I am often asked by end-users of OTR tires what are some basic things that can be done to get more life out of OTR tires. Recently I ran accross an article by John Funke of Michelin that provides a great starting list for some often overlooked tire maintenance items by heavy equipment operators.
- How can operators get the most out of their tires?
“There are several things you can do to maximize tire life,” said Funke. “The most important steps are to run the manufacturer’s recommended air pressures and follow a recommended tire maintenance schedule. Other steps that are often overlooked include making sure your machine operators are properly trained and that potential hazards around the worksite are minimized. These steps will make a big difference in maximizing the life of your tires.”
Funke suggests routine tire inspections to ensure that tires are looked at and corrective actions are taken.
Operators need to follow the basic rules:
What can an operator do to ensure he is getting the most out of his tires? The answer is simple â€” evaluate tire wear on a routine basis and rotate and match tires accordingly.
“There are two main areas to look at when evaluating tire wear â€” the tread and the sidewall,” said Funke. “Look for signs of cutting, chunking, penetration, and rubber tearing. Look for root causes and application inputs causing these damages and seek solutions to minimize these damages for the future.”
Another important element impacting overall tire life is keeping the worksite area clean of obstructions. The worksite can have a very significant impact on tire life. Supervisors and personnel should pay special attention to road surface/worksite conditions, as well as the cleanliness of loading and dumping areas to eliminate potential puncture hazards.
These are obvious factors, yet they require equipment, training and diligence from everyone at a site.
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 life, increase the likelihood of tire-related failures (punctures, run flat), reduce the machine’s productivity, and unnecessarily cost the company money,” said Funke. “Not only do you have to pay to repair or replace the tire, but you also lose the productivity of that machine during unscheduled downtime.”
There is no time like the present to start following important maintenance tips to ensure your tires operate at maximum levels throughout any season. The key is checking tires regularly, said Funke. 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. They are:
Step 1 â€” 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.
Step 2 â€” 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 improperly repaired tires can lead to performance problems in the future, or even result in personal injury if the tire fails.
Step 3 â€” 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.
Step 4 â€” Check with the tire manufacturer to determine the right air pressure based on the weight of the vehicle and actual payload. Your tire distributor can also 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.
Step 5 â€” 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.
Step 6 â€” 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.
Step 7 â€” 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 ultra-violet rays and inclement weather. Store tires standing upright on the tread and avoid stacking â€” which can weaken the tires on the bottom of the stack.
Step 8 â€” 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.
Step 9 â€” Deflate the inner and outer tires of a dual fitment before removing any rim fixture from the hub of the vehicle.
Step 10 â€” Avoid mixing tires on your vehicle â€” 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 worksite 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.
John Funke is the director of Marketing for Michelin North America’s Earthmover Tire division located in Greenville, S.C. Funke has been with Michelin for 30 years.