Maine's Lead & Mercury Wheel Weight Ban
Starting January 1, 2011 - A person may not sell, distribute or use wheel weights or other products for balancing motor vehicle tires that contain intentionally added lead or mercury. This ban also applies to mail order or internet sales into Maine.
Starting January 1, 2012 - A person may not sell a new motor vehicle required to be registered in Maine that is equipped with a wheel weight or other balancing material containing intentionally added lead or mercury.
Wheel weights and other wheel balancing products that do not contain intentionally added lead or mercury are available from auto parts suppliers. Information on a variety of alternatives and sources is available at the Lead-Free Wheels website: http://www.leadfreewheels.org/sources.shtml (Off Site)
What are wheel weights? Why are some made of lead?
Wheel weights are small objects designed to be fastened to wheel rims to prevent uneven tire wear that could shorten the life of the tire and to ensure a smoother ride. Lead has been a popular material to balance vehicle tires because it is dense, soft, is inexpensive and doesn't rust. Most new vehicles are delivered with wheel balancing products other than lead reflecting industry change from a 2005 European ban, an EPA focus and voluntary phase out efforts by US industry and passage of an increasing number of state laws.
Why are lead wheel weights and mercury balancing products a problem?
Lead and mercury are toxic. People are exposed to lead fragments and dust when lead wheel weights fall from motor vehicles onto roadways and are then crushed and worn down by traffic. An estimated 20,000 lbs of lead wheel weights fall off each year onto Maine roads. Lead wheel weights on and alongside roadways can pollute soil, lakes, streams, and groundwater and can poison fish and wildlife.
What kinds of wheel weights are legal?
A legal wheel weight is one that does not include lead or mercury that was intentionally added during the manufacture of the wheel weights. Coated steel, composite, and zinc weights are popular alternatives and are legal as long as they do not contain intentionally added lead or mercury. Other methods for balancing tires such as internal liquid balancing or internal beads are also available.
What do I do with old lead wheel weights?
Lead wheel weights must be recycled as scrap metal or disposed of as hazardous waste. If a lead wheel weight is to be recycled, an ongoing recycling arrangement with a scrap metal recycler is needed. Most garages who have been removing or installing wheel weights already have these recycling arrangements in place. It may also be possible to return existing stock of new lead wheel weights with some vendors.
Alternatives to lead and mercury wheel weights
Internal wheel balancing products do not fall off and therefore avoid the time and costs of rebalancing. Some internal balancing products will work only on larger diameter/heavy duty vehicle wheels. Auto parts suppliers can provide you with additional information
State of Maine fleet experience with alternative exterior wheel weights (primarily coated steel) indicated similar performance to lead. Fit problems with specialist rims have occasionally occurred with lead weights and some of the alternatives but options were found.
Steel or zinc clip-on weights may not be as malleable as lead weights. The clip style must match the wheel flange and it is therefore useful to check the application chart to find the appropriate weight. Stick on weights require the surface to be clean for proper adhesion. Reusing clip-on weights is sometimes problematic.
Maine DOT piloted numerous products for the heavy duty fleet and has moved to an internal balancing product that has improved performance and saved money by avoiding the need for rebalancing.
Questions contact Beth Pratte and for recycling contact Stacy Ladner at (207) 287-2651.