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Centramatic Wheel Balancer Review

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CamJam View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CamJam Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Centramatic Wheel Balancer Review
    Posted: Jul/20/2021 at 5:40pm
For those who don't know, Centramatics are rings filled with ball bearings that you mount inside your wheel.  They claim to continuously keep your wheels balanced while you drive.  They're commonly used on motorhomes and large tractor trailers, but they also make a version meant for cars and trailers:


I bought a set for the 22.5" front tires on my motorhome last year.  In my area it's hard to find a shop that can even balance tires that large.  They do seem to work as advertised in that application... or at least they didn't seem to make things any worse.  Of course, my Class A motorhome seldom runs over 70 mph, and tire rpm is considerably less than a car, owing to the large tire diameter.  I was curious whether they might work on my Javelin, so I ordered a set of their 14" model.

I have had some minor wheel/tire balance issues with the Javelin over about 70 mph (our Interstate speed limit here is 75 mph and traffic is usually running at 80 or more) so I ordered the Centramatics hoping they would arrive before my drive to the AMO National in Colorado Springs, about 1,500 miles round trip for me.  Unfortunately, they were on back order and didn't arrive until yesterday, nearly 5 weeks after I got home. I'd had the tires balanced a couple years ago, but over 70 mph the rears were annoying enough on the drive to Colorado that I took the car to Discount Tire while I was in Colorado Springs and got them rebalanced.  Not sure why Road Force balancing should be better at one Discount Tire than another, but the rebalance made a big improvement, and since DT offers free rebalancing it didn't cost me anything. 

Ok, so the car was now pretty good for the return trip from Colorado, but you're still not going to mistake it for the smoothness of my BMW 335, so when the Centramatics finally arrived I was eager to see what they would do.  I first took a test drive without them, just to refresh myself as to how the car felt since the rebalance, and then I installed the Centramatics, just on the rear.  With the Centramatics, everything was fine up until 65 mph, and then the balance got noticeably worse than how it was without them.

I then removed them from the rear and repeated the same test on the front. The car has never seemed quite as smooth since I upgraded the front brakes from drums to discs a couple years ago. I'd been looking for a shop who could do on-the-car spin balancing, but they're as rare as hen's teeth these days.  I hoped maybe the Centramatics might be the answer to a slightly unbalanced rotor.  Unfortunately, the jury is still out on whether the Centramatics worked on this end of the car.  They didn't make things noticeably worse, but I'm not sure it's any better either.  They seemed to be slightly worse at around 70 mph, but then things smoothed out around 80 mph and maybe seemed a little better than they were.  I'll keep them on the front for a couple more weeks to see if my opinion changes.  

In any case, my present opinion is that they're not worth what I paid for them.  I had read a forum review from a classic Camaro owner who said they helped resolve a balance issue he was having, but they really didn't do anything worthwhile for me.



Edited by CamJam - Jul/20/2021 at 5:44pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Steve_P Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul/21/2021 at 12:51pm
What kind of tires do you have on your Javelin?  If your rims are good, and properly centered (acorn lug nuts), you may need some better quality tires if you are not happy with the ride; especially after multiple road force balancings.  
The factory HD springs were stiff, so if you have those, it's not going to ride like a modern car no matter what you do.  But if it doesn't ride smoothly on a recently paved road, something is wrong.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CamJam Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul/21/2021 at 9:55pm
It's not THAT bad, I'm mostly just fussy about vibrations.  I have Michelin Defenders in the front and Cooper GT Radial in the rear.  14" all around.  Would like the Michelins front and rear, but I don't like how the 205/70-14 look on the back and they don't come any larger.  In fact, since I bought mine I think Michelin has now discontinued ALL 14" tires. 

When I first got this car it WAS bad, but I've had the driveline balanced, the rear axles replaced with single piece Dr. Diffs.  Wheels are (real) Minilite aluminum (made in 1973), and positioned by shoulder lug nuts, so no way the wheels aren't centered.  No noticeable wobble or bends in them when spinning.  I also just replaced the rear drums as I didn't see any weights on the old ones.  The new drums claim to be factory balanced and appear to be.

Front suspension was rebuilt three years ago and had four wheel alignment a year ago.  That made a big difference.

If you drove my car up to 65 mph you'd think it's perfect and I'm crazy. It's only above 70-75 mph that I'm trying to improve on now.  I do wonder what modern 16" wheels and tires would do, but I suspect the old suspension design wouldn't ride well with low profile tires.

I've removed the Centramatics fron and rear now and the car is reasonably good again. Would love to be able to cruise at 90 mph and have it be smooth as glass, but perhaps I'm expecting too much.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote motorhead_1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul/21/2021 at 11:14pm
i use them on my motorcycles. dyna beads i think. bunch of different companies make them. 
these look ok too

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gtoman_us Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul/22/2021 at 6:03am
Been around a while. Some guys in the Model A club rave about them.  Of course 90 year old wire spoke wheel with tube tires nothing will be balanced...ever.  But at cruise speed 45-50 mph big improvement, so they say.

What is your pinion angle?


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Steve_P Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul/22/2021 at 7:45am
If you drive the car a few thousand miles a year, I'd get 16-17" wheels and good summer performance tires.   Cooper isn't exactly known as one of the top tire makers...
If you are using shouldered lug nuts, that may be part of the problem.  Modern cars use them, but the wheel is located by the hub.  On old cars, typically the wheel is located by the taper on the nut.  A shouldered nut fits in the hole, which is slightly larger.  Measure the shoulder and the hole and you'll see how much the wheel can be off-center.  It is not possible for it to be located as accurately as using an acorn nut in this case.  
And just because the wheels look straight doesn't mean they are.  Put a dial indicator on them, or have a tire shop check them.  If you get serious about this, have the tires dismounted and the rims checked for straightness and balance.  If the rims are good, then the tires are bad, or the rims aren't located accurately enough.  And some tires just don't ride/balance as well as others.


Edited by Steve_P - Jul/22/2021 at 7:48am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Trader Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul/22/2021 at 1:50pm
Almost sounds like a minor belt separation. Those cannot be balanced out, repaired or even easy to find some times. If you have the time, put the rear axle up on jack stands and keep switching tires around and doing a higher RPM test - 2500 to 3000 will do. This is one of the few methods I've found to work as you say, hard to find on car or high speed balance machines any more.
And watch out for those catalytic converter heat shields on the road also. Last year the Dodge Ram in front of me lost theirs, just kicked the front tire sidewall, but took a slice out of both the rear tire side walls as it went through on my motor home. 6 new tires and $1200 later for one piece of metal on the road.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ramzilla Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul/22/2021 at 4:55pm
I Had installed Centramatics on my Motorhome front and rear 19.5 wheels years ago. My left front wheel is a little bent a couple of rears too so lots of vibration at 45 and above. Put Centramatics on front and rear and even at 70 or 80 very smooth ride no vibration. Something seams maybe out of round, tires or where wheels bolt to hub. Maybe spin wheel with tire on car to see if it is out of round. If they are out of round to much Centramatics may not be able to compensate. If they were balanced on a machine they should be ok.
Just my two cents Larry
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tomj Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul/22/2021 at 11:13pm
I've heard of these before, intersting to hear that they work.

BUt, why? Is there a reason to not get wheels balanced? Good balancers put weights on the inside and outside to compensate for distributed error. Why wouldn't you just do that?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CamJam Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jul/23/2021 at 11:25am
Originally posted by gtoman_us gtoman_us wrote:

Been around a while. Some guys in the Model A club rave about them.  Of course 90 year old wire spoke wheel with tube tires nothing will be balanced...ever.  But at cruise speed 45-50 mph big improvement, so they say.

What is your pinion angle?



I can see how they might work on a model A... like a motor home, large imbalance and relatively slow rotational speeds.

Spent a lot of time on pinion angles a couple years ago after my transmission swap. Front and rear operating angles are both less than 1 degree now and about 1/2 degree from each other.  
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