CARSON, Calif., July 22, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- AutoMD.com joins the Automotive Maintenance & Repair Association, and its Motorist Assurance Program (AMRA/MAP), in supporting initiatives to end the use of harmful lead wheel weights throughout the industry, and the continued replacement of non-lead alternatives at service shops nationwide.
"There's a better and more environmentally-friendly way to handle wheel weights," said Tracey Virtue, Vice President of AutoMD.com. "Those little finger-sized weights that get attached to the side of the rim of your wheel just happen to be releasing large amounts of lead into our environment. As the weights are tossed free of a car's wheel, they gradually decompose -- and may wind up in our water supply, or our landfills. At AutoMD.com, we believe that lead wheel weights should be replaced with weights made from alternative materials."
According to AutoMD.com experts, progress is being made to reduce the use of lead, with plenty of alternatives to choose from. In fact, many auto manufacturers, tire companies, and parts suppliers have already made the switch to zinc, coated steel or composite materials. And while that's good progress, AutoMD believes more must be made in order to minimize the harmful effects of loose lead weights, decomposing on the roads and contaminating water supplies. Consumers can help by learning a little about the effects of lead wheel weights and by insisting that any tire rebalancing use non-lead weights:
What Consumers Need to Know: FAQs about Lead Wheel Weights, and Balancing Wheels
What are wheel weights, and why are they necessary?
Wheel weights are the small, slender, finger-shaped metal objects affixed to your car's wheels. They help balance your wheels to prevent vibration and uneven tire wear while they spin.
Why lead? How long have they been used?
Most experts believe that the use of lead wheel weights began in the 1930s, as a cheap and workable solution to balancing tires. Lead is soft, which makes it easy to conform to the different wheel types and sizes.
Is there any other type of material that can be used to effectively balance a car's wheel?
Yes, and in fact, positive progress has been made by the industry to switch from lead weights to zinc, steel or composite materials. The cost of these materials is about the same, or even a little less, than lead wheel weights.
How big of an environmental issue is this, really?
According to the EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey, approximately 2,000 tons of lead wheel weights fall off cars and onto roadways every year. That's the equivalent of about 1,000 large SUVs -- in lead -- that's getting ground down on roadways and is making its way into water sources. Even more are making their way to landfills.
Where am I most likely to find lead wheel weights, and how do I ensure that I do not get lead weights added to my rims during a service appointment?
Many OEMs and larger service shop organizations have made the switch to non-lead alternatives, but you can still find lead weights at some service shops. Be sure you don't get lead weights put on your wheels by asking what kind of non-lead material they use. For more info on states with laws prohibiting the use of lead weights, http://www.motorist.org/news/getting-the-lead-out
What's wheel balancing?
Since weight is never truly equal around a tire and wheel assembly, adding weights to equalize the imperfections is required. Wheel balancing is the process of adding weights to the outermost rim of the wheel so the tire and wheel assembly spins smoothly at high speed. The automotive technician uses a machine to spin the wheel assembly and show them where and how much weight to add. Unfortunately, wheels and tires don't stay in balance, so make sure your service shop rebalances your tires during a tire rotation or when you feel a vibration.
Lead Wheel Weights, by the Numbers
- Approximately 50 million pounds of lead is used annually to produce tire weights worldwide in autos and light trucks. (EPA)
- 4.5 ounces of lead is clipped to the wheel rims of every automobile in the United States. (EPA)
- 80% of all lead wheel weights sold are installed by tire service stations. (EPA)
- Just 1 oz. of wheel weight lead has the capability to contaminate over 1 million liters of water (smartenergy4kids.org)
- It takes 7 days for a thrown lead wheel weight to corrode and contaminate its environment. (Ecology Center)
For more information from AMRA, click here.
For more information about MAP, click here.
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