Home » What Are Tire-Balancing Beads, Do They Work, And How?

What Are Tire-Balancing Beads, Do They Work, And How?

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Balance beads are an interesting low-tech way of balancing your wheels, albeit only when they’re moving. If you’ve heard of them before, you might wonder what they look like when they’re sloshing about inside a tire. Or maybe you’ve never heard of balance beads before today, like me! Fear not. We’re going to explain everything.

Balance beads are literally just small temperated glass balls that you insert inside a tire. They’re designed to be large enough not to fall inside the valve stem, but small enough that they’re lightweight and able to easily flow around inside the tire. The idea is that in the course of normal driving, the beads will bounce around inside the tire and end up in the right position to counteract any imbalances in the wheel.

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Before we get into how they work, let’s see them in action first. In a new video on the Warped Perception YouTube channel, we get a look at these beads as they’re rolling around inside a tire.

Beady Eye

The video gives us a great look at what goes on inside the tire. With the GoPro mounted on the wheel rim, we can see the balance beads collecting in a heap when the vehicle is at rest. Then, as the vehicle accelerates, the beads slosh around the tire, before distributing themselves on the tire wall.

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So how are balance beads supposed to work? As you see in the video, the wheels rotate as the vehicle accelerates, and the beads eventually end up on the tire wall courtesy of centrifugal force (no arguments please). So far, so good. But that would just distribute the beads evenly, right? How does that counteract a heavy spot on the wheel and balance it out?

Gopro Inside A Car Tire (with Balance Beads) 2 49 Screenshot
The beads at rest in the bottom of the tire, along with some other detritus.
Gopro Inside A Car Tire (with Balance Beads) 5 48 Screenshot
As the car begins to roll, the beads are scattered.
Gopro Inside A Car Tire (with Balance Beads) 5 52 Screenshot
Moving at just 10 mph is enough to see the beads beginning to stick to the outer wall of the tire.
Gopro Inside A Car Tire (with Balance Beads) 5 56 Screenshot
At higher speeds, the vast majority of beads are on the outer wall of the tire.

The answer to that lies in the action of the vehicle’s suspension. Imagine the wheel has a large heavy spot on one side. When that heavy spot is at the top of the wheel, it’s essentially tugging the wheel up due to the forces involved. Since the wheel is suspended, it can move upwards to some degree. The beads, however, are not affixed to the wheel. As the wheel moves up due to the imbalanced spot, the beads don’t follow. They float in space continuing on their original trajectory until they come back into contact with another section of tire wall farther from the heavy spot. This action goes on continuously as the wheel rotates, with the perturbations due to the heavy spot growing smaller as the beads redistribute to oppose it. Relatively quickly, the beads tend to congregate in a position that balances out the heavy spot, which quells any unbalanced movements that would redistribute them further.

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A diagram explaining the way balancing beads work, from Innovative Balancing. The company sells balancing beads online.

A more obvious demonstration can be seen in this video. It’s a demonstration of DynaBeads (a brand of balancing beads) acting to balance out a spinning water bottle. You can see the bottle starts out heavily unbalanced, with the beads quickly redistributing in turn. Within seconds, the bottle spins quite smoothly with the vibrations all but gone. Naturally, when the rotation bottle stops, the beads fall loosely to the bottom of the bottle.

Ideally, we’d see this action more clearly in the video from Warped Perception. In an extreme case, we’d see the beads almost entirely leave the field of view. That’s because the weight of the GoPro inside the wheel significantly unbalances it, given it weighs on the order of 5 ounces. Thus, you’d hope to see the beads all flock to the other side of the tire to counteract this. This could just be because the beads don’t work quite as well as the manufacturer says they do, and they’re more prone to simply sticking to the outer wall rather than jostling into the right position.

Alternatively, there could be a lot more beads out of shot than we imagine, which are doing the job of counteracting the imbalance from the GoPro. To get a better idea of what’s going on, it would be ideal to do a similar shoot again, but with the tire given a large unbalanced weight on the opposite side to the GoPro. Then it could be determined if the beads are countering that weight by moving to the GoPro side under those conditions.

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While much of the video concerns street driving, there’s also a section where the wheel is tested on a balancing machine. It’s worth noting that as the balancing machine holds the wheel stiffly on a fixed axis, little to no redistribution of beads will occur once they’ve found a position on the outer wall inside the tire.

Doing It Yourself

Balancing bead suppliers like Innovative Balancing or Wurth recommend using the beads in everything from motorcycle tires to those on big rigs or RVs. Typically, it’s recommended to use just 1 or 2 ounces of beads per tire for motorcycles. For cars, four ounces per tire is a typical starting point, while heavy trucks or off-roaders might use more than 10 ounces per wheel to help balance large, chunky off-road tires.

Notably, though, some companies don’t sell balancing beads for cars or SUVs. In the case of Innovative Balancing, the company says this is due to the common use of low-profile tires. The company notes these tires often require balancing in the lateral direction which the use of balancing beads can’t readily achieve. The company does suggest that eager buyers can still use the beads, but they should only be used in addition to traditional balancing with stick-on wheel weights. The beads are also not recommended for use “in any vehicle used for racing, for any application involving cornering at high speeds, or in tires placed under high acceleration beyond normal highway use.”

While you could theoretically just add a whole load of beads to your wheel and they’d presumably balance out, it’s a poor idea. You’re adding unsprung weight which reduces your suspension’s ability to control the wheel for a start, and the added weight won’t help your fuel economy, either. Despite this, multiple bead manufacturers suggest fuel economy as a benefit of their beads due to things like ”

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Dyna Beads Dynamic Wheel Balancing Review And Installation 2 19 Screenshot

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The beads can either be installed before mounting the tire, or through the valve stem. If you’re really big into the beads, though, you can source the Dyna Jet from Dyna Beads which uses a venturi system to suck beads into a flow of compressed air as it fills the tire.

Adding beads can be done in several ways. You can dump them inside the tire when installing it on the rim, or you can pop a bead and shovel them in that way. Alternatively, some companies provide tools to help you squirt them in through the valve stem – after removing the valve core, of course. However, this can be fussy and time-consuming, particularly if you’re adding a lot of beads.

I’m not entirely convinced that balance beads are a great balancing solution. I don’t love the idea of a bunch of beads rolling around inside the tire, even if they’re round enough that they’re not chewing up the rubber from the inside out. Plus, installation is fussy enough that it doesn’t seem much easier than just getting a shop to do the job properly in the first place.

With that said, the video above has intrigued me enough to want to test them for myself. Maybe one day I’ll head out on the road with an unbalanced wheel and a barrel of beads and see what I can find out. In any case, if you’re on Team Bead, let me know your experiences with these oddball glass balls. I’d love to know if they make a big difference in the real world – or not!

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Image credits: Warped Perception via YouTube screenshot, Innovative Balancing, Cruiseman’s Garage via YouTube Screenshot

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Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
29 days ago

These suck! My dad put them in the front tire of the BMW R100 I bought from him a few years back and it was downright scary at certain speeds. Getting a proper balance with weights and changing over to progressive springs did a world of good on that old rig. Just stick to normal weights.

DWWhite
DWWhite
29 days ago

Not a tire engineer… but I work for several.
We’re all employed by a major US tire manufacturer…
I’m in the testing division…

The fact that NONE of the major (or minor) tire makers recommend this practice should tell you all you need to know. And no, it’s not all a “big balancer” conspiracy.

Loose foreign objects inside the tire envelope are a big no-no. While they MAY work to balance a tire, maybe…, the potential liner damage outweighs any possible benefits. The inner butyl liner is all that’s holding the air in your tire, and having hundreds, or even thousands of beads abrading it all the time WILL cause damage.

Our testing even shows that loose objects, even when pinned by centrifugal (centripetal) force, will still vibrate and shift as they pass through the tires footprint and can wear through a liner in as little as a few hundred miles.

The “Equal” packets used by large trucks is marginally better because it’s a loose powder, but they don’t have to worry about clogging valve stem TPMS sensors.

Just get your tires balanced at a reputable shop every time you rotate them… You do rotate, don’t you?

notoriousDUG
notoriousDUG
28 days ago
Reply to  DWWhite

Why would a large truck not need to worry about clogging the valve stem?

DWWhite
DWWhite
28 days ago
Reply to  notoriousDUG

You’re not so much worried about clogging the valve stem as the ports on the TPMS sensor. Typically class 6-8 trucks are not equipped with TPMS, and if they are, they are (mostly) mounted at the end of the valve stem, upstream of the Schraeder valve.

Harmon20
Harmon20
29 days ago

Interesting. I think this is the solution to my motorcycle trailer balance issues. Something is so out of balance that a case of soda in the trailer vibrates to the point that after 1000 miles nearly all the paint was worn off the cans.

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
23 days ago
Reply to  Harmon20

Is that balance, or just lack of any real suspension? Could also be worn out if it’s a rubber torsion suspension like a lot of them are.

notoriousDUG
notoriousDUG
29 days ago

I have used golf balls to balance large off-road tires. It sounds super weird when you come to a stop.
You can also use air-soft pellets or steel shot; both work great.
You can also get balance packets for truck tires and pre-measured for the tire size. You just toss the bag in and forget it.

Harrnack
Harrnack
29 days ago
Reply to  notoriousDUG

I was going to say remember to take the beads out of the plastic bag, but maybe it would still work. Bag would probably break immediately, making it a moot point.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
29 days ago

I use little bags of cocaine in my tires. Works well, saves interior space, and the federales dogs can’t sniff them through the rubber.

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
29 days ago

Tire/wheel manufacturing seems to be getting so good now, when I got my new tires balanced on my new wheels each took only like 1 little stick on weight. I wonder if new tires even need to be balanced in 10 years.

Taxi maniac
Taxi maniac
29 days ago

I’ve used them and I like em. They are great if you have a wheel weight that comes off or some tires that are starting to wear out unevenly.

Not snake oil at all

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
29 days ago

Oh, yeah, I can testify to that, at least to a sort of homebrew counterpart. Nearly two decades ago I replaced the tires on my 1969 VW bus, as the old tires were so old they didn’t even have date codes, at least in a modern format, stamped on them and from a conversation with the previous owner I figured out they were some twenty-five years old, egad. The tire shop that installed the new tires admitted that they couldn’t balance the tires because they’d actually just gotten rid of their air-cooled-VW-specific tools but they did the best they could. Inquiring around town failed to turn up any other tire shops that still had their VW tools. For those of you not versed in air-cooled-VWese, the BCD (bolt circle diameter) is an astonishingly wide 205 mm; typical BCDs range from about 95 mm to 170 mm.
After I’d driven around for a few days on the new tires which didn’t seem terribly out of balance, though indeed noticeable at near-highway or highway speeds, I ended up with one tire that had a belt separate inside due to the cumulative effects of being unbalanced, gah. Fortunately the tire shop replaced that tire under warranty but in the meantime I did some research and found a post on ratwell.com, an excellent resource for air-cooled VW buses, where the blogger described having some success with his Porsche 914 by using Airsoft beads (it appears that that particular post has been removed, perhaps for liability reasons or he perhaps found issues over time such as the Airsoft beads breaking down.) So I provided the tire shop with about three ounces of Airsoft beads per tire that they added which absolutely worked a real treat. I then drove my bus as a daily driver for many years without any issues until some pushrod tube seals started hemorrhaging oil like Deepwater Horizon, gah. Once I get that sorted I’ll have to get new tires so that’s good to know about the commercial products out there, especially since it’s doubtful that any of the local tire shops will have acquired such obsolete equipment as used for air-cooled VWs, plus the apparent removal of that post is slightly disconcerting, to say the least. As a stopgap measure, at least, those Airsoft beads did indeed work wonders.

1913Jalopy
1913Jalopy
29 days ago

Quite a few Model T drivers swear by them. I haven’t gotten to that point yet in my restoration project, so I can’t vouch for them.

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
29 days ago

My question would be how much do you need to put in? When I balance my motorcycle tires, they usually take 1-3 oz to balance. So, if I install 3oz of beads but only need 1, where do the other 2oz go? If I install 1oz but need 3oz, it won’t be enough to balance the tire. And if you are going to go to all the trouble to figure out how much weight you need, then you know how much and where to apply conventional weights.

I haven’t seen a scientific test that would convince me that the beads will always find the light spot – I would expect that they would just find the high spot (which is likely to be the heavy spot).

Last edited 29 days ago by Mr. Canoehead
IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
29 days ago

You’d better not use Fix-a-Flat after putting solid media inside your tires.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
29 days ago

Off-roaders have been using a version of these for years. BBs or different sizes of shot for/from shotgun shells. Massive chunky tires can lose pieces rock crawling or get mud or rocks caught in the tread—not to mention tire weights falling/being scraped off. With self-balancing like this, you just come off the trail & drive home. Not perfect, but, if you get the right ratio, good enough to keep your tires from beating you & your suspension to pieces on the highway home.

Always broke
Always broke
29 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I feel like I’ve heard of people on off-road forums even using golf balls on the extreme end of tire sizes

Kyle Brant
Kyle Brant
29 days ago

We use balancing beads at work on the steer tires of our dump trucks and semi truck, we run 425/65r22.5 and 70mph i dont get any vibration out of the front end???? for cars, I wouldn’t bother with them

CSRoad
CSRoad
29 days ago

I only came for the “Centrifugal Force” arguments, however since I’m here I have to admit I’ve used Counteract beads in the wheels of my cruiser type bike for nine years and I’m sold in that application, smooth all the way up to an actual 200 km/h, which is where the rev limiter kicks in and stops the stupidity.
Some sport bikes can supposedly accelerate too fast for the beads, but that is not a problem for my cruiser.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
29 days ago

My mechanic used these on my box truck when the balance machine said I needed more weight in one area than could actually be applied inthat area. Like 7.5 Oz or something. I had a very smooth ride.I would expect they only work above a certain mph.

Live2ski
Live2ski
29 days ago

putting a gopro inside a tire is pretty cool

Tom Halter
Tom Halter
29 days ago

Seems like snake oil. Do I put the beads in before or after the Nitrogen?

Can we get a real tire engineer to weigh in, and not just the vendor and some random YouTuber?

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
29 days ago
Reply to  Tom Halter

Yeah, “can’t run this test because we got cut off in traffic” doesn’t exactly smack of scientific rigor.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
29 days ago
Reply to  Mechjaz

Tbf this guy really had no knowledge of what he was doing no a fair test either way.

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
29 days ago
Reply to  Tom Halter

I only fill my tires with nitrogen (because I’m a Costco member and that’s what their free air pumps use).

James Mason
James Mason
29 days ago

I fill my tires with a 78% nitrogen mix.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
29 days ago
Reply to  James Mason

Me too! I keep a huge supply of it in my garage and my inflator just automagically sucks it right in and pushes it into my tires. It’s amazing.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
29 days ago
Reply to  Tom Halter

Plenty of experience over at forums like Pirate 4×4. I wouldn’t do it for street tires (I’d prefer to get a good balance on a machine), but seems to work well for off-road tires. Or really big ones where you’re not as concerned about unsprung weight.

Which doesn’t go with other comments about using them in motorcycle tires, so maybe I can learn something

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
29 days ago
Reply to  Tom Halter

It’s not really a niche product, plenty of people have plenty of experience with tire beads. As mentioned in the article, they’re very common in off-roaders and large trucks.

They definitely do work, and some truckers have put many many miles on tires loaded with beads without issues.

I still don’t love it though, and I don’t intend to put it in my car.

notoriousDUG
notoriousDUG
29 days ago
Reply to  Tom Halter

Except it is a thing that has been happening for literal decades and actually works.

Tim Beamer
Tim Beamer
28 days ago
Reply to  Tom Halter

This all depends on whether you’re using “summer air” or “winter air” in your tires.

RidesBicyclesButLovesCars
RidesBicyclesButLovesCars
29 days ago

I used balance beads in the tubes of a Honda Rebel motorcycle I was learning to ride on. The bike was already fairly thrashed from the previous owners and I didn’t feel like paying money to have the tubes and tires professionally mounted and balanced. At the time, I honestly didn’t know if I was using snake oil or something that would actually work. I never had balance issues with the new tubes and tires!

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
29 days ago

Interesting. I was amused when pulling out on the street that I could instantly tell it was Chicago. Instantly.

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
29 days ago

The trouble we discovered with balance beads is that they can jam up the valve stem. We were trying to air down my friends 80 series off road and we couldn’t get them inflated or deflated. We even tried changing the valve core. We eventually had to go into “town” (big water, AZ) to get some new valve stems put in so we could continue.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
29 days ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

Pretty sure you only do it while balancing the tires? I would hope just like putting the nozzle back on the pump before pulling away it is fairly easy.

CSRoad
CSRoad
29 days ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

There are special valve cores with nice caps for just a few dollars more, usually part of complete kits.

Dale Mitchell
Dale Mitchell
29 days ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

How would you prevent the glass beads from ‘sandblasting’ the inside of the tire and rim?
OK the beads probably start with a smooth surface, but they are gonna smack into one another a bunch, eventually they would break and have sharp edges.
Is this a concern?

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