Does investing in tire mounting and balancing equipment actually save money?

J.G.
By J.G. Pasterjak
May 14, 2022 | tires, wheels, tire mounting, wheel balancing | Posted in Shop Work , Tires & Wheels | From the June 2022 issue | Never miss an article

Photography by Chris Tropea

If you spend any time on track, then you know you’re going to go through tires at an accelerated pace. It just comes with the territory. And the expense of mounting and balancing those additional tires starts to add up.

In our case, we’d been paying a local tire chain about $130 t…

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Toyman!
Toyman! MegaDork
5/11/22 12:55 p.m.

Yes. 

Edit: You spent a good bit more on the machines and the answer is still, yes. 

 

s2europa
s2europa New Reader
5/11/22 1:33 p.m.

It's well worth it. You also can't find a tire shop open a 10:00 pm or 3:00 am, either. My manual Roger Krause tire machine ($300) has paid for itself many times over. I'm going to invest in a pneumatic one soon, since I am getting too old to do the manual one anymore. :)

SV reX
SV reX MegaDork
5/11/22 1:34 p.m.

I'd have to include the cost to build an addition on my shop to fit the machines...

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
5/11/22 2:11 p.m.

For those of you who do a lot of work it makes total sense. For people like me, who buy 2-3 sets of  tires per year (including race tires) it makes no sense whatsoever.  Also note the used tire place by me will do 4 tires for $85.

Good information on what the equipment actually costs.

 

APEowner
APEowner GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
5/11/22 2:12 p.m.
SV reX said:

I'd have to include the cost to build an addition on my shop to fit the machines...

That's the challenge I have as well.  I'd love to have tire machines but I don't want to give up any of the equipment I'd have to displace to fit them in my shop.

klodkrawler05
klodkrawler05 HalfDork
5/11/22 2:43 p.m.

We bought our pair of machines used for $1000, then invested in a really nice air compressor for $1200, we kept a tire fund jar and kept all our "tips" from helping locals do tires for $20-50  set. Once we recouped our $2200 we closed up shop to all but our closest family/friends.

Wound up with free tire changing equipment and as mentioned above, no looking for a tire shop at 10pm at night, or paying $85 to swap a set of nearly used up tires onto wheels for a local autox event so you can save runs on your good sets etc. Heck if you aren't balancing track tires (why would you) then you can pretty much swap a set of tires in the time it would take to load them in the truck, run them to a tire shop and get back home. let alone waiting for them to be done, then driving another trip to/from the tire shop.

Toyman!
Toyman! MegaDork
5/11/22 2:50 p.m.
Tom1200 said:

Good information on what the equipment actually costs.

Their price is for really good equipment at retail. 

My machines were about 20% of what they spent, new and delivered. Granted this was 5-6 years and a pile of inflation ago. 

 

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
5/11/22 4:18 p.m.

In reply to Toyman! :

Understood I remember a couple of you detailing what you spent.  Even at $1500 it would still take me 10-15 years to recoup the cost and I'm also lazy. The tire place a mile from my house turns them around same day. 

I also have 3-4 Llanteras open until midnight. I live in a heavily Hispanic neighborhood; there's taqueria truck in the same lot as the tire shop so I can get a yummy snack while I wait. 

SupraFiend
SupraFiend New Reader
5/11/22 4:41 p.m.

It's worth mentioning the risks of doing your own wheels too.

I worked in mechanics shop just out of high school, and I found it a little challenging to get good at mounting as I didn't have to do it everyday. Slipped the press once and caught the edge of the rim and cracked a customers aluminum rim. That was a bad day.

Later in life I brought a pair of 10inch wide JDM wheels I wanted to squeeze some 225s on. The kid who did it didn't identify that the combo wasn't going to work and ended up gouging up the rim and ripped the tire. The shop paid to replace the tires and had the wheel refinished. A buddy of mine had the same thing happen to him once too.

If you run really low profile tires on fancy rims, I would recommend taking them to a pro with a high end machine.

 

bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter)
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
5/11/22 5:01 p.m.

How often does a tire need balancing? I have a friend who is in the tire business and he says new or undamaged tires rarely need balancing as they are naturally round when manufactured. (makes sense). He thinks balancers are often just a scam. And when you think about it, why do tires always need weight? Ever spun a new tire that the machine said did not require something? 

Heavy trucks rarely have wheels balanced other than steers. I have six old unbalanced 11r22.5 tires on the fossil and they run very smooth. I never balanced drive tires in almost two million miles in heavy trucks.  After impact damage or a skid or abnormal tire wear sure, but without those factors i am not convinced. I never heard of anyone balancing circle track tires either. The speeds are not as high as a road course but on a half mile track we will see over 100 for twenty minutes. 

Feel free to discuss!

Tom1200
Tom1200 UltraDork
5/11/22 5:28 p.m.

In reply to bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) :

Most dirt bikes guys don't balance them either. I do and not just because mine is street legal; if I leave them unbalanced the front thrums up and down noticeably at 40mph....................it's clearly going to be doing that on the dirt as well. Why add to the work the dampers already have to do.

You really want to balance them on anything going over 35mph.

Toyman!
Toyman! MegaDork
5/11/22 8:32 p.m.

In reply to bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) :

Once. One tire out of the hundreds of tires I've done required zero weight. It was a set of high-dollar wheels with quality tires. None of them needed more than an ounce. 

Cheap cast wheels aren't balanced. Not even close.

Most tires aren't either. The red and yellow dots on the sidewall of tires indicates the lighter and heavier part of the tire. Lining them up with the valve stem means less weight is needed to balance the tire. 

While I have never damaged a wheel, I have torn a bead on a set of old RE71s (mine) and broken a TMPS sensor. At a  guess, 90% of the tires I've balanced were low profile and stiff. It's the nature of the beast when it comes to race cars. 

Cactus
Cactus HalfDork
5/12/22 1:21 a.m.

Why would I pay somebody to do a bad job mounting/balancing tires when I can do a bad job myself?

 

There's something to be said about doing something on your schedule and not having to wait on somebody else's.

Patrick
Patrick GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/12/22 7:27 a.m.

My machines were paid for in 3 years, now every set i do for me is money that doesn't leave my pocket and when people pay me that's easy money.  Plus my tire shop is open even when i need to change a trailer tire at 10pm 

SV reX
SV reX MegaDork
5/12/22 8:08 a.m.

I understand the value of the convenience, and I know the cost of paying someone else to do it. 
 

I don't need it enough to justify.

My shop space is limited. Every square foot is valuable and costs me money (and earns me money)

A mounting machine needs about 25 square feet. More if it has a swing-out bead arm.  A balancer needs about the same. That's about 10% of the square footage of a two car garage.  If I consider the value of that square footage and think of it like rent I have to pay for the use of the space, then no.  Tire mounting and balancing equipment will not save me money. 
 

If I raced more often or had unlimited shop space,  then it would. 

Dwight
Dwight New Reader
5/12/22 8:44 a.m.

In reply to Toyman! :

Back in 'ought '01 or so, one of my sons' said; Dad we need a tire changer. Since I worked for a comapny and sold tools 'n equipment, I bougt a used All-Tool changer, from my    boss. Then  I said      we need a balancer and    son's reply, 'Oh we       can take them over to          a tire shop' My reply was that defeats the purpose. So $800 tire changer used Corghi     balancer for $1400. Next, became a 'Tire Rack dealer' Now  the club I was member/president of [Minnesota Autosports club] didn't have anyone to do this,  so I offered my services. Sold the tires at my cost and charged just the sales tax and installation. It was a great deal for all. And I soon, paid of the equipment. Still have the    equipment, but moved up to my son Brian's restoration shop in Isanti MN. another guy sorta took over and was resentful I still offered the service. But all is good....

h2000wt
h2000wt New Reader
5/12/22 10:02 a.m.

You can buy a set of changer and balancer for between 2500.00 and 3500.00 that will handle probably 98% of what anyone may ever need.  They are not good enough for continual use in a shop but certainly will do the job for individuals like us.  Mine do.

I use then for my cars as well as the company trucks and trailers. Accounting for supplies and extras and something for labor, it took about 2 1/2 years to be "paid for".  And that does not count the time and aggravation saved from being able to do it in the convenience of my own shop. 

LopRacer
LopRacer Dork
5/12/22 1:34 p.m.

Having a tire mount and balance set up is much like haing a pick up truck.. you suddenly have a whole lot more friends that want your help.

strawman
strawman GRM+ Memberand New Reader
5/12/22 2:13 p.m.

I have a used red Chinesium tire mounting machine that I bought two years ago for $250 because the air bellow bead-breaker mechanism leaked. I spent an additional ~$200 to repair it over the past two years (including a couple of air lines that burst), but it is invaluable for my fleet of janky cars and our team's two Lemons cars. It does not have the assist arm, but a pair of bead clamp/holder tools helps immensely with low-profile tools. I also paid $175 for a bead blaster that helps with setting the bead on large/SUV tires.

Last year I bought a used blue Chinesium digital balancer from a motorcycle shop in Bakersfield for $500. Not a name-brande machine, but it provides repeatable balancing. I balance all of my tires, even autocross-specific ones; I agree that aftermarket wheels need more weight(s) than factory BMW or Porsche wheels.

I spent a couple hundy in other tools/supplies over the past two years, and one of my buddies takes my old tire carcasses to the tire recycler in return for use of my machines for his personal fleet. Fortunately, these machines don't take up too much space in 30'x50' shop. Besides the 2-post and 4-post lifts in my shop, the tire machines are the most valuable. My Cat V50 forklift is another good 'un, but that's a 'nuther discussion...

JMcD
JMcD New Reader
5/12/22 5:59 p.m.

Don't forget about the obligatory tire patching system. Crazy how many unexpected nails you find when you have your own equipment. 
 

The other frequent find is bent wheels. Anyone have a GRM method for solving that problem? 

Ozzy
Ozzy New Reader
5/12/22 9:54 p.m.

You're not wrong though I would have a hard time with that initial outlay for the cost.  I got lucky & had a friend who had a race shop that was closing.  He had a nice set of Coseng machines he sold me at a price I couldn't pass up.  He wanted someone in the local SCCA autox club to get them.  Since they came from a shop that didn't do hundreds of tires on a daily basis they weren't abused.  Plus I already had a 60gal compressor & the machines both used standard 110V plugs.  The upside was the changer has all the helper arms for race & runflat tires & was equipped with the bead blaster.  All I can say is if you're doing racing tires those extra helper arms are worth the money on super stiff tires with little sidewalls.  I find myself using the machines quite a bit between autox, winter tires & all my family vehicles.  Even my kids use the machines for their cars.  I also let club members use them.  Though I do not do the work for them.  I will teach them & help if they need it.  That way I don't have to worry about damaging someone else's wheels.  It's on them.  I keep a clear plastic bag in the wall by the machines & they "donated" to the fund for wear, tear & consumables..  When I picked up the machines to take to my place my friend also gave me all his commercial tire patch & plug stuff for tire repair.  That pro stuff is definitely a good thing to complement the tire machines.  I don't do any commercial tire work but I definitely agree with the value of having the equipment on hand & the freedom to use it 24/7.

spedracer
spedracer New Reader
5/13/22 2:51 a.m.
Tom1200 said:

In reply to Toyman! : 

I also have 3-4 Llanteras open until midnight. I live in a heavily Hispanic neighborhood; there's taqueria truck in the same lot as the tire shop so I can get a yummy snack while I wait. 

Same. I don't have the space anyway, but I have something like 6 tire shops within 10 minutes of my house. At least 2 are 24 hour. I don't bother getting race car tires balanced, and pay $40 for them to dismount/dispose of the old tires and mount the new ones. Usually takes under an hour, and unlike the corp places, I don't wait in line or deal with "suggest rim/tire size" BS.

chandler
chandler UltimaDork
5/13/22 7:19 a.m.

I bought some as well, I live outside of a town that has one tire place open on Saturday  till noon and I work out of town all week so it's a major hassle. Also, carrying mounted wheels to the truck loading, unloading, driving into town, unloading, loading, unloading again etc etc. my time is fairly valuable since it is in short supply. I'm here and can do the work in the time it takes me to load them and unload them. I sold a car for profit that covers the purchase price so I look at it as zero outlay.

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/13/22 11:30 a.m.

All I know is that if buying tools is 'investing', then I'm gonna be RICH!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/13/22 11:40 a.m.

In reply to spedracer :

You have 24-hour tire shops? Tell us more. 

pjbgravely
pjbgravely HalfDork
5/14/22 1:36 a.m.

Used Coats 9024E tire machine                            - $800

New spin balancer.                                                  - $225

Being able to Change tires on a Sunday night.   Priceless

 

spedracer
spedracer New Reader
5/14/22 4:47 a.m.
David S. Wallens said:

In reply to spedracer :

You have 24-hour tire shops? Tell us more. 

 

Not sure there's much to say. I live in the suburbs, but close to our "downtown", which has been built up quite a bit over the past few years. All around that little pocket though, are the older parts of town. A lot of taco shops and used tire shops. Some of them have a fairly grumpy Mexican dude that'll wake up if you ring the doorbell and change your tire.

 

It really is great. The area looks a little sketchy but really isn't, the people are generally nice, and service is quick. I waited 30 minutes at a discount tire just to drop off rims, and have been turned away (after ordering!) because 225's on 9's is " unsafe". No such problems at the "Llantera" ("tire shop" in Spanish, I think). Last time I was there I dropped 3 sets of rims/tires off on my way to the grocery store, they were sitting out front when I stopped on the way back home. $120 total. That said, I don't get track tires balanced, as there's enough rubber stuck to them after a few laps that it hardly matters. I'm sure they'll also mess up a rim or tire at some point, but  I'm so far ahead I'll eat the cost without complaint.

Toyman!
Toyman! MegaDork
5/14/22 8:32 a.m.

Got a FB notification this morning that said I've had my machines 5 years. 

I would have to check the log but I've probably changed 100+ sets of tires. At $20 each thats $8000, or about 4 times the cost of the machines. Granted all of those haven't been for me but the donation bucket has already more than paid for the machines so I'm well into the black. 

 

RX8driver
RX8driver Reader
5/14/22 9:39 a.m.

A couple years back we added a used tire machine and balancer (local tire shop upgraded) to the shop at work, so now I can do free tire jobs without having spent any money on the equipment. We do lots of business with a local tire shop for our industrial tires and they come and take away the scrap tires even. It's a pretty sweet deal that I'd recommend.

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