In any vehicle, if the wheels are out of balance, they’ll let you know with what can be refered to as a violent shake. What makes it even more scary is that out of balance wheels only become obviously out of balance at high speeds.
Meaning that when you’re zooming down the road, the vehicle can start to shake uncontrollably; exactly the time that you wish it wasn’t shaking.
How do you balance UTV wheels? There is a device called a bubble balancer with which balancing your tires is really simple. The device sits upright on a rod and is itself carefully balanced on a fine but strong point. When you set the tire on the device, if it isn’t perfectly balanced, the tire will tilt to one side. From this position, you can add weights to balance it completely even. There is a little bubble level on the very top of the device to help you get it exactly perfect.
Mechanics of course have similar devices, some of which are far more high tech and can give incredibly accurate readings on a wheel’s balance, however they’re very unlikely to use this sophistocated equipment on a UTV tire since, being designed for off roading, they often have very wide treads which could skew their readings.
But you can save a lot of money and gain a lot of know how by doing it yourself. And in some cases it may not even be necessary to balance your UTV’s wheels at all.
Do UTV wheels need to be balanced?
Balancing a wheel means ensuring that at any point in its rotation, the weight is evenly distributed across the whole wheel. If you hung an unbalanced wheel from it’s center point on a horizontal rod for example, it would rotate until the most heavy part was at the bottom.
A balanced wheel on the other hand would stay completely still no matter what orientation you placed it on the rod.
Having balanced wheels makes things much easier when you’re driving at higher speeds. Even the intake valve on your tire can throw your wheel’s balance out of whack.
Because of this, some UTV tires would be silly to balance, since if a pebble gets wedged deeply in between two of the lugs, your balancing has been for nought.
The tell-tale shaking indicitave of unbalanced wheels only shows itself at higher speeds. At lower speeds the built in shocks handle all those tiny vibrations and you don’t even feel it. So depending on what kind of driving you’re doing with your UTV, or what kind of terrain you tend to traverse over, you may be able to get by completely safely without balancing your wheels.
If you’re the kind of UTV driver that likes to go fast over deserts or packed down dirt roads then it’s probably a good idea to get your wheels balanced. Since your higher speeds are more likely to trigger the shaking caused by unbalanced wheels, it would be safer to have those wheels perfectly balanced.
If, however, you tend to move more slowly in your UTV, whether you prefer rock crawling or slow traversing in the wilderness, with short bouts of speed, balanced tires won’t make that big of a difference and would be considered a waste of time and money.
UTVs wheel balanced test
There are several ways to see if your tires are unbalanced. The first, and most obvious one would be whether or not you feel vibrations throughout the vehicle, especially in the steering wheel, while you’re driving at faster speeds. Usually unbalanced wheels won’t shake the cab or steering wheel until you’ve passed 35 miles per hour.
If you are able to take it up to 45 or 50 miles per hour before things begin to shake, check out the “What to do if UTV tires are balanced but it still shakes” section below.
Another, more accurate method of determining whether or not a wheel is balanced is the equivalent of sticking it on the tip of your finger and seeing which way it leans. UTV tires, and indeed tires in general, are far too heavy to be sustained by the average fingertip, that’s why they have invented the Bubble Balancer, as mentioned above.
Before mounting your tire on the bubble balancer, make sure that all of the treads, or lugs are clear of any debris, and if they’re used rims, double check that no one has added any balancing weights in the past. When you’ve performed all of the steps listed above, you’ll want to use stick on weights to strike a careful balance.
You should pay close attention to the integrity of the tire itself. Visually inspect the outer surface of the tire, looking for any divets or bumps.
Even if your tire is perfectly level, if there are one of these divets or bumps on the outer surface of the wheel it will still give you that terrible shaking that we hates so much. If your tire has an unfortunate divot, it’s time to get it replaced. Balancing the tire will not fix that problem.
What to do if UTV tires are balanced but it still shakes
Let’s say that you went to the trouble of balancing your wheels perfectly. Maybe you spent all afternoon meticulously adjusting your added weights until it sat completely still.
After you mounted your wheels back on your UTV and brought it out on the road again, or indeed off the road, and you brought it up to speed, you started to feel a shake again. Don’t be disheartened, there are plenty of other possible explanations for why your vehicle is still shaking.
Diagnosing an issue in any motor vehicle is only very slightly easier than diagnosing a disease in a human being. There are many factors at play, and a small deviation in a single one can cause similar symptoms that an unbalanced wheel might.
A word of caution before proceeding, make sure that the shake you feel is not simply the tread on the wheels translating into the vehicle. Some UTV wheels designed specifically for mud and heavy off roading have very deep and wide lugs, which when run over flat ground can send vibrations through the vehicle.
In any vehicle there is a suspension system. Granted in UTVs the suspension system is often much more powerful than in say a Ford Fiesta, but the system works basically the same way.
While there are several different configurations of suspension systems, by and large a suspension system pivots at joints badded by what are called bushings, little plastic or rubber rings that give the suspension’s hinges enough play, or wiggle room, that the vibrations from the road aren’t translated up into the driver’s seat.
When these bushings begin to wear down or deteriorate, there can be too much play in these hinges, giving the suspension room to wiggle when it gets up to speeds close to 40 or 50 miles per hour.
This is unfortunately not an issue that is as easily solved as throwing a couple weights on your wheels. In order to remedy this you’ll need to disassemble the suspension system to find the culprit bushing or bushings, and replace them. Or you could pay a mechanic to do it which I would totally understand.
Altering wheel balancing is a lot less important than fiddling with your UTV’s suspension system.
Uneven Disk Break Rotors
If you find that your vehicle shakes not when it’s up to speed, but rather when you’re slowing down, particularly when you’re breaking pretty hard, the issue might be unevenly worn break rotors if you have disk breaks.
These rotors are what your break pads connect to and add friction to to slow your UTV down. When they’re nice and flat, your breaking will be evenly smooth. If however they’re warped in any way, you’ll feel your breaking fluctuating stronger and weaker, back and forth. If you’re slowing down from great speeds this will feel like a vibration shaking the car.
Fixing unevenly worn, and warped break rotors requires knowledge of metallurgy and some very specialized tools. In my humble opinion it is probably best to purchase new or used ones and either have them replaced or replace them yourself.
Engine Shake From Weakened Motor Mounts
Arguably the scariest, easily fixed but possibly expensive possabilities that could be causing your UTV to shake, would be if your motor mounts have come loose. If you don’t know what I’m describing here, let me explain.
Most vehicles, including UTVs are built on assembly lines. Meaning that the body is prepared, and the engine is lowered into and secured to the body.
There are a few strong and sturdy bolts that hold the engine tightly to the the vehicle’s chassis. If any of these bolts have come loose, or if the chassis is damaged around where these bolts hold everything in place, the engine’s vibrations, which are normally distributed nicely away from the driver’s seat, could be shaking things.
If this is the case, it may be time to call in a mechanic. The mechanic, if this does turn out to be the problem, would then need to find which bolts have come loose, navigate to them and tighten or replace them.
The reason I mentioned above that this has a possability to be one of the more expensive problems that might cause your UTV to shake, is that the engine’s main bolts are often very difficult to get to.
You’re also dealing with a very heavy piece of machinery, and if this problem goes unchecked, the engine could fall right out of the bottom of your vehicle, hopefully not while you’re riding down the road.
Purchase the Right Tires for Your Needs
Now that you know how to properly balance your tires, and much much more, you may be looking at your UTV’s tires with disdain now. Or perhaps you’re new to off roading in your UTV, or you’re an experienced pro whose tires are looking a bit bedraggled.
In any case, if you find yourself in need of some new tires but don’t want the hassle of hunting down what kind of all-terrain tire is the best, you can find exactly what you’re looking for by checking out this page here. We compared and contrasted and narrowed down a bunch of different models and brands to find you the best all terrain UTV tires.