— Larry Edgell, marketing manager, Myers Tire Supply Distribution Inc., Akron:
"Lead weights have been used to balance wheels since the 1930s because lead is cheap, heavy and easy to work with. Lead allows mechanics to use small weights when balancing tires.
"It is estimated 5 percent of all wheel weights fall off the wheel. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 2,000 tons of lead is lost from wheels annually. The lead weights are gradually abraded into lead dust and washed off roadways in rain and snow, where it works its way into the environment.
"At present Maine, Vermont, New York, Illinois, Washington and California have banned the use of lead wheel weights. Michigan has a non-lead bill under consideration. Connecticut, Maryland and Iowa have bills presented but not yet passed.
"The U.S. Air Force, for example, mandates the use of non-lead wheel weights on its bases' vehicles; the U.S. Postal Service mandates non-lead on all fleet vehicles. OE manufacturers are 100-percent non-lead on their vehicles.
"Some national tire chains specify non-lead weight alternatives, as are local dealerships, in an effort to be more environmentally friendly—or simply because a transition may be required in the future.
"The cost of non-lead weights is slightly higher than lead, but when taken as a percentage of the total cost of new tires, it is negligible.
"For a dealer who wants to switch from lead to non-lead, there is a choice of steel, zinc or composite materials and clip-on or adhesive (stick-on) weight applications. While some wheel weight manufacturers claim the use of zinc weights can be a health and environmental hazard, there is no science to back up the claim not to use it in wheel weights.
"Zinc and steel are not as dense as lead so non-lead weights are slightly larger. Also, non-lead weights are not as 'forgiving' as lead weights, so the proper fit against the rim flange is more critical. A dealer transitioning to non-lead still has the same amount of SKUs as the dealership or auto service shop currently uses since it's a one-to-one change over.
"Adhesive non-lead weights are available in standard and low profiles—the same as lead. If choosing adhesive weights, it is critical the wheel be cleaned thoroughly where the weight is to be applied.
"So the question arises: adhesive or clip-on—which is better?
"Many dealers claim to get a more accurate and faster first time balance with clip-on weights since the weight is applied to the rim flange. Adhesive weight users say there is less inventory involved.
"In fact, there are applications for having both types on hand. Flangeless wheels require adhesive weights, but the majority of dealers prefer the quicker application of clip-on weights.
"A dealer interested in making the switch to non-lead alternatives should talk to a wheel weight supplier."