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Equipment Hub: Tips and tricks to get the most out of your tires

Brad Harris for Progressive Forage Published on 11 July 2018

Tires are engineered differently for tractors, harvesters, implements, trucks and cars, but each tire has one thing in common: They cannot work properly without the correct inflation pressure. Yes, tires are engineered to develop traction in dry and wet soils, provide a smooth ride and stop your vehicle, but their most important function is to the contain the inflation pressure, which carries the load.

With that kind of responsibility, it’s important to know how to get the most out of every tire you own.

The importance of inflation pressure

Without the proper inflation pressure, a tire is often blamed for a problem when, in fact, it may well have been caused by the wrong inflation pressure inside the tire.

Using the correct inflation pressure allows the tire to develop the correct footprint, reduce the depth and degree of compaction in the top foot of the soil, maximize traction in the field and prevent damage to the sidewalls. When you run on underinflated tires, they overdeflect, causing damage to the internal construction; at some point, the tire will no longer be able to hold the air inside and will not perform the function it was designed for, costing you time and money.

On the other hand, overinflated tires can cause damage as well. At some point in time, we were all told a bulging tire means it needs more air but, in the world of agriculture, the sidewalls of a radial tire should have some deflection, or bulge. Overinflated tires will reduce traction in the field, costing you more in fuel and time in the field, and increasing footprint contact pressure results in more soil compaction.

So what is the proper inflation pressure for an agricultural tire? Determining the exact pressure of tires depends on the equipment the tires are on, how much weight it is carrying, and how the tire is being used. For example, some operations only use drawbar-pulled equipment with fixed axle loads, so only one inflation pressure is required year-round.

In operations where the axle load is changing because different three-point equipment is being used, or a mixture of three-point equipment is used with drawbar-pulled equipment, a tire may have multiple inflation pressures to take into consideration.

One of the best ways to accurately determine the proper inflation pressure is to know the axle weight, then use an online tire pressure calculator. Most tire manufacturers or tire dealers can direct you to the calculator they rely on most.

Invest in the right tire technology

While tires are all black, round and made of rubber, different types of tire technology should be considered when making a new purchase. A tire’s construction determines the shape of the footprint, as well as the tread pattern, both of which transmit torque to the ground. Talk with your tire dealer to determine what type of tires and tread patterns will work best in your soil types.

Newer tire technologies have been developed for heavier equipment often found in today’s fields. Increased flexion and very high flexion radial construction allow tires to carry more load with the same inflation pressure as standard radial tires or the same load with a lower inflation pressure. These tires are engineered with soil compaction in mind; heavier equipment in the field requires more inflation pressure to carry the load, which increases soil compaction.

In stressful growing seasons, more soil compaction has been shown to reduce yields. If you are using larger tractors or combines, or have upgraded to bigger and heavier implements, consider investing in increased flexion or very high flexion radial tires as well.

During harvest, tires undergo a cycle of increasingly heavier loads to lighter loads as the grain is added to a combine bin or grain cart and then dumped. This cyclical field operation requires tires that can hold up to these extreme conditions during harvest. Look for tires designated as cyclical field operation if you are considering an upgrade to your harvest equipment.

Spend time checking and maintaining tires

Having a problem with a tire in the field results in expensive and frustrating downtime. To help prevent downtime, and to get the most out of your tire investment, add a tire check to your regular equipment maintenance protocol. Checking tires takes only a few minutes with these seven simple steps:

  1. Start by checking the tire pressure with a calibrated gauge, and set the inflation pressure using an online tire pressure calculator as a guide.

  2. Give your tire a good look: Check it for cracks, cuts and other damages.

  3. Check the depth of the tire treads; if there is less than 20 percent of tread left, it may be time for a replacement.

  4. Look for stubble damage or exposed cords; if there is any obvious damage, consult with your local tire dealer.

  5. Check the ground contact area to ensure there is no gap between the lugs.

  6. Make sure all valve caps are clean and intact, checking for cracks, corrosion and debris.

  7. Check all the nuts and bolts to ensure they are tightened properly.

Following these steps will help increase the service life of your tires. In addition to regular tire maintenance, determining the correct tire inflation pressure will have a positive impact on your operation.  end mark

Brad Harris is a manager with Global Agricultural Field Engineering and Firestone Ag