It is inevitable. If you own an RC car and actually enjoy using it you will start looking for ways to keep it working for longer and most likely perform better and move faster.
One nifty little trick to achieve all of these things is by balancing your RC tires.
RC car tires are balanced by using a tire balancer to find where the heavy spot on the RC tire is. Then a counterweight is placed on the opposite end of the heavy spot of the RC tire. Balanced RC tires should spin and move evenly without generating any vibrations.
With all this talk about balancing the tires, one may quickly start wondering, “Wait, wait, are we talking about full-scale cars, now?”
It may seem like going too far, but let’s take a step by step approach. Continue reading below. By the end of this article, you will have a deeper understanding of everything you need to know about balancing RC tires and how important it is.
What Does It Mean to Have Unbalanced RC Tires?
Balancing tires on an RC car is similar to balancing tires on a full-scale real car.
You can easily see when an RC tire is not balanced properly. Lift the RC vehicle off the ground and spin the tires. Look at how the tires spin, do they wobble a little? Do they vibrate? Frequently stock wheels will have a slight wobble to them. In fact, even at slow speeds, the wobble will sometimes be so bad that it will be very easy to spot.
Compare it to a balanced tire, and you will find that the balanced tire will not shift or wobble, and there will be no vibrations.
The only observable change, so to speak, should be in connection to the potential ballooning of the RC tire due to the high speeds. A tire that balloons should not be mistaken for an unbalanced tire.
Related post: How to Make RC Tires More Grippy
To find if the tire is unbalanced, it really needs to be allowed to spin. By looking at a completely motionless tire, you will not be able to spot if there is a problem with it.
Why Are RC Tires Unbalanced?
The reasons why RC tires are unbalanced are not that much different than the reasons why full-scale tires are unbalanced.
Tires are not always of the same weight. Frequently there will be slight discrepancies in how much they weigh and the way they have been cast.
These differences may be so small that you may need high-precision scales and tools to discover them; but, these differences, however small they may be, are more than enough to create vibrations and destabilize the RC tire under high speeds.
All of this applies to the rims as well.
The foam inserts will also have very slight variations to their weight and sometimes even size. And lastly, tapered tires may have the tape applied in a way that will further destabilize the wheel.
Not all tires are created equal, and the built quality can vary between the different tires of the same kind. For example, the belt on some belted tires, when you turn them inside out, may be off-center and not perfectly straight, while on others it may be perfectly centered. This will create high-amounts of vibrations when the tire is spun at high speeds.
Another interesting detail is that tires can lose their balance over time as they wear out. What this means for you is that it is worth your while to inspect the wheels every once in a while and balance them if necessary.
How to Properly Balance RC Tires
By balancing the RC wheel and tire assembly, you will be ensuring that it moves evenly, especially when subjected to high speeds.
1. Mount the RC Tire on the Tire Balancer
It is recommended to use tires that have been used at least once or twice. This will ensure the tire has broken in, and the foam inside the tire has been given enough time to settle in.
First, you will need an RC wheel balancer. You have to make sure that the adapter of the balancer will fit your RC tires.
The design and build quality of the tire balancer is of utmost importance here. You need the balancer to be using bearings, which will minimize the friction as much as possible. This will allow the tire to spin freely and the heavy spot to show up.
If you are using a makeshift balancer tool that does not allow the tire to spin freely (I have even seen people put a nail in a board to use as balancer.), this may give you false readings. The chances are you will not be able to tell where the real heavy part of the tire is, and you may end up putting extra weight on the wrong spot, which could further disbalance the wheel.
The best RC tire balancers that you can find right now for the money are:
- Dynamite Tire Balancer: This is an easy to use RC tire balancer. The built quality is very good and will not leave you disappointed. It is very precise, and it comes with a 1/8 adapter, so if you need a 1/10 adapter, for example, you may have to purchase it separately. The balancer is easy to assemble, disassemble, and store away when not needed.
- Losi Precision Tire Balancer: The RC tire balance by Losi is another excellent choice. It is a little more expensive than the one by Dynamite, but it comes with 3 oz of balancing clay. The balancer’s built quality is well-made; the design is sturdy and very user-friendly.
- Factory Team Handheld Universal Tire Balancer: The two balancers I have suggested above are standing ones; however, if you are looking for something different, then I recommend considering the one by Factory Team. This is a handheld balancer which is very easy to use. You can use it to balance the majority of RC wheels with ease, and best of all, it comes with balancing clay. You can check the price here on Amazon now.
- Hudy Universal Tire Balancing Station: If paying a little extra does not sound like a problem to you and you are looking for the best RC tire balancer look no further. The tire adapters are sold separately, and you will be able to find 1/10, 1/8, 1/6, and 1/5 adapters. This balancer offers the best precision reading and will not leave you disappointed.
2. Mark Where the Light Spot of the RC Tire Is
After the tire has been placed on the balancer, give it a slight spin.
Wait for the tire to come to a stop.
Observe how it behaves and moves right before it stops. Look for any distinct wobbling or rocking back and forth motions. As the tire slows down, you will start seeing that it will not spin as fluidly, and the movement will become a little unnatural. These are good giveaways that the tire is not balanced.
Don’t touch the tire as it spins; let it come to a complete stop on its own.
The heaviest part of the tire will always go to the bottom.
Use a marker or a pencil to mark where you want to put the weight (Where the light side of the tire is.) The light side is right at the top of the tire or the complete opposite of the heavy part of the tire, which is at the bottom.
I recommend doing that measurement a few times just to make sure that you have found the right spot.
3. Add Weight to the RC Tire
Now that you have found where the heavy spot (and the light spot) on the tire is, it is time to remove the tire from the balancer. You can proceed and add a little bit of weight on the opposite side of the heavy spot of the tire.
You can extend the marking to the inside of the rim as well so that you can have a better guide as to where you need to add the extra weight.
Technically at this point, you know where you need to add the weight. However, you do not know how much weight you need to add yet.
You can use several different things in order to add weight to the tire:
- Balancing Clay: This is the traditional way to add some weight to your tire. Clay is very easy to apply and adjust depending on how much weight you want to add to the tire. It is malleable, and it is the perfect inexpensive product for balancing RC tires.
- Modeling Clay: Yes, you can even use regular modeling clay to balance your wheels. However, it may not be as sturdy and durable as the clay, which has been designed explicitly for RC tires. For the best experience, use non-hardening modeling clay. Hardening clay will dry and fall off the wheel.
- Lead tape: Lead tape is another great product that you can use to add weight to your tire. Lead tape is oftentimes used in other sports like tennis and golf for similar purposes. Lead tape is easy to use, and it has an adhesive backing so it will stick to the rim. It is an inexpensive solution, and it is very easy to apply and adjust depending on how the tire performs.
- Balancing Putty: The balancing putty is very similar to clay and works the same way.
- Duct Seal: This is a great product that works very well. It is very sticky and will stay on the wheels, no problem. It can be found in most hardware stores.
Although you can use different products to balance your wheels, I believe it is important to understand how to do that properly.
Lead tape is usually one of the best products when it comes to balancing RC tires. This is because it can be cut so that it firsts the entire width of the rim. For example, clay is usually placed in one spot on the inside of the rim, which will just create another or rather a different kind of heavy spot. Using the tape, you can distribute the weight evenly. The end result? A better-balanced tire.
In other words, it is important how and where you place the clay. Putting the clay on the inside or the outside end of the rim does matter. However, the negative impact of that is relatively small (due to the smaller scale) and is usually overlooked. Thus the inside of the RC tire is preferred due to longevity and durability reasons.
On full-scale cars, this is known as dynamic balance which determines the angle of unbalance. While what we are doing here on the RC tires is called static balance.
4. Test How the RC Tire Performs With the Added Weight
Now put the wheel back on the balancer and give it a little spin. You want the wheel to spin nice and smoothly. There should be no noticeable rocking back and forth motion. And as the tire comes to a stop, the movement should be very fluid. The area where the weight is should be able to stop just about anywhere, at the top, at the sides or at the bottom as you turn the wheel.
If, after putting the weight, the wheel still moves back and forth a little bit, you will need to adjust it.
If the weight you have added is not enough or too much adjust accordingly. (In other words, repeat the steps 1 through 4 as many times as needed until you are satisfied with the end result.)
I recommend always doing one last test to see if the wheel is balanced correctly. Hold the balancer in your hand and give the wheel a really good spin. Inspect how the wheel behaves. There should be no rocking or shaking. If you feel any vibrations, then you may need to adjust the weight again.
How to Balance RC Tires Without a Tire Balancer
Tire balancers are neat little gadgets that come in handy when you want to balance your tires. Usually, they are fairly inexpensive, but not everyone may be willing to spend money on a gadget like this.
So can you balance your RC tires without a balancer?
You do not necessarily need a tire balancer to balance your RC car tires.
One trick is to use the front axle of a 2WD RC car. All you have to make sure is that the axle has bearings as you need that frictionless freedom of movement. For 4WD RC cars, you will have to remove the dog bone in order to allow the axle to turn freely.
This is as cheap a way as they come simply because you may already have everything you need to balance your tire.
I have been asked a few times for ideas for DIY tire balancers. However, after doing my research, I have come to the conclusion that a DIY balancer usually does not end up a lot cheaper than the majority of the products you can buy from physical and online stores.
Is It Worth Balancing the RC Tires?
Much like full-scale racing balancing the tires of your RC car is very important.
First, by properly balancing the tires, they will wear out more evenly. The overall wear will also be less and better spread out across the surface of each tire, whereas unbalanced tires will wear out faster in certain sports and not much in others.
Furthermore, unbalanced tires may wear out different parts of the RC car faster (like the bearings and some hinges).
Another thing balanced tires can do is better the handling and control of your RC car. It may sound like a crazy idea, but balanced tires just improve the control of the RC car, especially when coming out of turns. It makes the car less wobbly and less jumpy.
The vibrations generated by unbalanced tires will affect its top speed. In fact, the vibrations created by unbalanced tires can be so bad that even some of the screws can start to back out. Not will this just wear out the car’s components faster but can make the servo and the motor/engine have to work harder.