International Marketing Inc. has developed an alternative to lead wheel weights that incorporates its knowledge of wheel balancing in a tape-on wheel weight that offers true dynamic balance.
Marketed as XACTBalance, the new wheel weights use a dynamic medium housed inside a flexible thermoplastic shell that is attached to the wheel by an adhesive. The medium-essentially a small diameter metal shot-moves and adjusts to changing conditions as the tire rotates, IMI said, targeting the location of the imbalance and correcting it.
XACTBalance uses the principles of dynamic balance IMI has developed in the past 14 years with its Equal wheel balancing medium for truck tires.
IMI is offering the new weights in 12 sizes-from 7 grams (0.25 ounce) to 95 grams (3 ounces)-which should allow dealers to trim their inventories of weights, according to IMI President Bob Fogal Jr., who said there are as many as 173 SKUs of lead wheel weights available.
The tape-on design of the new product allows the technician to place it on the wheel's surface in the interior, out of sight, thereby satisfying customers' aesthetic tastes and addressing the restrictions created by flangeless wheels, Mr. Fogal said.
IMI began working on the product a few years ago when the issue of getting lead out of the environment first came out, initially in Europe and now increasingly in the U.S. as well, Mr. Fogal said.
In Europe, the use of lead wheel weights is now prohibited, owing to lead's status as an environmental health hazard. Lead that gets into the blood stream of children can reduce intelligence and attention span, cause learning disabilities and damage a child's brain and nervous system permanently, medical experts say.
The Tire Industry Association (TIA) in the U.S. is working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to draft an educational program for aftermarket tire/wheel servicing outlets covering the proper disposal of lead weights. TIA discovered earlier this year that only about half of all tire dealers properly recycle their lead weights with wheel weight manufacturers or battery recyclers.
The EPA recently rejected a petition from the Ecology Center, a Berkeley, Calif.-based environmental group, for a ban on lead wheel weights, saying there aren't enough data at this time to justify a ban. The EPA estimates about 21 million pounds of used lead go unaccounted for each year.
Other alternatives to lead are zinc or steel, both of which are more expensive by as much as 40 to 60 percent, according to distributors.
IMI's XACTBalance will be priced at a premium to lead weights, Mr. Fogal said, and the strategy is to pitch the product initially as a solution to the balancing and weight location problems many dealers have with the larger (20-inch and above) wheels.
To launch the product, IMI is using the line, ``Get the lead out,'' which surprisingly the firm discovered was not trademarked, Mr. Fogal said.