Mafia Secrets
Battling the shimmy and shake

By Bryan Martin, contributing writer

When you spend 10 to 15 hours a day at the helm, there aren’t many things more aggravating than having a “shake” that comes and goes, reaching a certain speed and feeling a vibration, or sensing some minor shaking on a particular kind of road.

Sometimes, you simply get new steer tires and develop an odd shimmy, even with paying for a tire balance. There are times a brake job with new drums can cause changes that create small, yet annoying vibrations that can be felt in the steering wheel or the floorboard.

When stuff like this happens, you wanna know: What can cure my ailment?

Here are two things you can install on your truck that will almost always cure the shimmy and shake, and put extra money in your pocket by extending tire life and improving ride quality dramatically.

Centrifugal wheel balancers
Centrifugal wheel balancers such as Centramatic’s are typically under $200 a pair, and are very simple to install. These types of balancers mount between the wheel and the brake drum and use the bolt holes as guides.

Although they are somewhat universal as to application, be sure to provide your salesperson the tire size, wheel type, application (steer or drive/trailer position) and year, make and model of your truck to ensure you get the correct and ideal balancers.

Tire pressure, good tire rotation practices and proper alignment are still “must do’s,” but tire balancing is not required with Centramatic. However, I personally still recommend it. I figure it causes the balancer to work less and allows it to accommodate for the fine balancing issues rather than handle all the vibrational work.

Think about it for a minute. When you get your tires balanced at the tire shop, it doesn’t provide any balancing for the hub or the drum. And what if the installation process isn’t done tediously with care? What if your wheel is bolted up just a bit out of round?

The centrifugal balancers work at speeds of 25 mph and up, and accommodate for all of those situations we just mentioned. You will enjoy not only better ride quality, but reduced tire cupping and lower tire temperatures. That increases tire life 35 to 50 percent and offers a substantial cost of operation savings.

Another seldom practiced, but very worthwhile scenario is to run balancers on the drives and the trailer. If you can budget for it, you should. This is your biggest tire investment. Take $550 times eight drive tires. That’s $4,400 of your hard-earned cash. If you can add 40 percent to the lifetime of all those tires, you just saved $1,350. And that’s after deducting the $400 you paid for two sets of drive axle balancers.

So if you use your drive axle balancers on five sets of drive tires (that’s 1 million miles’ worth) and you see 40 percent tire life increase over noncentrifugal-balanced tires, you’ll get $8,400 in savings. And this doesn’t take into account what could additionally be saved with steer axle or trailer balancers. Another neat benefit is these balancers have a five-year warranty and typically see a million miles before replacement is recommended. Impressive, eh?

RoadKing high performance shock absorbers
You might ask, what makes these RoadKings high performance? Well, a typical OEM shock has an internal damping area of only about 1.5 square inches. A RoadKing shock has over 4 square inches due to its large 2.5-inch mono-tube design. That equates to a RoadKing shock being able to do nearly three times the work of a standard shock.

The RoadKing shock doesn’t have to work as hard as the ordinary shock. It has a damping force of approximately 4,500 pounds compared to a stock shock’s normal 1,800 pounds. While it has all this added force for longer life, it also has much lower internal pressure than an ordinary shock, allowing it to reduce ride harshness and wheel hop by providing a more relaxed vehicle movement.

RoadKing shock absorbers are vehicle specific, so have your old shock with you (or a visual image of it to confirm the end types – stud or loop) when you order. You’ll need to have your year, make and model info available. These shocks are pricier than a standard shock at $315 each, but are corrosion resistant, factory rebuildable and have a life expectancy of 350,000 plus miles.

So figure this. You gain a far superior ride quality, you have extended tire life, and they last as long as three or four sets of normal shocks. I talk to hundreds of truck owners who have splurged and invested in the RoadKing shocks, and practically never hear anything but praise for the results they have experienced by doing so. Rumor is, RoadKing is currently working on an even more new and improved version. Hard to imagine a shock any better.

Until next time, may your air conditioner be cold and your miles be smooth. LL

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