Key Takeaways

  • Tires should be balanced every time they are rotated.
  • When tires come off the car to be rotated, they are almost never already balanced.
  • There are a vast amount of factors that play into the balance of your tires.
  • Incorrect wheel weights can be applied by mechanics by mistake.
  • Mud and dirt caked onto your tires can cause your tires to become out of balance.

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Rotating your tires saves them from uneven wear, but is it necessary to rebalance them once they’ve already been balanced?

It is necessary to balance tires each time tires are rotated. That’s because the wear a tire experiences in between rotations causes the tires to become out of balance. Once a tire becomes out of balance, wheel weights need to be stripped, and reapplied in the correct position.

In the past, I was employed as a tire technician. This job required me to do all sorts of tire jobs from patches to rotations. And all the shops I’ve worked for required us to do a rebalancing of all four tires for each tire rotation. While this did add extra work to our schedule, it was well worth it since we knew the tires would leave the shop having had the best possible service offered on the market.

Table of Contents

Do Rotated Tires Need To Be Rebalanced?

Coming from first hand experience, working in a tire shop as a tire technician, I did at least 5 tire rotations a day on average. And each time we rotated tires, our store's policy was to balance all four wheels during every tire rotation.

Each time we removed a wheel from a vehicle, we hooked it up to the balancer. And before we stripped off all the wheel weights, we would gauge the tire’s current balance by spin balancing it.

It was only on very rare occasions that tires would come off the car perfectly balanced. In the majority of cases, and when I say majority, I mean vast majority meaning 90%, the wheel came off the car unbalanced.

There were times when I put new tires on a vehicle and balanced all four to perfection myself.  The next time the car came in for service and got a tire rotation, we’d have to spin them.

And every time, each tire was about 2.00 to 3.00 ounces out of balance. This proves that tires need to be rebalanced every time they are rotated, because tires don’t keep their balance throughout their life.

Damage, wear, dust, dirt, shifting belts, bad plies, weak spots in the tires, weak spots in the wheel, and more all play vital parts in the balance of a tire. So if any one of those things is affected, the tire will become out of balance.

Incorrect Wheel Weights

A lot of times, incorrect wheel weights will be applied by a technician who isn’t paying attention. Hammer on wheel weights are exactly what they sound like; they have to be hammered on to the wheel in order for them to balance the tire.

But the way they are applied depends on their size, and the size of the lip of your rim. If the wheel weight isn’t the correct lip size for your rim, the weight will hammer on and appear as it has been applied correctly.

The tire will even spin on the balancing machine without a problem because of centrifugal force. But as soon as the car leaves the shop, the weights will fling off the tire.

Sometimes you’ll hear it in the fender of your car as you accelerate and it will sound like a loud crack, as if something just hit your wheel well.

And it could possibly be that the technician at the tire shop applied the wrong wheel weight and the weights flung off.

An incorrect wheel weight has the ability to stay on for however long it feels like, so it could be months down the road before it decides to fall off.

Therefore, once the hammer on wheel weight does fall off, your tires will once again be out of balance.

This is another good reason as to why you should rebalance your tires during every rotation. There might not be any weights on the tire in the first place when you bring it in for a rotation.

Likewise, stick-on weights are wheel weights that are applied to the inside of the wheel’s rim. These weights are literally stickers with weights attached. The adhesive is strong, but not invincible.

You can stick on a “stick on weight”, as they are called, and they can fall off before you even mount the tire back onto the car. The same goes for stick on weights, as they stay on as long as they want to.

The adhesive is only so durable that once applied, it’s almost impossible to tell how long the adhesive will last. For the most part, if applied correctly, and to a clean area of the wheel, the adhesive stick on weight will last until they are stripped off.

But this isn’t the case for every stick on weight. Some like to fall off sooner than others because they are applied incorrectly, or dirt or mud gets under the adhesive, or a large jolt to the tire knocks them off.

Either way, while the tires are off, you might as well get the tires checked for balance. It’s going to be another 3,000, 6,000, 10,000 or more before they’re off again, so why wouldn’t you have them at least looked at? It’s the responsible thing to do, atleast, that’s what this technician thinks anyway.

Mud and Dirt

Another reason a tire can become out of balance between rotations is mud. Mud and dirt can get caked on quite a bit to the inside of wheels.

If you go offroading a lot, there’s sure to be mud in your wheels. I’ve seen wheels with an inch of dirt caked onto the wheel when they’ve come into the shop.

This mud is like adding extra weight to your tire making it a sure thing your tire has become out of balance. As well, dirt can layer up to the point where it throws your tires out of balance too.

The balance of a tire is such a sensitive thing, that even parking in a dirt driveway every night between tire rotations is enough to throw the tire's balance out of perfection.

As a side tip, if you do have mud or dirt caked onto your tires, when they are getting balanced, bring a small pressure washer to the shop and ask to clean them off yourself, or pay a mechanic to do it.

Because It’s almost impossible to balance a tire with mud caked on because each time you spin the tire on the balancer, mud gets flung off.

Once the mud is flung off, the tire has lost some weight, and needs to be re-spun and rebalanced. You can spin the mud/dirt caked tire three times without adding any weight, and get different results each time.

It’s a huge hassle that can be remedied by just cleaning off your tires with a pressure washer. Your car, and your mechanic will thank you for it.

Do Tires Need To Be Balanced When Rotated?

About The Author

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks

Christopher Sparks has been servicing vehicles since 2012. After completing the automotive studies program at Camden County College, he was awarded an Associates's Degree in Applied Science. His first job was a lube-tech at Jiffy Lube, and is currently an independent B-Technician servicing vehicles for the United States Postal Service. Christopher is ASE certified and loves rebuilding engines.

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