Lead and mercury wheel weights

The 2014 Minnesota Legislature enacted two laws addressing the use of lead and mercury in wheel-balancing products and equipment.

Effective January 1, 2016, wheel weights containing lead or mercury cannot be used to balance vehicle wheels and tires in Minnesota. In addition, no one may sell or distribute wheel balancing weights or equipment containing lead or mercury to end-users within the state. See below for the complete language of the Wheel Weights and Balancing Products law that was enacted in the 2014 Minnesota Legislative Session.

A separate law addressing the broader category of mercury-containing products and equipment used for balancing and dampening became effective January 1, 2015. This law, with its earlier effective date, also applies to wheel balancing products and equipment containing mercury and prohibits the sale, distribution, and use of such products in Minnesota. See the end of this page/document for the law prohibiting the sale and use of mercury-containing balancing and dampening products and equipment.

PDF icon Minnesota law prohibits the sale and installation of lead wheel weights - Frequently asked questions
 

Lead and mercury weights are used in the replacement tire market to balance wheels and tires. Both substances are highly toxic and non-toxic alternative products are readily available at lower cost and with superior performance. Mercury-containing wheel balancing products are made exclusively for aftermarket use with large wheels found on semi tractors and trailers, as well as larger recreational vehicles and buses.

A significant percentage of external wheel weights fall off during use and contaminate soil and water. Both types of toxic weights are often mismanaged at the end of product life when taken out of service. Employees in the tire and wheel service industry who handle these products can be exposed and also bring contamination home with them.

Most new cars and light trucks sold in the US feature zinc or steel wheel weights, and all new cars and light trucks sold in the US have been free of lead wheel weights since 2009. Vehicle manufacturers made a significant commitment to phase out this use of lead. The use of lead in the replacement tire balancing market represents ‘backsliding’ from the commitments and investments made by new vehicle manufacturers to equip new vehicles with lead-free products.

Lead wheel weights are generally not marked for their material content. They are softer and denser so they are smaller than steel or zinc items with the same weight.  Steel weights may be marked ‘FE,’ ‘S,’ or ‘ST,’ and zinc weights may be marked ‘ZN’ or ‘Z.’  Weights may also have a mark indicating their ‘clip profile’ for use on specific types of wheels, for example, ‘MC’, ‘AW’ or ‘P.’

Mercury wheel balancing products are typically a large and heavy mercury-filled ring like device on a hub mounting plate installed behind the wheel and tire. They are also used as engine drive shaft balancers.

The law prohibits the sale, distribution, and use of lead and mercury-containing wheel weights within the state as of the effective dates noted above. The law does not prohibit the sale and distribution of lead wheel weights to end-users outside of the state after January 1, 2016.

No, lead-containing weights cannot be installed effective January 1, 2016. Mercury-containing weights cannot be installed or used effective January 1, 2015.

If you have other locations outside of Minnesota, lead weights may be shipped there for use after Jan. 1 2016. Otherwise, the MPCA recommends either 1) working with your supplier to return any unused weights to your supplier, or 2) recycling your lead wheel weights to safely recover the lead and remove the lead wheel weights from commerce. The major lead wheel weight manufacturers offer recycling programs for their customers. Lead and mercury wheel weights may also be recycled through the state's network of Very Small Quantity Generator waste collection programs.

See MPCA fact sheet 2.51 VSQG Collection Program Requirements/VSQG Programs Licensed to Operate in Minnesota. PDF icon http://www.pca.state.mn.us/index.php/view-document.html?gid=12875

The MPCA strongly recommends that all mercury weights and balancing products be recycled to remove the mercury from commerce and trade, pursuant to state law and the federal Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008.

No, the law does not prohibit the use of lead wheel weights installed on a vehicle prior to January 1, 2016.

Yes, under the law addressing mercury-containing products used for balancing and dampening purposes, the installation and use of mercury wheel weights is prohibited in the state effective January 1, 2015. They must be removed and properly recycled.

No. New motor vehicles may not be sold with lead wheel weights as of Jan. 1, 2016. Mercury wheel weights cannot be used in the state as of Jan. 1, 2015.

A used vehicle may be sold with lead wheel weights if they were installed before Jan. 1, 2016.

A used vehicle with mercury wheel weights cannot be sold in the state after Jan. 1, 2015. They must be removed and properly recycled prior to vehicle sale.

No, the law does not require the use of particular materials in wheel weights. Clip-on weights are available in steel and zinc. Adhesive weights are available in steel, zinc, and a high density polymer composite. Other non-toxic products may be available.

The law applies to weights used to balance wheels and tires on any vehicle, regardless of the vehicle type or licensing status, including aircraft and watercraft. See the definition of "vehicle" in the law.

Yes, products are available. For example, Plombco makes steel adhesive and coated/uncoated zinc clip-on weights (1-8 ounces) for truck wheels; Bada makes coated steel clip-on weights (2-8 ounces) for truck wheels; and WEGMANN automotive offers Perfect Equipment coated steel adhesive strip (0.5-12 ounces) and the Hofmann Power Weight line of coated/uncoated zinc clip-on weights (0.5-6 ounces) and a non-toxic balancing compound that is put inside the tire. KTB Products makes a non-toxic liquid balancing product that is put inside the tire. Other products may be available.

Yes, the law requires the recycling of all used wheel weights containing lead or mercury. Consult with your wheel weight supplier(s) and manufacturer(s) to determine what recycling programs they offer. Zinc weights can contaminate lead that is collected for recycling, so it is important to work with a manufacturer or recycling contractor that can properly handle mixed weights for recycling. Steel weights can be magnetically separated from zinc and lead so they are not a recycling contaminant.

Also see the webpage for the U.S. EPA National Lead Free Wheel Weight Initiative announced August 29, 2008.

 

Manufacturer
 
Car and light truck use
[motorcycle use]
 
Medium and heavy duty truck use
 
3M
 

Composite adhesive roll;
flange or inside mount

[same for motorcycles]

Composite adhesive roll; inside mount
 
Bada
 
Coated steel clip-on
Coated steel adhesive strip

[Coated steel adhesive strip]
 
Coated steel clip-on

Coated steel adhesive strip
 
Centramatic
 
No car/light truck products

[Bolt on centrifugal liquid ring]
 
Bolt-on centrifugal liquid ring


 
Plombco
 
Coated steel clip-on
Coated steel adhesive strip
Plasteel (alloy rims only)

Coated zinc clip-on

Coated zinc adhesive singles

[Coated steel adhesive strip]
 
Coated steel adhesive strip

Coated zinc clip-on (alloy rims)

Uncoated zinc clip-on (steel rims)
 
KTB
 
No car/light truck/motorcycle products
 
Internal liquid
 

Wegmann Automotive

Perfect Equipment brand

Hofmann Power Weight brand
 

Perfect coated steel clip-on
Perfect coated steel adhesive strip
Perfect coated zinc clip-on

[Perfect coated steel adhesive strip]
[Hofmann coated zinc adhesive singles]
[Hofmann coated zinc adhesive strip]
 
Perfect coated steel adhesive strip

Hofmann coated zinc clip-on

Hofmann uncoated zinc clip-on

Hofmann 505 internal compound

 

Manufacturer/product information in this table is provided for informational purposes only and does not represent endorsement of any product or brand name. Other products may be available. Information subject to change without notice.

 

Minnesota Statutes Chapter 116: Pollution Control Agency

§ 116.92 MERCURY EMISSIONS REDUCTION.

Subd. 8k. Ban; mercury in balancing and dampening products and equipment. A person may not sell, offer for sale, distribute, install, or use in the state a mercury-containing product or mercury-containing equipment that is used for balancing, dampening, or providing a weight or counterweight function.

   Subdivision 8k, as added by Laws 2014, c 277, is effective January 1, 2015.

§ 116.931 WHEEL WEIGHTS AND BALANCING PRODUCTS; LEAD AND MERCURY PROHIBITION.

Subdivision 1. Definitions. (a) For the purposes of this section, the following terms have the meanings given.

(b) "Motor vehicle" means a self-propelled vehicle or a vehicle propelled or drawn by a self-propelled vehicle that is operated on a highway, on a railroad track, on the ground, in the water, or in the air.

(c) "New motor vehicle" means a motor vehicle that has not been previously sold to a person except a distributor, wholesaler, or motor vehicle dealer for resale.

Subd. 2. Tire service. When replacing or balancing a tire on a motor vehicle or aircraft, a person may not use a wheel weight or other product for balancing motor vehicle or aircraft wheels if the weight or other balancing product contains lead or mercury that was intentionally added during the manufacture of the product.

Subd. 3. Sales ban. A person may not sell or offer to sell or distribute weights or other products for balancing motor vehicle or aircraft wheels if the weight or other balancing product contains lead or mercury that was intentionally added during the manufacture of the product.

Subd. 4. New motor vehicles. A person may not sell a new motor vehicle or aircraft that is equipped with a weight or other product for balancing wheels if the weight or other balancing product contains lead or mercury that was intentionally added during the manufacture of the product.

Subd. 5. Salvage. A person may not shred or crush, or market for shredding or crushing, any motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or railroad or industrial equipment, or any portion thereof, without:

   (1) inspecting the vehicle or equipment; and

(2) removing all weights or other products for balancing wheels or other equipment if the weights or balancing products contain lead or mercury that was intentionally added during the manufacture of the weights or balancing products.

Subd. 6. Management of wheel weights and balancing products. Mercury in wheel weights and other balancing products for motor vehicle and aircraft wheels must be recycled or otherwise managed to comply with sections 115A.932 and 116.92 and to ensure that it does not become part of the solid waste stream and is not released to the environment. Lead in wheel weights and other balancing products for motor vehicle and aircraft wheels must be recycled to ensure that it does not become part of the solid waste stream and is not released to the environment.

Subd. 7. Educational materials; outreach. Prior to the effective date of this section, the agency shall produce and distribute educational materials on the prohibitions required under this section to businesses subject to the prohibitions and shall conduct additional outreach and education activities to those businesses.

Note: This section is effective January 1, 2016.