey rear hub extension with spinner and bolt it on the tyre shops balancing machine. Most balancing machines do have the possibility to bolt on an adapter plate for balancing wheels without a hole in the centre (a lot of French cars lacks centre hole).

On some machines a spacer is needed between the hub and the balancing machine to avoid the bolts on the machine to foul the centre of the wheel and on some machines you need to bring your own conical nuts. When the extension is fitted to the balancing machine put the wheel on the extension, tighten the spinner (it doesn’t matter if you use a hexagonal nut or a spinner because the mass of the spinner is situated in the centre of the wheel and won’t affect the balance) and balance the wheel.

From Peter Brauen:

I concur with Jan, this is an effective way to balance wire wheels on a conventional spin-balancer. The piece in question is called a Mag wheel adapter; it allows a wheel, or hub in this case, to be mounted via the bolts, not the centre. You have to use them on the wobbly web style Cragar rims that used to be quite popular. The original Healey rear hub nuts are the same thread as the adapter and thus clear the hub with no spacer (at least on my machine).

Make sure the conical surface of the hub is free from burrs, rust pits and steps. A new hub works best! This adapter is also useful for balancing the pressed steel wheels as their centres are not always concentric with the bolt pattern. Hope this helps.

Email to: Hendrix Wire Wheel in Greensboro, NC will do the brake drum balancing for you. (336) 852-8909 or visit their website.