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Putting tire balancing beads to the test


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Fleet Owner  /  May 11, 2016

IMI says balance is the ley to longer tire life and better fuel economy.

Can tire balancing beads truly extend usable tire life while providing fuel savings at the same time?

That’s what the engineers at Chambersburg, PA-based IMI Products believe and they put the company’s new Equal Flexx bead package – introduced earlier this year at the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) annual convention in Nashville, TN – to the test during a special demonstration event for reporters held at the firm’s new headquarters in Chambersburg, PA, this week.


Taking two almost identically spec’d Penske rental Class 8 tractors – with even their maintenance records a near spot-on match – IMI put pouches of its Equal Flexx balancing beads in the steer and drive tires of one of the trucks while leaving the tires on the other untouched.

Special sensors mounted to the wheel hubs of the tractors also allowed IMI’s engineers to show how Equal Flexx balancing beads help reduce vibration at the wheel end, creating a smoother ride for the driver while evening out tread wear – promoting longer tire life and fuel savings simultaneously, noted Bob Fogal Jr., the firm’s president and CEO.

“Over the course of a tire’s life, regardless of position, it’s going to lose rubber and wear unevenly. You’re looking at losing anywhere from 25 to 30 lbs. of rubber over a tire’s life due to wear,” Fogal (seen at right) told Fleet Owner.

“So the key is to get a better ‘footprint’ with that tire, because as it wears more, it becomes more fuel efficient due to lower rolling resistance,” he added. “Thus the reason balancing the tire becomes critical is that more even wear extends the life of that tire in its ‘sweet spot’ for fuel economy.”

John Tak, IMI’s director of marketing and product development noted that the development of just the right kind of tire balancing beads in terms of shape and material composition "is a complex science" with "a lot of nuances" to account for.

Yet the extensive testing by IMI's research team – headed up by Steve Ludwig, the firm’s senior product development engineer and an aeronautical engineer by training -- leads it to conclude that fuel savings for all tire positions on a tractor-trailer can be improved significantly by using tire balancing beads:

- An improvement of 18% on steer tires, or $1,000 in annual fuel savings for a tractor-trailer accumulating 100,000 miles a year, averaging 6.5 MPG and paying $2.50 per gallon for diesel;

- An improvement of 39% on drive tires or $2,100 in yearly fuel savings;

- And an improvement of 43% on trailer tires or $2,400 saving per year in fuel.

Altogether, fleets can save $5,500 in fuel costs annually, measured against the $450 total cost of adding Equal Flexx balancing beads to all the tires on an 18-wheeler – a figure that derives from 25% more tire life and a 3% to 5% improvement in overall fuel economy due to lower rolling resistance, noted Derek Forney, IMI’s associate product manager.

Those kinds of numbers mean that fleets should experience a return on investment (ROI) of three months on average by using Equal Flexx beads, noted Fogal.

He added that one of the “best parts” about balancing beads is that they help tires adapt to their conditions, balancing them if stones are caught in the tread, or there’s a lot of mud or snow and ice on the road.

“It’s also a ‘one-and-done’ application,” Fogal pointed out, with the Equal Flexx pouch dropped in at tire installation, breaking open to release the beads once installed. “That’s why it’s a cost effective solution.”


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Can Tire Balancing Save Fuel?

Heavy Duty Trucking  /  May 11, 2016

Can tire balancing save fuel?

The people at IMI Products, developers of Equal and the new Equal Flexx tire balancing compounds believe it can. And to prove the point, they hosted a press day at their Chambersburg, Penn., offices so reporters could see the results for themselves.

The way IMI explains it, properly balanced tires require less energy to keep in motion, and dynamic balancing can help reduce vibration that contributes to rolling resistance. Balancing tires, they say, helps keep them in service longer and allows fleets to get every mile out of every 32nd of an inch of tread rubber. And that's the biggest contributor to fuel savings. Tires that wear more evenly and run out right down to the last 32nd (or some predetermined pull-point) are in the fuel economy sweet spot of the tire longer. This allows fleets to take greater advantage of the thinner more efficient tread for more miles before the tires need to be removed.

Of course, if all the tires on the truck wear truer right down to the end, not just the steer tires, all the tires can contribute to improved fuel efficiency.

"Fleets are looking for longer tire life and balancing is one way to deliver on that," said Derek Forney, associate product manager at IMI. "The added benefit with such a program is the improved fuel economy over the full life of the tire."

Forney described two major fleets' balancing programs that both led to greater tire life and improved fuel economy. One was Nussbaum of Hudson, Ill. Following a test involving several test and control vehicles that ran 140,000 miles over the same 1,400-mile route, Nussbaum saw a 20% improvement in tire life and a 3% fuel economy gain. The only difference between the test and control trucks was the test group had Equal balancing compound at all wheel positions including the trailer, while the control truck did not.

IMI estimates the total annual savings can be $5,500 compared to a one-time cost of $450 to add Equal Flexx to tires at all wheel position on a truck. That figure includes about 25% longer tire life and 3-5% in fuel savings.

But how does it drive?

Equal Flexx is the latest balancing product from IMI. It was announced in February, but the first orders are to begin shipping this month.

Flexx is a combination of balancing compound and vibration damper. It's a blend of material that has been in development for several years. Steve Ludwig, senior product development engineer at IMI, said they tested more than 50 individual materials and blends of material to arrive at the optimum performer.

"We were looking to see how the product felt to a driver as well as how it performed from a data standpoint," he said. "We had the truck fitted with wireless vibration sensors so we could see how the product was performing. The driver didn't know which of four test materials he had on the truck, but he chose Equal Flexx and our data backed up his subjective opinion."

Reporters saw the data point on the chart and heard from the drivers on how they felt about the product, but we also had a chance to experience it for ourselves.

On a pair of nearly identically spec'd trucks on loan from Penske Leasing, one truck's tires were treated with Equal Flexx, the other's was not. After driving in the truck for about 20 minutes, the difference between the two was pretty obvious.

"We doubled the vibration damping characteristics compared with the original Equal product," said John Tak, IMI's director of marketing and product development. "Net, net, this product delivers 15% better performance than its predecessor. It delivers the lowest tire wear, the lowest rolling resistance due to reduced vibration, and the most fuel economy improvement potential. We can say that because we tested it."

IMI has loads of test data to share and even a few testimonials from the fleets that tested and proved the product. Give them a call or look them up online if you want to learn more about the fuel savings potential of all-position wheel balancing.

Photo gallery - http://www.truckinginfo.com/news/story/2016/05/can-tire-balancing-save-fuel.aspx

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