As you’re about to learn, inflation is critical to the health of farm tires. Since inflation has been in the news, now is the perfect opportunity to consider these 7 tire strategies you can use to fight rising costs on your farm. Whether prices are rising at historic levels or at a more modest pace, it pays to cut farm expenses wherever you can to improve your farm’s productivity.
1. Inflate Your Tires to the Proper Air Pressure
Improper tire pressure can be a real profit stealer on your farm. And since you don’t feel its effects all at once, you might not realize the many ways improper air pressure can bottom out your bottom line. If you run the right tire pressures, you’ll see several benefits:
- Higher fuel economy.
- Higher yields.
- More even tire wear.
- Longer-lasting tires.
- Faster working speeds.
- More comfortable ride.
Set Tire Pressure for Load and Speed
What’s the “proper pressure”? You should set your tire pressure for the application at hand. Don’t automatically set your tire pressures to match the number printed on a tire’s sidewall. This is the max PSI—the one that’s perfect for long-distance high-speed road travel and seating the bead. But not what you want to run in the field. To determine the proper inflation pressure for your tires, you need to know the axle load, speed of operation, and number of tires (singles, duals, triples) per axle.
Follow Specific Tire Manufacturer Guidelines
Always use your tire manufacturer’s recommended pressures. If your combine is wearing Michelins, you need to consult a Michelin tire pressure calculator. NTS Tire Supply has several links to online tire pressure calculators for your convenience. Want help figuring out the right tire pressure for your machine? Like reading tire manufacturer databooks about as much as equipment manuals? Call or message NTS Tire Supply and let one of our tire experts help you dial in your pressures.
Keep your Pressure as Low as Possible in the Field
Ideally, you want your tires to be inflated at or under 15 PSI in the field. At pressures higher than 15 psi, the stress on your soil begins to accumulate faster, and you’re more likely to see compaction-related problems—drainage issues, nitrogen loss, and ultimately yield losses at harvest time. However, on some of your largest machines—your combine and grain cart, for example—lowering your tire pressure to 15 PSI may not be safe. The same goes for your self-propelled sprayer: the minimum safe pressure on its skinny row-crop tires will be quite a bit higher than 15 PSI. The general idea is to get your pressures as low as possible in the field. In order to reach this goal, you may have to change your tire setup on the machine in question or invest in IF or VF radial technology. The tire experts at NTS Tire Supply can help you do this.
Check Tire Pressures Often
Check your pressures daily to be sure they’re on target. If the weather turns colder, your tires will lose some air, and it’s not good to be underinflated either. Underinflated tires will also wear faster and could leave your operation sidelined with a tire off its rim.
2. Operate Your Tires within Design Limits
We’re going to interrupt today’s programming with one critical message: It never pays to mount a cheap tire in a situation that calls for a premium tire. Budget farm tires have their place in agriculture, mostly on chore/utility tractors and lighter implements. If you want to control your expenses, you may actually have to spend more money up front to increase your farm’s productivity in the long run.
Pay Attention to Speed and Load Ratings
Let’s say you decided to upgrade your combine with wider heads and a bigger bin extension. Who doesn’t want to harvest faster? Problem is, your combine may now pack more pork than its OE tires and wheels can handle. You might be enjoying your combine’s new capacity when suddenly your harvest grinds to a halt because of a cracked wheel or blowout. Always make sure that you invest in tires that are rated for the load and speed at which you’ll be operating them. Higher performing tires cost more, but they keep your operation rolling.
Invest in Job-Specific Tires
Let’s go back to our combine scenario for a minute. Today, farm tire manufacturers pack all sorts of technology into their tires. For harvest machines, you may want to invest in CFO tires—or radial tires that are specifically designed to handle the enormous, ever-shifting loads a combine places on them.
Read More: CFO Tires Help Ensure Maximum Harvest Uptime
The same goes for nearly every machine on your farm. Want to avoid yield-robbing compaction with your center-fill planter? Invest in purpose-built VF radial implement tires. Want to see how the optimum tire setup can boost your big 4WD’s performance? Invest in IF- or VF-rated radials.
3. Replace Worn and Damaged Tires
You’ve spent countless hours doing field work, so trust the feel of your tractor: If it seems to be slipping more than normal, and your tire tread is worn to some degree, it’s definitely time to replace them. High slip means wasted fuel and time. Wasted fuel and time means lower profitability for your farm. Other factors may point to new tires in your future too, such as tires with excessive stubble damage, odd wear patterns, or a slow leak.
4. Consider Ditching Tracks for Tires
Yes, there are plenty of track fans out there and some good reasons to run tracks. You don’t have to worry about air pressure. They can provide superior flotation across wet fields. However, with high-tech IF- and VF-rated radials, and the proper machine setup, you can nearly match the in-field performance of tracks. Need a few reasons to make the switch the next time you’re due for an equipment upgrade?
- Higher fuel economy at non-extreme drawbar loads.
- Less compaction.
- Faster road travel.
- Lower purchase price.
- Cheaper maintenance.
In terms of fuel economy, wheeled tractors will outperform track versions until they reach extremely high drawbar loads, according to a 2012 test by the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab. And, when it comes to limiting deep soil compaction in your fields, properly inflated radial tires actually have a slight advantage. While tracks offer larger footprints, their idlers and midrollers create pressure points under the tracks that drive compaction deep into your soil.
And then there’s the cost of maintenance and the track systems themselves. Tracks bring huge upcharges when compared to wheeled machines with decent tires. Are you absolutely sure you get enough of a performance boost to justify the steep costs of tracks?
5. Invest in a Central Tire Inflation System
If you want a set of tires to outperform tracks—and if you want optimum performance from your tires, period—you need to run the correct air pressure for the load and speed they’re operating under. That presents a problem, however. Consider this dilemma:
- A tractor lives in two worlds . . . the road and the field.
- This means radically different speeds and often weights. (Think about your planting tractor and how it has to lug the weight of your loaded planter down the road. In the field, the weight on the tractor’s rear axle is relieved once the planter is in the ground.)
- So, by the book, you have to set two different tire pressures—high for the road, low for the field.
- Without CTIS, you’ll probably set one compromise tire pressure.
- And compromise, when it comes to tire pressure, means compromised performance.
An NTS customer shares his experience with CTIS: Increased Performance w/o the Cost of Tracks
A CTIS removes compromise from the equation and allows you to precisely tune your tire pressures to each weight/speed scenario. How can this fight inflation? According to Michelin, a central tire inflation system can deliver:
6. Purchase Quality Used Farm Tires from a Trusted Seller
At NTS Tire Supply, we’ve sold more than 20,000 used tires—not to mention used tracks and hardware. So we know a thing or two about passing along gently used rubber. There are several situations when it pays to buy used:
- You need to replace a worn tire on leased equipment to avoid a penalty.
- You need to replace a single tire that is damaged.
- You need new tires and you find a set of used or takeoff tires with 95%+ tread.
The only qualifier with buying used tires? Buy from a trusted seller. Truth is, any time you buy a used tire you run the risk of buying a huge round headache for your farm. So skip Craigslist and the classifieds and buy from a trusted tire shop. If you’re careful about where you buy your used tires, you can save significant money compared to a set of new rubber.
7. Invest in One of These “Value” Tires
At NTS Tire Supply, we’re always on the lookout for bargain tires. And we don’t mean the cheapest tires on the block. We’re interested in a tire that delivers impressive performance for your money—a good value. Here are a few of our favorites:
Flotation for Your Sprayer: BKT Agrimax Spargo
Sprayers handle poorly thanks to their skinny tires that put down puny footprints. You can eliminate the poor handling and fight soil compaction by mounting VF-rated radials on your sprayer, which can handle the load at 40% lower air pressure. Lower air pressure means a larger footprint. A larger footprint means better flotation, less compaction, and easier handling. The BKT Agrimax Spargo is a good “value” tire. While it’s a fraction of the cost of the more well-known sprayer tires, such as the Michelin Spraybib, we haven’t received any negative feedback on this model at NTS Tire Supply.
Traction for Your 4WD Tractor: Firestone Maxi Traction
It doesn’t pay to fish for dollar-store bargains when you have to shoe your high-horse workhorse. Why? Because high slip can cost you dearly in the form of lost time and low fuel economy. Firestone has long been a customer favorite, but the company’s 23-degree treadbar is best reserved for dry to moderately dry soils, in our experience. Enter the Maxi Traction, with its dual-angle lug design for all-soils performance. A deeper R-1W tread depth provides the bite you need, and the steep treadbar taper resists uneven wear on the road and in the field.
Grip for Your Row Crop Tractor: Alliance Agri Star II
The tire field is wide open when it comes to row crop and MFWD tractors, but it's hard to beat the value that Alliance brings to the table. From affordable IF- and VF-rated options to standard radials, such as the Agri Star II, the company offers a wide variety of tire models for the segment. The Agri Star II achieves load ratings that match the segment's best performers and boasts a 7-year warranty for ample peace of mind. The Agri Star II is a long-wearing tire thanks to Alliance's Stratified Layer Technology (SLT)—a style of lug design that maintains a large, stable footprint with lots of bite, even after 40% tire wear.
Flotation for Your Grain Cart: Alliance 376 Multistar
If you want top-of-the-line in the grain cart tire world, you’re looking for an IF- or VF-rated CFO radial. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get decent performance out of a middle-of-the-road tire. Alliance’s 376 Multistar is a great example: You get the company’s Stubble Guard rubber compounds—essential because these tires will be running over stubble all day (and night). Plus, Alliance tires pack a 10-year warranty, which is one of the most generous in the industry. And durable construction means that these tires will hold up under heavy loads while putting down large, stable footprints to reduce soil compaction.
BIG Combine Performance: Goodyear Optitrac
Hey, that’s a big price tag. That’s your “value” tire for a combine?? Hear us out. NTS customers run into two big issues with combine tires: One, the wheels can crack under stress on OE dual setups. Two, stock dual setups tend to sink away in the mud. We’ve had dozens of customers switch their combines over to Goodyear LSW super singles because they want maximum uptime—the combine has to roll at all costs. And that’s what LSWs deliver. Huge load capacities; large, stable footprints for maximum flotation and fuel economy; and the durability to keep your harvest on track. Your combine is one machine where bargain tire hunting doesn’t pay, but maximum uptime during harvest does pay in the short and long run.
Fight Inflation with Smart Farm Tire Strategies
The right tire strategies can help you and your farm deal with rising prices by improving your productivity and even slashing expenses. Along with the 7 strategies we’ve listed above, we’ll add another one here: Call and speak to an NTS traction expert before you buy your next set of rubber. We’ll work with you to figure out the best solution for your unique needs and budget. We’re here to Drive Your Farm Forward with the right farm tires, air pressure, and wheels on all your equipment.