November 1, 2013
Avoid downtime and extend tire life by focusing on site conditions and proper care and handling of tires.
By Steve White
Downtime can cost significant money. Aggregates employees move fast and seek the optimal productivity on their site. Taking proper care of tires should be a best practice at all operations because it allows operators to maximize tire life and extract the full value from their tire assets. In addition to their impact on profits and productivity, well-maintained tires improve safety. While there are some instances of downtime that are unavoidable, there are measures to take with your equipment that can help avoid those associated costs.
Basic tire maintenance and monitoring is easy. Start with the following 10 maintenance tips to ensure that tires operate at peak levels throughout any season, and anticipate immediate improvement regarding tire performance. While an in-depth tire management and maintenance program will reap significant benefits, just paying attention to these basic areas will help provide more productive, longer-lasting tires and avoid that costly downtime.
TIP 1 – Conduct a visual inspection.
Start with a visual inspection of the vehicle’s tires, looking for signs of irregular wear, deep cracks, cuts, or other major problems in the tread or shoulder of the tire. Inspect the rim hardware for any signs of cracks or flange damage. It is also important to check the valve hardware for signs of damage or wear. If a dealer or tire manufacturer representative inspects the tires, join them on one of their inspections to learn more about what to look for during an inspection. Visual inspections familiarize the operator with proper tire appearance at proper inflation pressure. They usually allow the operator to detect more serious inflation pressure issues with a quick inspection.
TIP 2 – Require a pre-operation inspection.
Get vehicle operators involved during the walk-around inspection of the vehicle before beginning operation. Or, if a walk around inspection is not currently being done, implement one. The routine inspection of a rim and tire helps to minimize and detect any issues in a timely manner and ensure any issues are dealt with before becoming major maintenance issues or passing the point of serviceability. If any symptoms of tire damage are discovered during inspection, do not operate the vehicle until a trained service technician can diagnose the severity of the problem and make the proper repairs. Never allow untrained personnel to attempt repairs.
TIP 3 – Use the proper air pressure.
This is the most important step to maximize tire life and productivity. Simply put, tires need the right amount of air pressure to function at their optimal performance. Any radial or bias earthmover tire that is either over- or under-inflated is vulnerable to potential downtime, therefore, proper tire pressure is critical to a tire’s performance.
The precise tire pressure or PSI for the tires on a particular vehicle should be based on the manufacturer’s requirements and vehicle application. The correct tire pressure for a radial tire will vary widely and can be significantly different from that of a bias tire, depending on the machine type, manufacturer model type, and weight. Naturally, the best method would be to consult the tire manufacturer with actual measured load per tire for the correct pressure. While this is the most precise, it is not often realistic unless there is a known tire performance issue. Your tire dealer or tire manufacturer representative can help pinpoint the exact recommendation for your application and loads carried.
At minimum, check tires for correct pressure regularly with an accurate gauge and with a visual inspection daily as mentioned above.
TIP 4 – Inspect tire wear.
Evaluate tire wear on a routine basis by tracking tire life and matching tire depths according to the original equipment manufacturer’s recommendations for better wear and less stress on the equipment. There are two main areas to check when evaluating tire wear — the tread and the sidewall. Look for signs of cutting, chunking, stone or debris penetration, and rubber tearing. These are signs of over- or under-inflation, or poor site maintenance. Determining the root cause will be the first step in addressing the concern and mitigating or eliminating the damage.
TIP 5 – Do not operate red-flagged equipment.
Never operate a vehicle that has a flat or near flat tire, damaged or distorted rims or wheels, missing bolts, or cracked studs. Safety is key.
TIP 6 – Do not allow heat near the tire.
Never weld or apply heat to a wheel or wheel parts. Due to the potential hazardous nature of tire fires, any wheel work should be done with the tires dismounted and removed from the wheel/rim. If a wheel requires repair, it should be inspected and repaired by the wheel manufacturer.
TIP 7 – Store tires properly.
When not in use, store tires in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to avoid premature aging. 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 (but supported to avoid injury or death from falling tires) on the tread and avoid stacking.
TIP 8 – Lift tires with flat straps.
Avoid lifting tires through the center with a crane hook; 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 are less likely to cause cuts or abrasions.
TIP 9 – Deflate tires before changing them.
Deflate the inner and outer tires of a dual fitment before removing any rim fixture from the hub of the vehicle. Damage to the inner wheel assembly could cause injury when the outer is removed by releasing pent up energy that could dangerously propel wheel parts.
TIP 10 – Use consistent tires.
Avoid mixing tires on your vehicle, such as normal tread depth with deep tread depth or a bias-ply tire with a radial. Using two different types of tires could damage the vehicle’s internal components because the tires do not work together to provide the same traction and handling performance.
A final word on the work site
Finally, an important element impacting overall tire life is keeping the worksite area clean of potential tire dangers. 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 tire damage hazards.
While many of these tips may seem like fairly obvious factors to extend tire life, they require commitment, equipment, training, and diligence from everyone at the site. Invest the time and energy up front, and you’ll be rewarded with increased production and a safer work environment.
Tire Inspections 101
Follow a recommended tire maintenance schedule, and have a training program for the machine operators. This training should include visual tire inspection, avoiding damage-causing obstacles when operating equipment, reporting obstacles that need to be removed from the site or repaired, and using the proper operating speeds in corners.
As part of a routine inspection, operators should follow some basic rules:
*Check tire pressure weekly and always visually inspect the tires at the beginning of a work shift to look for visibly low pressure or damages to the tires.
*Always have sealing valve caps, which have a sealing washer, in place to retain tire pressure even when the valve core is partially open due to dirt infiltration.
*Ensure that tire rims are in proper, safe working condition.
A Checklist for Maximizing Tire Life
*Select the best tire for the application.
*Run the manufacturer’s recommended air pressures.
*Check tire pressures regularly for correct pressure readings, with a visual inspection at the start of a work shift.
*Make sure that sealing valve caps are in place.
*Check that tire rims are in proper working condition.
*Ensure that the work site is free of hazards.
*Follow a recommended tire maintenance schedule.
*Make sure machine operators are properly trained.
Steve White is the market segment manager for Michelin Earthmover Tires. He can be reached at email@example.com.