April 2007 Willie's Workbench Tire Life ProductPosted in How To: Tech Qa on April 1, 2007
It was a good day of four-wheeling-no, make that a great day. Nothing broke, there was no metal damage, and we had conquered a difficult rocky trail. Before hitting the pavement, tires were aired up, hubs unlocked, and a quick look to the underside making sure nothing mechanical was damaged to the point of being unsafe.
However, as soon as I was up to speed, it was apparent something was wrong. There was this crazy vibration that got worse the faster I went. A quick stop and another look at the underside, along with a hands-on approach, revealed nothing amiss. Then I looked at the wheels, and sure enough, I was missing the two very large balance weights on one wheel and three on the opposite side. Looks like the rocks scored a win after all. Dang, now the expense of balancing them again!
I was planning on going out again the next weekend and knew I wouldn't have time during the week to get to my favorite tire shop for a rebalance. Besides, it was going to be a harder trail, so I wanted to swap to my taller IROKs on Marsh bead-lock wheels. Problem was, these also vibrated from an out-of-balance condition. Not that I didn't want to balance them-there just wasn't an easy way to do it. The nearly full disc bead-lock flange prevents the hold-down cone on the balancing machine from fitting, and the inner part of the wheel was so close to the caliper that wheel weights would be knocked off with the first rotation. Nor could weights be attached to the bead-lock flange.
Then I got talking to the truck tire guys at the local Les Schwab shop. Seems that they no longer balance big truck tires. They happened to notice that when they put a liquid material called "Tire Life" in big-rig tires, out-of-balance complaints stopped. So I figured it was worth a try. On went the IROKs, and I had them put Tire Life in each tire. An appropriate amount is put in an air tank, and then air pressure is used to push the Tire Life through the valve stem into the tire. They had no idea how much to put in my smallish tires, so guessed at about 20 ounces per tire at $10 a shot.
Driving away, I didn't even get up to 35 mph before I knew something wasn't right. The Jeep was almost undriveable due to wheel wobble. Damn!
I gave the manufacturer of Tire Life a phone call (800/547-7785) after looking at the Web site (www.fullerbros.com). It seems that Tire Life is not a magic material designed for tire balance, but is a "tire coolant, sealant, anti-oxidant, and rust inhibitor for rims." Nope, they said, they make a lot of claims about their products, but for use as a balancing agent, they make no claims. However, the guy I spoke with did admit that he gets lots of feedback from commercial tire shops as to how well it does work as a balancer. When I asked how much to put in my 13.50-36/15s, he said he wasn't really sure as they had never done any testing on that "small" of a tire. He made a guess of between 10 to 12 ounces. He said in this case, more is not better. Whoops! So now I had to break down the bead locks and scoop out what turned out to be 22 to 24 ounces of Tire Life in each tire. Then, with a measuring cup, I put 12 ounces back in and put the wheels back together. Oh yes, it was so much fun!
This time, the difference was amazing. I am not sure the tires are in perfect balance, but they are so much better than they were to start with. I was so happy that I took the rest of the leftover Tire Life and went to the trouble of breaking down the four tires with the lost balance weights and putting in the remaining material, about 10 ounces, for each tire. Several weeks later, I again swapped tires and was just as pleased with the balance in these as I was with the first set. OK, it wasn't a perfect balance, but then-even right after they were balanced with weights-there was still some vibration, most likely due to my tread modifications with the grooving iron.
The cost per tire, at $10, is a bit more than a standard balance, but it's good for the life of the tire, which may even be extended with the use of Tire Life. I'm so convinced this stuff is great, that I plan to put it in the new tires I put on my Duramax dualie pickup.