Balancing and Tuning Wire Wheels

I got new wire wheels from SNG Barrat that I brought to a tire shop that does wire wheel tire mounting. They do not tune wire wheels. They mentioned that one of the wheels needed 6 oz of lead to balance which takes up about 25% of the inner rim. They suspected the wheel was bent or the spokes were not tuned. First, is adding lead weights to a wire wheel even something you do? Second, does anyone have any advice on tuning wire wheels, or determining if the wheel is out of tune? I’m hoping to rule out a bent wheel.

6 ounces seems like a lot of error to accommodate for. Sounds like something else is wrong.
Harbor Freight and others sell a cone wheel balancer, which is crude and simple, but if you are intelligent, patient and careful, you can do it with one.
But if you want to check wheels for trueness and eccentricity, you could remove a front brake drum, and back off the hub nut a little bit, so the wheel will turn really easy.
Then set up a magnet base dial indicator, spin the wheel, and measure the run out, see what you get. The tire would be off, of course.
You can also use this setup to balance the tires and add weights on the inboard side. Put the wheel on backwards if that makes it easier.


Hi William…its very easy to “balance wire” wheels incorrectly useing standard tyre shop balance equipment…you need special mounting cones for wires…see the info below showing the cones required…I purchased my own pair of cones and take them with me to the tire shop to use on their balencer whenever i have tires fitted…Steve

1 Like

My service provider put Balancing Beads into the tubes of one of my vehicles. To my surprise and despite my skepticism, they work pretty well. No ugly weights on my wire wheels, and the car runs smooth as. Read up about them - Google is your friend - and form your own opinion.

I am sceptical of balance beads…havent yet heard of anyone thats put them in and then spun the wheel up on a balance machine to see how they perform…Steve

I’ll echo what Steve H had to write about balancing wire wheels by including what Moss Motors has to say about them:

I can’t speak for you, but my takeaway is that when I get around to doing this I’ll either follow Rob’s advice by purchasing a bubble balancer or, if uncertain of my skills, purchase a set of balancing cones, take those to a shop and then have them balanced.

The Bentley manual has a excellent section on truing wire wheels. I had a splined hub and axle shaft clamped into a vise. You will have to reseal the spoke holes when done with silicone
Did mine 4 years ago and they run true no vibrations. Just takes some time

Yes. Absolutely necessary. The tire itself may not be perfectly in balance even if the wheel is, though 6 oz is bit excessive. I’ve had two sets of new MWS chrome wire wheels balanced by the only shop around here that’s set up to do the job. They apply the adhesive backed lead weights to the inner rim, rendering them invisible when the wheel’s mounted to the car. For good measure I covered the weights with aluminum duct tape. They haven’t budged, on one of the cars for more than 10 years and counting.


Was the needed amount of weight with or without tyre? Did they refit the tyre a 1/4 turn and try again? And again?

The picture is of a car I saw at the Essen Classic Car show some years ago.

Thanks everybody, a lot to digest here. Here’s how they look. Decided I’m going paint pastel green which I think they will look good with the chrome wires. I’m going to paint the originals I have the same color. Mine came off the line about a month before they offered chrome wire wheels. I guess my story to justy it in my head can be that it sat on a lot for a month and a deal was only made if the dealership agreed to put chrome wheels on from another car in the lot.

I would definitely go for the steel wheels then!

No reason to be skeptical: I’ve used them in many things, including my race cars. In any given tire/wheel combo, with standard balancing needs, they work just fine.

Hi Paul…iv seen no technical documentation/expert explenation how they could balance a tire/wheel …from my non technical view i can only think that centrifugal force would throw the bead outwards…yet when i have a wheel balanced the added weights can be on either or both sides of the wheel…so i dont understand it and havent seen a decend discussion on it…Steve

It’s well-accepted and well-understood physics.

Sorry Paul…that dosnt explain it enough to convince me…i havent see any wheel/tire manufacturers reccomendations…why would i get tyres fitted then pour small balls inside or into the tube when i could just go the conventional way and have external weights added at the same shop thats fitting the tires …Steve

If you cannot accept the laws of physics, not much else I can do to explain WHY it works.

Choosing to not use them, is a personal choice, and is not the point of the exercise.


Hi Paul…I havent seen anything quoting the laws of phisics in the discussons appart from centrigugal force…what really seals the deal for me is that none of the tire or wheel manufacturers reccomend useing them…unfortunatly i dont know enough about physics to understand how they work…and i havent read anything from someone well qualified that explains it…Steve

Hi: beads are useful because wheels get out of balance and unless you re balance ever few months, its verydifficult to get them right always. Beads were originally used in very heavy wheel-tire combinations.

I note from own experience that they also have shorcmings. Accelerating/braking hard unsettles them and they can take a couple of seconds to get in balance.

On my Continental R that uses enomous tires that are impossible to keep balanced, its certainly good to have beads.

Pulled from one of the links I previously posted…

Short of a mathematical proof, the concept provided in the manufacture’s description is valid- the beadsdynamically distribute mass to align the center of mass with the geometric center of rotation.

The following time steps are listed in the above link. I have tried to clarify the physics of each time step.

  1. Tire at Rest: The beads rest on the tire floor due to gravity.
  2. Tire in Motion: The beads distribute uniformly by friction as the tire begins to rotate, where they are held in place by centrifugal force ($F=m \frac {v^2}{r}$), acting perpendicular to the tire wall. Note that beads would remain in this state for a perfectly balanced tire. For completeness, gravity still acts on the beads but is small relative to centrifugal forces.
  3. Heavy Spots in Tire: In this time step it is important to remember that the vehicle’s suspension allows the wheel assembly to move vertically- Upward motion is resisted by the car’s suspension (spring) while downward motion is assisted by the suspension (spring) and resisted by tirepressure against the roadbed. As the ‘heavy spots’ in the tire are rotated at higher velocities, their centrifugal (inertial) forces physically move the tire up and down- poorly balanced tires can literally cause ‘wheel hop’! As the tire moves (up and down), the beads, with their own masses resisting motion, do not move rigidly with the tire’s translation; they move relative to the tire. Note that without vertical movements, only centrifugal forces act on the beads and they maintain their new position on the tirewall.

Imagine a bead when the tire moves up (ie. the ‘heavy spot’ on top)- Reversed when the tire moves down (ie. ‘heavy spot’ on bottom):

  • At the top: As the tire moves up, the bead does not. No longer guided by the tire wall it maintains its tangential velocity until it reestablishes contact at a new tire wall location, further from the imbalance.
  • At the bottom: As the tire moves up, the bead is lifted with the tire and does not change its location in the tirewall.
  • On a side between top and bottom: As the tire moves up, the bead rolls down the tire, changing its relative location in the tire wall further from the imbalance.
  1. Reduced Tire Oscillations: Each oscillation (tiremovement, up and down) moves the beads progressively further from the imbalance (‘heavy spot’), reducing the imbalance. Therefore, the tire becomes more balanced each oscillation until the tire is balanced.
  2. No Tire Vibration: The beads are held by centrifugal force in their balanced state. Because no imbalance exists, there are no vertical movements of the tire to disrupt their positions.

However, there are practical considerations worth mentioning.

  • Because the beads are free-floating (unlike mounted weights), accelerations create transient imbalance. For example, until the beads are distributed, their mass actively contributes to wheel imbalance. Similarly, road bumps, braking or driving accelerations will disrupt the equilibrium state.
  • Because the mass is distributed furthest from the center of rotation, more force is required to accelerate the wheel assembly, resulting in decreased fuel efficiency. This effect is magnified by larger diameter tires. Additionally, more mass is required to balance the larger tire mass.

Note: Tire balancing machines do not validate this method because they have a fixed axis, unlike the axis on a vehicle that moves. Without movement, the beadsgather at the ‘heavy spot’. To accurately measure the effect, the machine must allow movement.

To be perfectly accurate, there is no such force as centrifugal: centripetal is a more accurate term.


Apologies if I missed something, but what this reader doesn’t understand is how balancing beads can be used on a tire with inner tubes. Would one have to remove the Schrader valve and carefully pour the beads inside the tube? And how much?

Second, as an alternative to clamp-on or self-adhesive weights, I saw a 'teens Pierce-Arrow with wire wheels recently at our local park. It had a coil of lead wire/ solder(?) wrapped around one of the spokes at the rim and painted to match. Buried in my garage is a '37 Sunbeam motorcycle with, I believe, the same thing. Do people ever still balance them that way?