Fact or fiction?

May 1, 2007

Myths can be fictional or factual. They also can be a lot of both. That is why you never accept a myth at face value.

Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman don't. The co-hosts of Discovery Channel's "MythBusters" take a myth and tear it apart; after they are done, the myth is either "busted" or proven true.

"MythBusters" recently examined the myth that all rubber on the road is from retreaded tires, which we in the industry already know is false. "If I could snap my fingers and magically make all retreads disappear from the world, there would still be plenty of tire debris on our highways today," says Harvey Brodsky, managing director of the Tire Retread Information Bureau, commonly referred to as TRIB.

It would have been both interesting and entertaining to see what Adam and Jamie conclude, but Brodsky told us the show didn’t make the cut.

A lot of commonly believed tire industry myths remain, however. We'll check out one of them in this article.


MYTH: Filling a tire with anything but air or nitrogen will damage tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) sensors or valves.

When asked if the use of aftermarket balancing compounds or sealants would affect TPMS sensors, Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of training for the Tire Industry Association, was non-committal. "Any internal compound, dry or wet, other than air (or nitrogen), poses an increased risk to damaging a TPMS sensor, whether it's valve-stem mounted or band mounted," he said.

"(The sensors) are not bullet-proof, especially at lower speeds," added Dan Deloffe, a technician with McCourt Industries.

They are both correct. However, neither response precludes the use of either balancing compounds or sealants. So we contacted some TPMS manufacturers. Not all of them were familiar with how the use of balancing compounds such as Counteract Balancing Beads, Equal or Magnum (www.magnumbalance.com) in tires would affect their respective sensors and/or warranties. But not one of them had a strict policy against their use.

"We have no problem with the use of balancing beads," says Will Blair, North American sales manager for SmarTire Systems Inc. (www.smartire.com). "It has no affect on our warranty."

SmarTire's engineering department evaluated International Marketing Inc.'s Equal balancing compound in truck tires with the same result: "We can report that the Equal product... has shown no adverse effect on the accuracy or reliability of our transmitters in sensing tire inflation pressure and contained air temperature values."

Roger LeBlanc, president of Counteract Balancing Beads (www.counteractbalancing.com), says his product does not affect TPMS sensors. Incidental moisture that can form in a tire has no affect on counteract balancing beads, according to LeBlanc.

What about Equal? "Small amounts -- a couple of ounces -- of moisture from normal condensation have no impact on the performance of Equal or other internal balancing products," says Bob Fogal Jr., president of International Marketing Inc. (www.imiproducts.com), the creators of Equal.


"When re-airing your tires at a truck stop or service center, you are simply topping off inflation pressures with a small amount of air, introducing only a small amount of moisture. This moisture will dissipate through the tire's porous inner liner during normal driving conditions and will not interfere with these products."

Fogal says the only substance that will impede Equal's performance is excessive lubricant. "You can avoid this by applying the correct amount of lubricant to the tire bead area only."

The use of tire sealants is not as clear cut.

"Sealants, plain and simple, are a no-no," says Blair. SmarTire's tire sensors are encased in plastic, with a lone pin hole allowing the transmission of information to be sent to the receiver on the dashboard. If that hole is plugged, the sensor won't work. "We don't like anything that can plug up the hole to the sensor."

Carl Wacker, vice president of sales and marketing for Schrader Electronics Inc. (www.schraderelectronics.com), says sealants, by their very nature, are designed to fill holes. He admits that of the sealants Schrader has tested, none had plugged the hole to one of its sensors. "Most of the OEM's we do business with have taken a stronger approach. They don't want you using tire sealants with the sensors."

"Sealants are not recommended with TPMS sensors," says Rob Kochie, product manager for the OTC division of SPX Corp. (www.otctools.com). A representative from Bartec USA LLC (www.bartecusa.com) was not familiar with balancing beads, but agreed that sealants should not be used.

PressurePro sensors use a special sealant developed by 3M to protect them from damage by outside liquids and materials. "PressurePro has been tested with a variety of products, sealants and balancing products, including Equal," says Phillip Zaroor, CEO and president of Advantage PressurePro LLC (www.advantagepressurepro.com), a division of Advantage Enterprises Inc.

"Our testing shows that the products seldom climb the sidewall to the valve stem area. We did not have any instances in our testing where these products proved to be problematic when working with pressure sensors."


(PressurePro does recommend the use of a filtered dill valve for the core of the valve stem. "This filtered valve tends to be a further step of protection for the sensor," adds Zaroor.)

CONCLUSION: Balancing compounds appear to be safe to use with a TPMS, so we are busting that myth as it applies to them. The jury is still out on tire sealants, however.

Are there any other tire industry myths you would like Modern Tire Dealer to address? Send them to me at [email protected].

About the Author

Bob Ulrich

Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000 and retired in January 2020. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and had been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993. He won numerous awards for editorial and feature writing, including five gold medals from the International Automotive Media Association. Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University and has a law degree from the University of Akron.