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Old 03-15-2018, 07:19 PM   #1
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Centramatic Balancers / Tire Vibration

So this is an offshoot of another "driveline vibration" thread that was started back in 2010.

thread: Drive Line Vibration?
http://www.sportsmobileforum.com/for...tion-5097.html

Long/short, among the items discussed on that thread as possible remedies to driveline and tire vibration was an intriguing item used primarily by over-the-road/"big rig/18-wheeler" drivers. These were "dynamic wheel balancers," and are produced by a company named Centramatic.

Cool video of how they work here:


Their website here:
Tire Balancers, Tire Balancing, Wheel Balancer and Wheel Balancing from Centramatic

So anyway, intrigued, and having dealt with seemingly-un-fixable vibrations in my van's wheel/tire rotating assemblies (everything brand new, new axle bearings, rebuilt suspension, all new springs at all four corners, all new bushings, new Fox shocks, new wheels, new tires, new alignment, rebuilt/balanced driveshaft/u-joints, rebuilt transmission....) I went ahead recently and bought a set. At the time of this writing, $199 bought a set of 4 that were sized specifically for the Econoline.

They arrived in a nice box and in good shape.





(...continued....)
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Old 03-15-2018, 07:31 PM   #2
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The next day I went out to the driveway to bolt 'em on.

I'll keep this all as short as I can, but I figured since there's not tons of info readily available on the web about installing these on an Econoline (the Centramatic sales rep said they only sold 11 sets for E-series vans last year!), it was worth posting pictures of how they look and fit as they install for anyone curious.

SO:

First thing I did, after removing one of the rear wheels, was to place one of the Centramatic disks inside the wheel on the mounting face (where they will "sandwich" between the wheel and the brake rotor/drum.) Was curious how much room they leave for the wheel to still "breathe" through its holes and allow brake cooling. Looked like plenty of air space to me on this 17x8 Mojave rim.



It was explained to me that these balancers can be installed with the "balance tube" (which is filled with a free-flowing lead shot and oil mixture) either biased inboard or outboard, based on which creates the best clearance for brakes/wheels. The Centramatic rep said the balancer will work fine in either arrangement. So I set out first to evaluate optimal positioning (and clearance) on the rear wheel/brake drum:



and



So for the rear axle, while it was possible to mount the Centramatic in either orientation and have plenty of clearance, I opted to install them as shown in the second "option 2," which placed the balance tube more "in line" with the wheel weights already attached to the wheel. (More "on wheel centerline" I reasoned.)

(...continued...)
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Old 03-15-2018, 07:38 PM   #3
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On the front axle, which of course carries disk brakes (my van is a 1995 E250 which has rear drums), there was only one way to mount the Centramatics and safely clear the brake caliper.



As is visible in the photos, the clearance is pretty close, but there's definitely sufficient room.

SIDE NOTE: The Centramatic rep mentioned to me that he was aware of possible clearance issues on later-model E-series vans, but he didn't elaborate if that was front or rear clearance issues. Probably worth clarifying before buying these, if your van is a newer one than mine!

So with all four Centramatic balancers installed, you can definitely see them peeking out from inside the wheel.
I think I'll probably pull the wheels off and take these out to spraypaint them black at some point (for cosmetic purposes and also to protect them a bit against corrosion.)



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Old 03-15-2018, 07:43 PM   #4
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THE VERDICT:

Everything's subjective of course (I didn't have any sort of vibration-measuring test equipment before/after), but I think these have very significantly smoothed out the ride on the freeway. I'm gonna definitely keep 'em on there and run 'em for a good while!

The van just somehow feels more "solid" and "together" when running at speed on the freeway. It's not entirely vibration free (I don't think it ever will be, nor is any other car I own....) but it has (to my observation) gotten darn smooth.

More importantly, I will stop obsessing about chasing vibrations in my wheels/tires (since these continually adjust themselves all the time for optimized balance). If spending $199 for these means I will stop obsessing about at least one previously-nagging issue....then in my book it is $199 well spent

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Old 03-15-2018, 07:55 PM   #5
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Glad you did the follow-up. Almost sold me. Probably going to hold off a little longer - hoping you'll slap some mud on one (front is best), let it dry, and then run it up to freeway speeds to see if they really do help out when you have wheel/tire barnacles.
At first glance (in the other tread) I just assumed the housing was made of aluminum. Can you confirm that?
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Old 03-15-2018, 08:02 PM   #6
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Mike, Awesome thread, well done. And, Please don't forget to re torque the lug nuts after a few short drives.

- Eric
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Old 03-15-2018, 09:30 PM   #7
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Thanks for the write up.

But in 4 different vans with 6 sets of tires I've yet to have drivetrain vibrations of any kind.
I dunno...
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Old 03-16-2018, 12:06 AM   #8
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Bbasso ---
Hey, can I ask you what size tires you have run (or currently run) on your vans?

My van ran totally smooth and vibration-free too originally....at least when it was running the original size 225/75R16 and also a subsequent (upsized) set of 245/75R16's.

It was the move to 33" tires (after the lift kit) that was the beginning of the tire vibration issues.
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Old 03-16-2018, 12:12 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Twoxentrix View Post
Glad you did the follow-up. Almost sold me. Probably going to hold off a little longer - hoping you'll slap some mud on one (front is best), let it dry, and then run it up to freeway speeds to see if they really do help out when you have wheel/tire barnacles.
At first glance (in the other tread) I just assumed the housing was made of aluminum. Can you confirm that?
Twoxentrix,
The construction of these is interesting. The sealed toroidal "balance weight tube" is indeed made of aluminum. But the drilled-for-wheel-studs center plate is made of stamped steel. The two components are pressed together and bonded with a heavy-duty silicone/epoxy of some sort. Ultimately they put a silver paint finish of some sort on top to somewhat unify the appearance.
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Old 03-16-2018, 12:12 PM   #10
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265/75-16 bfg a/t currently with 47k miles.
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