Mounting and balancing UHP tires
It’s quiet these days inside County Tire Center Inc. in Middlebury, Vt. The semiannual winter tire switch is over. But on those busy fall and spring days when this 10-bay shop is changing tires on 60 to 80 cars a day, owner Steve Dupoise and his nine full-time technicians are working to make every minute count. Technology advancements on both cars and tires don’t always make that easy.
“A typical mount and balance on a newer car is one hour, to one and a quarter,” says Dupoise, who bought the tire business from his father, Steve Dupoise, three years ago. “Before TPMS and UHP, it was probably a half hour.”
Of course, more vehicles come with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and ultra-high performance (UHP) tires. The result, Dupoise says, is mounting and balancing jobs require more time, and they involve a greater risk of damaging something along the way.
“Make sure you’re breaking it down properly, not breaking the monitor. Clamp it on the tire machine properly,” Dupoise says.
Jay Patin, service manager at Ross Tire and Service in Lafayette, La., is blunt about his dislike of the popularity of UHP tires, but then again, he admits the business doesn’t handle many of them on a regular basis. “They’re a fight to install,” Patin says. The work is even more difficult, he says, if the tires are mounted on custom wheels.
“There’s a step in the wheel, a skinny spot along the rim, and the bead needs to get into this slip to mount the tire onto the rim,” Patin says. “Some of these UHP rim aftermarket manufacturers forget about that. Sometimes it’s not deep enough and you’re stretching the tire.”
That’s where Patin’s boss, David Ross, owner of two Ross Tire and Service locations in Lafayette and New Iberia, La., says, “If you don’t have the right equipment, you’re not going to get it done. And of course, you’ve got to have training on that equipment.”
Patin agrees. “Without the right tools like the correct tire machine, meaning a helper arm, mounting wheels along with the mounting head device, you have to have all of the above and a lot of tire lubrication to install.”
Nylon heads help protect the wheels, and Patin says he sometimes uses shop towels as an extra protective barrier when working with a tire on a high gloss rim. “I try not to touch it at all.”
Eric Kastl, manager of Joel’s Tire in Yakima, Wash., says the six-bay shop invests in “the latest, greatest machines,” and now is using tire machines and wheel balancers from both Hunter Engineering Co. and Coats by Hennessy Industries Inc. The business added two Coats machines after the 2014 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show.
“Each of them has their own quality that works better on some and not as good on others,” Kastl says. “That’s on both the balancer and the tire machines.”
Kastl says the key is to “take your time and do it right.” When mounting it’s important to use “just enough lube.” Too much and it’s slopping all over the tire machines or getting inside the tire, which can cause balance problems. When balancing tires, Kastl says he’s meticulous to clean the wheels down to the metal. Attaching a wheel weight to a patch of dirt isn’t going to do any good, and could result in noise afterward. “If the customer has to come back complaining of noise, it’s a problem.”
Back in Vermont, Dupoise says the machines are a big factor, but just as important is the service that accompanies the equipment. “The guy that does the repairs, he’s phenomenal,” Dupoise says, noting the serviceman has worked late nights and weekends to make sure a broken machine is ready for use the next morning.
“We can’t afford to have a machine down,” Dupoise says. “It all relates back to good service. I provide him good service, he provides me good service. It makes the world go ‘round.” ■