DIY'er tire balancing?

Db’s post got me to thinking, has anyone here ever tried to balance a tire on their own home-made contraption? For whatever reason?

I was thinking if I had to do that, I’d just get a big tub of water and float the tire in it. It should float nice and level and if it didn’t, I’d put a weight on where it was sticking up.

But then I was wondering if it would be better to somehow hang the tire from an assortment of small steel cables? Maybe that would work better?

Anyway, just curious if anyone ever tried to balance a tire without an actual tire balancer machine? Or thought about how you’d do it?


Someone came up with the bubble tire balancer.


Yeah, I’ve always wanted a bubble balancer!

Problem is, a static balance like that will balance it radially (i.e. no heavy spot on the wheel) but will not balance in and out! For a narrowish tire, though, it’s probably “good enough.”

Tester There you go! $80 is more like it. I have no idea why George wants to balance wheel/tire at home when it is not very expensive at a tire shop.

I still have mine.

Balancer, lead weights, hammer/puller, all in a kit.


When mounted on a non drive axle an out of balance wheel and tire will turn and come to rest with the heviest side down. If a mark is made at the 6:00 position and the mark turned to the 3:00 position weights can be added at the 9:00 position so that the tire remains still when released. The wheel/tire will be relatively well balanced.

Here’s mine. I needed a lathe and a brazing torch to make it. The bushing must fit snugly inside the wheel center hole and over the pipe. The bottom of the pipe is plugged with a small bushing with a hole in the center for the knotted cord. Play with weights until the cord is centered at the top of the pipe. A new car might require a new bushing or an old one with the OD trimmed. Sometimes a layer of tape over the bushing will do to make a snug fit in the wheel hole. The dimensions are not critical except for the bushing.

Can’t you people answer a simple question?

George is talking about tanks of water or cables to balance a tire.

When they sell simple device that does the same thing.

I know it’s not that accurate, but that’s not question!

Let’s see how many more tangents we can go off on?


meanjoe75fan, You are correct that typically, tires are not so wide that a weight added to one side will adequately correct an imbalance located on the other side. You can compensate somewhat for this with half of the needed weight on each side and if that does not work, put all of the weight on the other side.

sgtrock21: Four reasons to balance your own wheels: Save the time to make an appointment to get it done on their time as well as yours, save the time and drive to and from, save the waiting time for the work to be done and save a few bucks as a bonus. I, for one, can barely tolerate waiting around in a car repair place. Rather than sit around waiting while others do work, I might as well be doing it myself.

Rod Knox, This can work if there is no wheel bearing seal, grease or disk brake drag. I once made a wheel balancer for a Rambler from a spindle and brake drum assembly from a scrapyard. I removed the wheel bearing seal, bearing grease, the internal brake parts and lubed the roller bearings with oil. The resulting balancer, mounted in a vise, worked very well but it became obsolete when the car was traded.

Bubble balancing used to be the standard. But that was before the days of front wheel drive, independent rear suspension, radial tires, alloy wheels, AC, power steering, and FM radio becoming standard. We didn’t even have seatbelts or headrests back then. But we did have “three on the tree”. And divided highways weren’t common. We kids used to lie in the back of my dad’s old Pontiac station wagon with the rear seat down listening to the constant “thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump” as we went over the expansion joints in the concrete road to the beach. The standard method used to be to take the weight that put the bubble in the middle, mark the spot on the tire where it needs to go, and put half the amount on the inside edge and half on the outside edge.

Yes, you can balance your wheels at home. You can use the Harbor Freight bubble balancer if your wheel is 16" or less. Or you can make your own using the same principle. But if you expect a smooth ride and good wear at today’s highway speeds, you’re overestimating the capabilities of bubble balancing. It doesn’t do dynamics.

The tank of water or the cables? Well, let us know how you make out. You’ll have fun trying, and I’m sure you’ll learn a lot, just don’t get upset if you can’t manage to make your system work. It won’t do dynamics either. It’s unlikely to do static either. The bubble balancer is your best bet, even if you make your own.

^Yeah, we already mentioned a bubble balancer???

The SOP 'round here (both forum and radio) seems to be 1) answer question, then 2) indulge whatever tangent appears attractive. We’ve already accomplished 1)…so, on to 2)!!!

Hard to see a practical value to DIY balancing when most decent tire shops throw it in, free, with new tire purchase!

I don’t think what you describe can be done with any degree or accuracy or quality.

I’ve been working on cars for almost 30 years and at no point in that time was a bubble balancer an acceptable way to balance a wheel.

I bought a bubble balancer similar to the one Tester suggested about 40 years ago from J C Whitney. I still use it once in a while to REBALANCE tires that have gone out of balance as the miles have built up. It works well for a static balance only. I don’t remove the old weights so I don’t lose the dynamic balance. I usually only need an ounce or two added equally to the inside and outside of the rim. When I buy new tires I have the tire dealer do it.

I have to respectfully disagree with asemaster that a bubble balancer will not balance a wheel assembly accurately. Some years ago the dealer i worked was clearing out some old junk from their back room and I noticed a bubble balancer in the back of the truck which was headed to the dump. I offered the service manager 5 bucks for it and it became mine along with the hard to find wheel adapter.

I’ve balanced a lot of my own wheels, and family members wheels, with that thing after wheel balancing of new tires at the tire store never got resolved. After 2 or 3 tries they go on the bubble balancer and it’s never failed to sort the problem child out.

The old man, now deceased, who ran a full service gas station here used a bubble balancer right up to the time of his passing. He told me several times that he often rebalanced wheels that were never quite gotten right by various tire stores; including the one located a block away from him with several incarnations of Hunter balancer over the years.

I’d still take the computer balancer any day of the week but my point is that the bubble and gravity never miss. Chronic vibration gone is all that matters to me.

By 30 years ago they were long-since obsolete. I’m talkin’ back in the '50s and '60s. Maybe into the '70s.

Time is a funny thing. I just saw on TV a promo for a movie about the end of the Viet Nam war to be released in April. Our official involvement ended in early '73, immediately after the bombing of Hanoi in December of '72 (I was there). The fall of Saigon was in April '75 (I was out by then, having served from early '70 to early '74). As I sat there, I realized that a young person watching that movie today is analogous to me watching in the '80s a movie about the end of WWII.

I never built anything. If I had an unbalance condition I would remove all the weights and it usually fixed the problem. Who needs a machine? Install a weight at random and drive to test it. If it doesn’t work, move it to another spot. I used to buy four tires and not balance them unless there was a problem.

Some times the shop would balance them and have to not charge me. If they did that, I would offer to pay for two of them. I’m cheap but I don’t want to kill the shop.

I’ve too often seen guys using spin balancers not taking the time to do the job properly. They don’t seem to pay attention to where the weight should actually be, just getting it “close enough”, and often don’t bother to check it after installing the weight. They just put the weight on and take the wheel off of the machine. I don’t know why this is common, I don’t know if they just don’t care or are pushed for volume, or both, but it’s bad practice.

There is no machine of any kind that will do a good job if the guy using it can’t be bothered to do so. Unless they’ve come out with one I haven’t seen that will install the weights too.

We do not balance truck tires and at highway speeds its not a problem(but everything is so heavy a few grams here and there makes no difference)what the OP needs to do is forget Rube Goldburg and buy a bubble balancing rig,thats all my favorite service station used for years.
Some people simply cannot use a computer spin balancing machine for whatever reason,I’ve watched some of the Guys doing it and I can see why and there are no tire shops around here that will balance tires for free.An acquaintence of mine opened a repair shop and had a state of the art tire balancer,but He couldnt use it.My brother bought a new set of M&S from this Guy and He had 6oz of weight om one side needless to say the vehicle wouldnt tolerate that.So He went across the road and that shop did a much better job of balancing the tires.But this very same shop isnt all that great about balancing tires either,they are barely acceptable.I have learned to use the old experienced people in the older shops,for some reason they seem to know how to do it(no shimmying or highway vibration)just my 2 cents}.but keep trying its very possible and good luck(I used to buy tires on sale and mount them myself too)

I never had the chance to use one, but I remember those old bubble balancers, like in the link that @db4690 posted. I saw one used somewhere in the last two months being used to balance a wheel.
Back in the early 60s…as a kid, I would go with my dad to get tires at a local little place that always had a line of cars waiting. When it was our turn, I’d get out to watch as they’d use a air hydraulic jack to lift the car and the two brothers that ran the place rushed around doing the work.
At the end my dad would pay and the two brothers would each take a swig from a bottle of brandy to ward off the cold. I was young (8-10) and they’d always offer me a swig. I wonder what they’d have done had I said sure!!!