The Top 10 Offenders That Can Limit Truck Tire Life

A look at the top tire conditions and behaviors you don’t want in your maintenance shop.

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Truck tire life is not just about rubber, air and the road. Here are some of the personas and conditions that are the worst offenders when it comes to improperly choosing, maintaining and operating a truck tire. If they’re in your organization, they are doing both your tires and your operations a disservice.

1. The Optimist: This type believes that checking tire air pressure twice a week just isn’t necessary, and may even believe they can tell a tire is low just by looking at it.

As tire manufacturers, we can’t emphasize proper air pressure enough. Low air inflation is the top cause of premature tire removal and slow leaks cause 90% of tire failures. According to Kevin Naumann, Continental’s senior technical trainer, “Just 10 psi of underinflation is enough to cost you 9% to 15% of the tire’s tread wear and up to 1% fuel loss.”

2. “Hey, Watch This”: Despite the risks, a few technicians will occasionally take shortcuts with tire safety or engage in downright dangerous practices. Typically, they include failure to use safety cages for inflation, using chemicals — even gasoline or lighter fluid — to seat beads and exceeding 40 psi to seat a bead or leaning over the tire while you do it. This is often the case when under pressure to get the job done quickly.

3. Old Faithful: Tire equipment that is old or improperly maintained can be robbing the life of your tires and even making them susceptible to damage. For example, just because you’ve used the same air gauge for years doesn’t mean it’s accurate.

“We estimate that 15% to 20% of all truck tire air gauges in use today are inaccurate by up to 15 psi,” says Naumann. Checking gauges against a calibrated master gauge should be on your list of frequent equipment checks.

4. The Bargain Hunter: It’s human nature to look for the best deal available, but is a bargain basement tire really a good bet? Not when it comes to the total cost of ownership. Not only are premium brand truck tires more likely to have longer removal miles and save fuel, they’re also more retreadable thanks to better belt packages and bead designs, as well as sidewall strength. Even if your fleet doesn’t believe in retreading, you’d be throwing away money if you can’t sell your casings.

5. The “Sharp Dressed Man”: While the shop may be impeccable, what is the condition of the yard? Fleets may not realize they have a veritable knife collection lurking all around the yard with all types of metal, nails and other sharp debris. Make yard maintenance a component of regular facility maintenance.

In addition, here are a few of the common wear concerns to watch out for:

6. Toe placement: A truck’s toe — the distance apart of the steer tires at the front and the rear — is a major cause of irregular tire wear. An optimal toe setting prevents inside tire wear or toe-out (the tires are closer together in the rear than in the front), or outside tire wear or toe-in (the tires are closer together in the front than in the rear).

7. Wrong tire for the job: Today’s truck tire offerings are very diverse, designed to meet market conditions. Sometimes, though, the tire specified by a fleet is in its correct application but isn’t right for the operation. Consequently, the tire will usually experience irregular wear, robbing it of mileage and even fuel efficiency.

8. Treading too thin: Not only is trying to get a tire to wear down to the last legal 32nds of tread depth a bad idea, you may be short-changing yourself. The retreadability of the casing goes up if the tire is pulled before it reaches the legal limit.

9. Bad bearings: Wheel bearings affect tire wear. If the steer axle wheel bearings are loose, for example, the vehicle’s toe can start to vary — sometimes as much as 1/4 in., resulting in tire cupping. Listen to the wheel for bad bearings (rumbling sound) while spinning the tire to check for run out.

10. Mismatching: Mismatched inflation air pressures in duals can cause a permanent irregular wear pattern in as little as just weeks. Mismatched tread depths in duals (which creates tire height differences) cause also irregular wear that costs money in premature removal. In addition, the taller tire will become over-fatigued due to bearing more weight, which accelerates premature casing failure.

If you can avoid these worst offenders, you’ll find that you’ll gain more life out of your tire investment.

Also, make sure to attend any seminars or trainings offered by your tire manufacturer so you can learn even more characteristics and behaviors of truck tires. It is always good business to consult with your tire representative on tire matters.

Jackie Pobiega is the communication manager for truck and industrial tires at Continental Tire the Americas.