Demonstration key for balance weights marketing – Wegmann
As a world market leader for balance weights, Wegmann Automotive says its Hofmann Power Weights are ready to meet the challenges of the future through a focus on a “high level of product quality boasted by the ‘Made in Germany’ mark and spreading the word to all about the subject of balancing.” Exemplifying this approach, Thorsten Thom, who took over as managing director at Wegmann Automotive at the start of the year explains the company’s special training approach to explaining the effects of imbalance, along with how to install weights correctly.
“Although balance weights are only very tiny parts, they have an enormously important role to play in vehicles travelling at speed,” Thom says. “The effects of centrifugal force mean that a tyre imbalance of just 10g is felt like a force of 2.5kg when travelling at a speed of 63mph (100km/h). In a comprehensive test drive from Würzburg to Lisbon and back, we showed that the small balance weights on wheels are there for a reason. Our test drives also give participants and other interested parties an opportunity to experience for themselves what an imbalance of 90g feels like whilst at the wheel and travelling as a passenger in a car at speeds in excess of 63mph.”
Having joined the company in 2007, Thom’s most recent role was as global director of sales & marketing, with responsibility for developing international sales across the entire Wegmann Automotive Group. Thom and his team compare their efforts to raise awareness of balancing to those of “the makers of educational television programmes”, working to convey what can happen to a vehicle if it is driven with imbalance in terms that anyone can understand.
The company reaches its customers with far-reaching marketing activities including press relations, image adverts, attendance at trade fairs and important in-house events for aftermarket traders, sales promotion (including a train-the-trainer programme). Its aim is to set standards in service as well as product quality. Accordingly, training technician Uwe Staeder demonstrates the importance of balancing by attending customers’ premises or at the training facilities in Veitshöchheim which were set up specifically for this purpose. In addition to the standard training programme, which explains how to install weights correctly and the effects of imbalance, training provision can be tailored to suit the needs of individual customers.
Wegmann also provides demonstrations at customer events or carries out test drives with vehicles without balance weights to simulate the consequences of imbalance in real life. Even tyre experts can benefit, as they are able to see the practical consequences of permanent imbalance and can heighten drivers’ awareness of the risks, showing them the damage that long-term imbalance can do.
Wegmann says its Hofmann Power Weight’s counter display is also an integral part of the workshop-based “Balance is the key” education campaign, which also aims to promote the use of balance weights. The display, which consists of a model car and a screen, starts the demonstration at the touch of a button. Vibrations caused by imbalance can be clearly seen on the vehicle. At the same time, the screen shows the new short film “Why balancing?” and provides any interested customers in the workshop with a detailed explanation of the effects of tyres that are out of balance. Another new feature is the training film “How do I get the balance right”, which provides a striking illustration of why balancing vehicle wheels is more than necessary.
As managing director, Thom intends to continue to steer the organisation in its current strategic direction as it moves towards strengthening its position on the global market. This has also meant increasing capacity in the sales team, which has recently been joined by Carlos Gil (European sales director) and Carsten Linkamp (sales manager for central and Eastern Europe). The company, based in Veitshöchheim in the German state of Lower Franconia (the headquarters of Wegmann Automotive since 2009), has operations all over the world and is represented by sales outlets and production plants in many different countries. Thom puts it very clearly: “Our aim is to be wherever our customers need us, providing local contacts, short delivery times and our high-quality products.”
Wegmann explains the use of balance weights
A vehicle whose wheels are not correctly balanced can pose a safety risk because contact between tyres and the road decreases as speed increases, thereby significantly restricting the function of safety systems such as ABS or ESP. The vehicle itself can also sustain damage if its wheels stop running true due to uneven tyre abrasion caused by the tyre mass no longer being distributed with rotational symmetry.
Such phenomena are usually caused by poor road conditions, frequent starting and stopping, the loss of a balance weight or wheel contact with the kerbside. At high speeds, imbalance can lead to vibration of the steering wheel (which manifests itself as judder) being transmitted to shock absorbers, the wheel suspension, axle and bodywork parts, and putting these under significant stress for prolonged periods. This results in premature damage to the chassis which the customer has to pay to have repaired. Balancing is not about making a quick profit in the workshop. It is about the customer spending a little to save a lot.
When installing add-on weights, the brand explains that it is important to start by selecting the right balance weight for your wheel shape. The choice is determined by the rim design. This is because the rim flange thickness varies (steel rim/aluminium rim) and different rolling processes are used. To install the weights, no more than two forceful knocks should be used. More knocks can damage the coating of the weights. A special retaining spring keeps the Hofmann Power Weight weights securely attached to the rim over the long term, promises the company.
2-part weights (referred to as “clip weights”), which are primarily used in an OEM context, can also be installed professionally at any time using Hofmann Power Weight weights and the appropriate tools. The 2-part weight types 260, 261 and 280 for steel and light metal rims are available with separate retaining springs. A manual tyre compression tool or a pneumatic tyre compression tool is required for installation, along with a clip fitting tool. According to the manufacturer, these are all you need for problem-free installation on the rim without risk of damage.
During 2005, all rim manufacturers switched to water-soluble varnish, abandoning the solvent-based varnishes that had been used up to this point. All varnishes have wax added to them that allows gas to escape when the coat of varnish is baked while at the same time avoiding pimples. The solvents that used to be added were able to compensate for the wax almost completely.
With the new water-soluble coats of varnish, this is no longer the case, resulting in different wax concentrations on the glued surfaces that can only be dissolved by means of wet cleaning. It is only by pre-treating the glued surfaces in this way that the necessary surface stress values in excess of 32 millinewtons per meter (mN/m) can be achieved. Without any pre-cleaning, the adhesion values drop below 28 mN/m. As a result, there is no proper adhesion and the weights may work loose from the rim after 1 or 2 days for no apparent reason. Furthermore, the rim inclination should not exceed an angle of 15°. Unobstructed operation of the brake system (calliper) must also be ensured.