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  • Writer's pictureDave LeGear

Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On!

Funny story: many years ago, I took my boat trailer tires to one of the local tire stores to have them balanced, and the genius behind the counter stated, and I quote, "We ain't never balanced boat trailer tires before." 🙄 To which I stated well, the same laws of physics apply, so I will help you get your first set out of the way. 😃

Maverick skiff in tow

So, let's explore this subject a little further and learn the hows and whys of making your entire rig roll down the highway "as smooth as snakes on glass" while reducing wear and tear.

Why balance them, including the ones back there on the boat trailer?
  • Tire balance ensures even weight distribution around a wheel, which is crucial for smooth driving and optimal performance.

  • Imbalanced tires cause vibration, uneven tread wear, and steering issues, compromising safety and handling. They can also add to accelerated wear on items like wheel bearings,

Wheel bearing componets

which are already taking a beating from being constantly dunked into saltwater; you just do not see that wear as you do on other, more exposed trailer components.

Totally shot boat trailer axle components.
Totally shot boat trailer axle components. Rust never sleeps!

How to balance them.

  • Precision balancing involves adding or removing weights to align the tire's center of mass with the wheel assembly, enhancing vehicle stability and ride quality.

  • Wheel weights are added to the rim once the balancing machine finds the out-of-balance points. Here are some balancing tips for using mounted or stick-on weights from my days as an Automotive service director for expensive high-speed German sleds like Porsche and Audi.

  1. It's more common these days than years ago, but you might want to inquire if the balancing machine is of the "Road Force" type by design. That helps ensure Weight/Pressure is added to the tire's rolling mass to deflect the cords in the tire while testing, like it would when you are driving the truck or dragging the boat down the road, for that matter.

  2. Ensure that the Air Pressure you run is adjusted correctly before balancing.

Radial Tire example from Rainier.
Radial Tire example from Rainier.

3. A note on setting tire pressures: Max Air pressure for X weight cold is just that, which, in some cases, may not be near what that (one) tire is now carrying on your rig. Check the sidewall on your present tires and see what is recommended for the maximum air pressure (cold) and the total weight that one tire is designed to carry to ensure you have the correct tires for your rig.

E load Boat Tire TP ratings for X weight upon it.
E load Boat Tire TP ratings for X weight upon it.

4. Also, when checking tires, do not assume; make sure you know their speed ratings! Generally speaking, most trailer tires have speed ratings in the range of "L" to "N".

That translates to maximum safe speeds between 75 and 87 mph; here is a quick guide for those that fall within those speed ratings of "L" to "N":

L: Up to 75 mph

M: Up to 81 mph

N: Up to 87 mph

I found a generalized quick tire speed rating list online to help ensure they are the correct ones for your boat trailer. You may also check the ones mounted on your tow unit at the same time, just to be safe!

Tire speed rating

Again, do not assume. Always check the sidewall information for the set you now have installed to ensure they are the proper tires for your trailer and weight load. And just because the tire denotes that it can handle X speeds does not mean you should drag it that fast!

Now, some may ask, "Can I use Truck or SUV tires on the boat trailer to carry that weight?"

No, trailer tires are specially designed for trailers. They’re built to handle heavy loads, but unlike truck and passenger tires, they’re not meant for steering or driving traction. Trailer tires are built to withstand heat better than your typical Truck or SUV tire. When towing a heavy load, the trailer tires can heat up very quickly, so this extra heat resistance is crucial!

5. The needed weight to balance each tire and rim combo... I chuckle when I see these vast weights mounted upon or taped to the rim of almost any tire. Again, I come from a background of high-performance types like Porsche, which can and do run at speeds most will never push their automobiles as high. My techs were trained to keep the weights as small as possible, 1 to 1.5 ounces. Now, that might not be possible using a standard trailer tire and rim not designed nor as highly machined to run at nearly 200 MPH. But keeping them as light as possible is always a good guide to follow. Basically speaking, if you find you need to hang huge weights to balance any tire and rim combo (let's say over 3 ounces), you need to mark that spot on the tire and rim with chalk, let all the air out of it, and then rotate that tire 180 degrees on that rim (re-index it as they say) so you are not catching both the high/heavy side of the tire and rim at the same time.

6. Unknown to some, I am sure, radial tire cords can shift over time. However, this may not matter in a boat trailer application in some cases since many Skiffs only have a single axle. I do, though, try to make it a habit to have them balanced (again) when rotating the tires on the Truck/SUV since they are already off your vehicle labor dollar-wise to help compensate for this effect.

The use of balancing beads instead of weights.
  • Balancing beads are small granules typically made of glass, ceramic, or metal placed into the tire, usually through the valve stem.

  • The beads automatically adjust their position based on the tire’s balance, distributing their weight to the heavy spots on the wheel as the speed increases. This helps to ensure the tire rolls smoothly and minimizes any vibrations that can cause discomfort or wear on the trailer or vehicle.

  • Another advantage of balancing beads is that they are not affected by weather conditions and can last the entire life of the tire. Unlike traditional wheel weights, which can rust or fall off over time, balancing beads remain in place and continue functioning while making the constant tiny adjustments needed to keep the tire balanced.

  • Using the correct amount of balancing beads is essential, as too few or too many can impact their effectiveness. Some boat trailer builders (Ameratrail comes to mind, but I am sure there are others) employ this system for some of their units.

  • Generally speaking,16-inch and smaller boat trailer tire rim sizes or tires that run in 50 psi cold ranges can employ balancing beads. Those that are larger or can support 80 psi ranges should revert to the standard snap-on or taped-on metal weights.

Spare tire on a Maverick Trailer

We hope these tips help you always make it to the ramp and back with much less drama! There is nothing worse than being broken down on the side of the road after a hard day fishing, now in 90-degree plus heat and an afternoon storm bearing down on your side of the highway. 😔

Besides, the only shaking we want is that Tarpon going ballistic or "The Killer" (RIP) playing the title or this article tune on the Truck media player! 😎👍

We have some related articles that should also help!

  • This one on helping keep the saltwater from eating your trailer alive (or at least slow it down some) can be found by clicking Here:

  • And this one on squeezing as much out of your fuel purchases (more like investments now) as possible can be found by clicking Here:

Big thanks for our friends over at Ameratrail Trailers for some some technical help on this article and you can visit them by clicking here and let them know that Flats Nation sent you!

In the meantime,

We invite you to take in a few other Flats Nation Podcast Episodes to help "Scratch that Fishing Itch" when working or traveling and you cannot hitch up the Skiff and go, on these links:

Our main podcast page works great for your mobile device since it will stream right on your phone/tablet. It can be found by clicking Here

Our new Flats Nation YouTube Channel can be found by clicking here and sharing it with family and friends if you find it entertaining and educational! We have some great guests in the works and planning stages on a wide range of topics and product coverage soon.

Also, The "Flats Nation" Merch and Swag collection, if you like our content, has some new works just in time for Tarpon Season, which can be found Here.

Tight Lines, and God Bless!

Dave and the Team.

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