Tires are an afterthought to many contractors and operators. They take them for granted, don’t maintain them properly and yell and scream when a flat tire causes one of their machines to go down and lose productivity. Many times, however, these problems are completely avoidable through proper tire maintenance.
Contractors who take care of their tires can see the results in increased profits because their machines aren’t offline. A more comfortable ride equates to a more productive employee, not to mention that maintained tires are safer.
There are several things an operator can do to maximize the tire’s life. The most important steps are to select the best tire for the application, run the manufacturer’s recommended air pressures and follow a recommended tire maintenance schedule. Making sure your machine operators are properly trained and that hazards around the worksite are minimized are two other, often overlooked steps that will make a big difference in maximizing the life of your tires. A daily, weekly, quarterly and annual maintenance routine for skid steer tires is a must.
Small construction tires can be relatively simple to maintain if the operator follows the basic rules. Check tire pressures weekly and always at the start of a work shift to ensure the pressure readings are correct, always have valve caps in place and ensure that tire rims are in proper working condition.
The estimated industry average for skid steer tread life is between 400 and 600 hours, depending on the application, operator skill and tire maintenance schedule. Abrasive surfaces, such as concrete and asphalt, and work areas with severe hazards, such as waste transfer, demolition and metal recycling, will result in faster worn tires.
That’s why it’s important to choose the correct tire for your skid steer.
The main options center around traction vs. protection. Entry-level priced tires are traction oriented with little protection in the sidewall or tread. As price increases, so does the amount of sidewall and tread face protection while maintaining traction.
The way your skid steer is running can tell you a lot about your tires. If the tires are over-inflated, the machine will bounce like a basketball and be difficult to control. If the tires are under-inflated, the machine will feel unstable when the loader arms are lifted to full height.
So what can operators do to ensure that they are getting the most out of their tires? The answer is simple: Evaluate tire wear on a routine basis.
There are two areas to look at when evaluating tire wear — the tread and the sidewall. Look for signs of cutting, chunking, punctures and rubber tearing. This will help you to determine if the tire is properly inflated and/or matched to the application. Also, measure the tread depth on a weekly or monthly basis by using a ruler or tread depth gauge to determine the average wear rate. Compare this wear rate to other tires and machines.
And always remember that if you work on your own tires, the most critical element is to ensure the tire is fully deflated before working on the tire. After removing the valve cap and valve core to deflate the tire, continue to ensure the valve is free of obstructions so that the air inside can fully deflate.
But what about those who still don’t take tire maintenance seriously?
If proper tire maintenance is not a priority, an operator is virtually guaranteeing he will reduce the tire’s tread life, increase the likelihood of tire-related failures (punctures, running flat, etc.), reduce the machine’s productivity and unnecessarily cost the company money. Not only do you have to pay to repair or replace the tire, but you lose the productivity of that machine, which also costs your company money.”
10 Tire Maintenance Tips:
There is no time like the present to start following important maintenance tips to ensure your tires operate at peak levels throughout any season. The key is checking tires regularly. Routine maintenance reduces downtime, eliminates preventable major repairs, improves operating efficiency and promotes higher levels of productivity. Simply translated, 10 simple steps can save you considerable time and money.
Conduct a visual inspection of your vehicle’s tires prior to operation. Look for signs of irregular wear in the tread or shoulder of the tire and examine the tire for bubbles
or bumps caused by air infiltration or foreign objects. If you notice either of these symptoms, have the tire repaired promptly because both can lead to tire failure and potential danger.
If you notice deep cracks, cuts or other major problems during the inspection, don’t operate the vehicle. Have a trained service person diagnose the severity of the problem and make the proper repairs. Never allow an unskilled person to attempt repairs because incorrectly mended tires can lead to performance problems in the future or even result in personal injury if the tire fails.
Check tires for correct air pressures. Perform this step daily on vehicles in constant use because air pressure is critical to a tire’s performance. Check air pressure weekly on vehicles with less demanding schedules.
Check the vehicle’s owner’s manual to determine precise air pressure. It should provide initial data on the weight of the vehicle and standard load. Your tire distributor can help pinpoint the exact air pressure recommendations for your tires based on the manufacturer’s requirements and the application in which the vehicle is being used.
Never operate a vehicle that has flat tires, damaged or distorted rims or wheels, missing bolts or cracked studs. Any of these symptoms could be dangerous.
Never weld or apply heat to parts of the wheel near the tire. Heat causes serious damage to tires and can cause them to explode. Tires always should be removed before these types of procedures are conducted.
Store tires properly when they are not in use. Place them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to avoid premature aging. Also, prevent exposure to ozone sources such as sun, arc-welders and mercury vapor light bulbs, as well as ultraviolet rays and inclement weather. Store tires standing upright on the tread and avoid stacking, which can weaken the tires on the bottom of the stack.
Avoid lifting tires through the center with a crane hook, because this can damage the critical bead area. Instead, lift the tire under the tread by using flat straps. Flat straps are recommended over steel slings or chains because they will not cause cuts or abrasions.
Deflate the inner and outer tires of a twin fitment before removing any rim fixture from the hub of the vehicle.
Avoid mixing tires on your vehicle — for example, pairing a normal tread depth with a deep tread depth or a bias-ply tire with a radial. Using two different types of tires could cause damage to the vehicle’s internal components because the tires do not work together to provide the same traction and handling performance.
Proper tire maintenance impacts the entire jobsite by keeping fleets operating at maximum efficiency. By following these 10 simple steps, your operation can take advantage of its tire investment and boost productivity levels.
Michael Ford is the market segment manager at Michelin Earthmover, Greenville, S.C.