Tire-related problems can render equipment useless in a heartbeat. Hazards on the jobsite - such as construction debris, potholes, etc. - can be relatively easy to identify. But don't overlook hazards that can occur before tires are ever placed in service, or when equipment is sidelined for extended periods of time. By properly handling and storing tires when not in use, you can help ensure they're fit for service when you need them most.
Start with where the tires are stored. If you have a choice, don't store tires outside, advises Cara Junkins, Titan. This exposes them to many environmental hazards that can speed degradation.
"There is a natural degradation that occurs over time. But certain factors speed up the process," she explains. "Tires are sensitive to heat, oxygen, ozone, and direct sunlight."
Manufacturers do add chemicals to rubber compounds to protect against these environmental hazards. But excessive exposure to ozone, for example, can cause weather checking, or ozone cracking that can show up as "crazing" or spider web-like cracks in the tread and sidewall areas of a tire. And atmospheric ozone generally increases during the winter months.
If you have no choice but to store tires outside, cover them with a heavy-ply, opaque, waterproof tarp. Be sure the tarp is large enough to keep out rain and snow that can pool inside the tire, or mount the tires onto wheels and inflate to 10% of operating pressure before storing. Any moisture that remains on the inside of the tire can promote rust when the tire is later mounted for use, notes Roger Best, Bridgestone Americas.
Storing tires outside can also pose problems in cold climates where snow and ice can freeze them to the ground and to each other, making them difficult to move. "You can more easily damage tires trying to break them free from ice," says Best.
Bring tires inside before mounting. "In lower or extreme temperature conditions, tire rubber can become brittle," says Steve White, Michelin, "so bring the tires up to shop temperatures before the mounting process begins."
Even indoors, there are hazards to keep in mind. As a precaution, be sure to keep an adequate source of extinguishing agent, such as water or carbon dioxide extinguishers and foam additives, in case of an emergency.
Keep tires away from ozone-producing equipment such as arc welding appliances, mercury lamps, electric motors, etc. "Tires can degrade from exposure to ozone," says White. "Ozone is a by-product of arc welding, so if arc welding is done in a shop, it's best that tires not be stored in that area."
Rubber can also absorb vapors from gas or lubricants. This can cause deterioration, so store tires in a dry area away from chemicals, petroleum-based products and oils/fuels. "A tire stored in a pool of solvent will begin to break down, since the rubber compounds on both the tread and sidewall contain some petroleum-based ingredients," says Tim Miller, Goodyear.
Tires should be laid perfectly vertical or horizontal, not leaning in any way. Place them on gravel or pallets to keep them off the floor and allow any moisture to drain away. Leave enough storage area around them for maneuvering and accessing the tires without the risk of hitting or rubbing against other tires, advises White.
Be careful when using a forklift to handle tires, since forks can easily cause punctures. "Bullnoze attachments can be a better option," says Best. "Also use straps instead of chains, because they spread the weight out over a larger area and minimize any high-pressure points, which can cut the bead."
With used tires, carefully clean and inspect the tires before sidelining them, and make necessary repairs before storage. "Repairing injuries that expose tire cord are especially important, because moisture can get into exposed cord," says Miller.