It pays to take care of your tires, because the costs of a sudden farm tire failure can add up fast. First, you have to deal with the expense and frustration of a breakdown . . . while fieldwork at your neighbors’ is rolling right along. Second, you’re forced to search for a replacement tire. Will your preferred brand be in stock? Will you be able to find a used tire to match the tread on the rest of your machine’s rubber? The costs to both your wallet and your patience will add up fast.
You Can Stop Most Tire Failures in their Tracks
Other than a direct hit from a field hazard, every catastrophic tire failure has a history. We’re going to dive deeper into each of the seven scenarios below, but if you take only one fact away from this post, remember: 95% of the time, avoiding a tire failure is up to you. Here are seven strategies that will protect your farm tires.
1. Roll with the Right Tire Pressure
A tire’s casing has two tough jobs to do: It must support a machine’s weight and, on powered machines, transfer its power to the ground as efficiently as possible. But in order for a casing to perform well under pressure, you need to run the right air pressure. What is the “right” air pressure? It’s the number provided by the tire’s manufacturer based on the load the tire is carrying.
- If your pressure is too high, you’re left with an overly stiff tire that delivers a harsh ride and the potential for serious soil compaction because of the tire’s tiny footprint.
- If your pressure is too low, you’re asking for casing cracks, rapid wear, overheating, and tire failure.
Air is to a tire what oil is to an engine. You want to follow the manufacturer's instructions for filling it properly, or, eventually, you’re in for trouble. Farm tires are designed to operate at low air pressures, but that doesn’t mean you want to run with an arbitrary number when setting your tire pressure. And you don’t want to judge tire pressure by other methods, such as how many lugs your tire has on the ground. Here’s the appropriate method:
- Weigh your machine. If you don’t have access to a grain or truck scale, NTS Tire Supply can weigh each axle of your machine on a service call. Our tire experts can also help you find the correct tire pressures for your machines based on how they’re used.
- Consider all the factors when deciding an axle’s maximum load. For example, for a planting tractor, you’d want to weigh the tractor’s rear axle with the planter raised in transport position and its front axle with the planter down to find those axles’ maximum load. As another example, if we’re talking about a loader tractor, you want to make sure that your front tires are strout enough—and inflated correctly—to deal with the typical maximum load you’ll have in your bucket.
- Consider how much roading the tires are going to do. Road service is considered severe service for ag tires: the amount of heat that builds up during high-speed road travel can cause fast, uneven tire wear and even sudden blowouts. Depending on how much a particular machine travels down the road, you may need to add more air to protect your tires.
2. Check Your Tire Pressure Daily During Busy Seasons
This simple 5- to 10-minute chore can potentially save you thousands of dollars and hours of time. The idea is to catch problems—such as a slow leak—early before they bring your day to a halt. It’s best to check your tires when they’re cold, before they’re rolling for the day. And consider an upgrade to a quality calibrated tire gauge; the cheap dollar-rack pencil gauge meant for a bicycle or passenger car can leave you guessing when it comes to industrial tires.
3. Store Tires Properly in the Off Season(s)
Even when not mounted on a machine, it’s important to handle your tires correctly. Improper storage or handling will shorten a tire’s life and can set it up for a catastrophic failure.
- If not mounted, tires should be stored upright in a cool, dry place away from the sun and sources of ozone (a welder, transformer, etc.).
- It's best to store tires on a gravel or concrete surface. Avoid storing tires on dirt, as the soil will wick moisture from the rubber, which will accelerate the dry rot process.
- Keep tires away from fuel and solvents. Any damage to a tire’s rubber compounds can contribute to a tire failure or slowly sap the tire’s integrity.
- If you’re moving a tire with forks (on a skid steer, for example), slide the forks under the tire, not through it. A bouncy ride on the forks across a farm yard can be enough to stress and damage the bead.
4. Avoid or Reduce Field Hazard Damage
Sometimes, a flat tire from a field hazard is unavoidable. And stubble will always take its toll over time on a tire’s tread. However, you should take steps to avoid stubble and other hazards from causing severe casing damage.
- Watch your tire pressure and tire load. Yes, you want your tire pressures as low as possible in the field, but you don’t want them too low. A tire that’s deflecting more than it’s designed for will have more sidewall exposed to potential damage. The same goes for an overloaded tire; it will deflect more than designed and expose more of its sidewalls to damage.
- A stubble deflection device on your combine’s head—or ahead of your tractor’s front wheels—is the best investment you can make to protect your tires and tracks from stubble damage. And some tire manufacturers’ stubble warranties may require them.
- The tires you choose can also make a difference. Many of the industry’s top tire brands incorporate some type of “stubble guard” technology in their premium tire models. At NTS Tire Supply, we’ve actually witnessed a difference in performance. Yes, you can run a cheap tire for less money up front, but it could leave you looking for a replacement—or staring downtime in the face—sooner than you’d like.
Learn More: Proven Strategies to Avoid Stubble Damage
5. Make Smart Farm Tire Investments
Everyone loves a bargain. But there’s more to finding the best tire for your needs than comparing purchase prices. In some cases, a cheap tire is just fine. Maybe you need new tires for your chore tractor. Or maybe you need to replace a couple of duals to match the other tires with 70 percent tread remaining on a tractor. But for your farm’s heaviest machines, a bargain tire can cost you more in the long run.
When is it time for a tire upgrade on a particular machine? When the upgrade will improve the machine’s performance and deliver a solid return on your investment.
- Achieve optimum traction/flotation balance
- Avoid compaction-related yield losses
- Put more horsepower to the ground
- Solve handling issues
- Burn less fuel
- Finish fieldwork faster
- Extend tire life.
6. Use Application-Specific Tires
If you operated a scrap yard, you probably wouldn’t mount pneumatic tires on the machines driving over scrap metal all day. You’d choose solid, cut-resistant tires. Likewise, you should choose tires designed for the application at hand on your farm. Here are just a few examples:
- Invest in VF-rated radial implement tires on your heaviest implements to improve performance down the road and in the field.
- Mount IF- or VF-rated radial tires on your row crop and 4WD tractors to put more power to the ground while avoiding severe soil compaction with a larger footprint.
- Mount CFO-rated radials when you want maximum flotation on a machine that’s loaded and unloaded in predictable cycles (your grain cart, combine, etc.).
7. Partner with the Ag Tire Experts at NTS Tire Supply
Not sure which of these strategies are the right starting point for your farm? Need assistance weighing your tractor or other implements? Wondering how much air you need in your sprayer’s tires? NTS can help! We’ve helped over 7,000 farmers with more than 25,000 equipment upgrades. And we deal with the ins and outs of farm tires all day, every day. It’s all we do. Need advice on the right tires for your farm’s unique needs or ideas on how to improve a particular machine’s performance. Call or drop us a line and one of our traction experts will help you Drive Your Farm Forward.