More tractor tires are being built to last, but basic care can extend their use even further.
Superior Tire commercial sales representative Skyler Marti said he regularly sees tires outlive the equipment they are on. He said modern tires are getting taller, and they can carry more weight, but tires naturally dry out over time and being constantly exposed to the elements speeds up the process.
“If you can store that tractor indoors, you’re doing that tractor a huge service. A lot of times the tire will rot off before it will wear out,” Marti said.
Mack DeYoung, senior purchasing agent for Les Schwab Tire Centers, said air pressure is another crucial factor — especially in winter when equipment can sit for long periods of time — for ensuring tire longevity.
“You don’t want them going flat or sitting flat, which can cause cracks in the tire,” DeYoung said. “That’s for any kind of tire — even a wheelbarrow.”
Whether the equipment is in use, DeYoung said, it’s important to maintain tire inflation based on the manufacturer’s specifications. When it comes to ag operation in the winter versus operation in the summer, equipment owners still need to follow the right air pressure based on the load being carried on each axle and the vehicle’s average speeds.
The faster the tractor drives, the less weight a tire will carry, he added.
Marti said if power hopping — when a tractor has too much horsepower the tires slip and grab quickly — is an issue, tires can be weighted with liquid ballast for traction.
“It’s a safety hazard for the operator. By putting weight on the tractor, you’re decreasing the horsepower and making it safer,” Marti said.
According to Marti, a new biodegradable liquid ballast is replacing a corrosive calcium chloride ballast that was used in the past. The biodegradable liquid is non-corrosive and won’t harm crops if it leaks onto the ground, he said.
“Typically you do it when it’s rainy and you need to put some extra weight to the ground. A lot of the time, you leave it in there year-round,” he said.
To help further preserve ag tires, DeYoung said equipment owners and operators should try to avoid on-road driving as much as possible.
“Eliminate any hard surfaces; it doesn’t just have to be asphalt. It could be concrete; it could be hard-packed dirt,” he said.
DeYoung said the easiest way to extend the life of rubber tractor tracks, aside from proper alignment, is to avoid making heavy, sharp turns at the end of a field.
“It can bind that track up. It can twist it,” he said. “It can roll up the edges and it can detrack it if there’s enough lateral pressure.
“If you can make as wide and easy of a turn as possible, that will definitely help the longevity of a rubber track.”