Labeling your loader tractor as a “utility” machine is often an understatement. From clearing cattle yards and dead trees to digging out the largest specimens of your spring rock “harvest,” a loader tractor is truly indispensable to many farming operations. They often double as workhorses in the field, whether that includes haying, spraying, or other crop work. With this in mind, the tires your loader tractor wears can impact its performance and your comfort while performing loader and field operations.
Before we discuss our top picks for loader tractor front tires, it’s important to understand tire load ratings and what they mean for the operation of your loader. Before outfitting your loader tractor with new front tires, consult your tractor or loader’s capacity chart to find the maximum (safe) weight your loader tractor’s front axle will support. Whether or not you choose tires that support your loader’s maximum capacity will depend on how you use your loader. For example, if you’re often moving dense material—such as manure, gravel, rocks, or wet soil—you’ll want tires with a load rating that will support your loader’s maximum rated capacity.
For radial tires, the weight a particular tire model and size can support is expressed by the load index on the sidewall of the tire. The higher the number, the more weight a tire can support. This is a standardized international system, so the same load index on two different brand tires will mean that they have roughly the same load-carrying capacity. For example, a tire with a load index of 147 can support 6,800 pounds. Multiply that by two and you have the maximum weight (13,600 pounds) the front axle of your loader tractor can support. However, remember that your tractor’s front end must also be rated for that amount of weight in order to carry it safely.
Determine the minimum tire load index required by your loader tractor with our tire load index chart.
With bias ply tires, you’ll have to look for the ply rating, shown on the tire as a letter A through L, in order to determine a tire’s safe weight limit. You’ll need at least a 10-ply tire, which corresponds to an E rating. An F rating is a 12-ply tire, etc. However, as a general rule, we prefer to steer customers away from bias ply tires for loader applications. They deliver a punishing ride and will generally wear a lot faster than radials.
As long as we’re discussing wear, here are a few points you should remember when you want to stretch the life of your loader tractor tires:
- First, as with any operation, you need to run the correct tire pressures both front and rear. Improper loading or tire pressure can cause excessive side-to-side motions and back-to-front bouncing that’s sure to shake up more than your daily routine.
- Watch your differential lock. Remember to lock it in only when you need the extra traction. Otherwise, you will shorten the life of your tractor tires in a hurry.
- Remember that standing water and wet conditions can actually make it easier for sharp rocks and other hazards to puncture tires. Turn your fronts only when in motion and keep a sharp lookout for puncture hazards.
- Avoid sharp turns, even at slow speeds. A three-point maneuver is just as easy with a shuttle transmission and can save tire wear, especially when your bucket is heavily loaded.
- Use hydraulic actions rather than spinning tires to fill your bucket.
At NTS Tire Supply, our goal is always to match our tire recommendations to our customers’ needs. Over the years, we’ve developed a few favorites (and not-so-favorites) in the loader tractor front tire category based on customer feedback.
Our Top Pick: Firestone Radial All Traction™ FWD Tire
Firestone designed this tire’s tread pattern exclusively for mechanical FWD tractors. The tire features a multi-angle bar with a lower angle at the shoulder and a higher angle at the nose (center of the tire). Firestone claims better traction and longer wear, even on tractors that run longer transport distances. With a smooth ride and less vibration to boot, we’ve found the Radial All Traction™ to be the most durable, longest-lasting front tire for loader tractors.
Lower Cost, Good Quality: Alliance Agri Star II
Alliance’s Agri Star II boasts “Stratified Layer Technology.” This means that each tire lug has two layers: a top layer with a multi-angle profile and a bottom layer with a single-angle profile. Alliance believes that this contributes to better braking, superior on-road performance for operators who travel a distance from farm to field, and better clean-out in muddy conditions. While less expensive than the Firestone, we believe that Alliance has a solid performer with the Alliance Agri Star II that’s worth considering for your operation.
For Your Secondary Tractor: Firestone Performer™ EVO
Firestone designed this radial line for service on your utility tractor. Not utility in the sense of a hobby farmer’s garden tractor, but utility as in your less-used workhorse tractor that you depend on for a variety of tasks. On many farms, loader use is one such operation. Whether it’s loading silage or handling manure, the Performer™ EVO provides the benefits of a radial tire at a lower price point than the industry’s top-tier tires. Utilizing R-1W tread, the lugs on the Performer™ EVO are approximately 25% deeper than standard R-1 tread. Even at its lower price point, this tire comes with a 6-year limited warranty.
Michelin’s OmniBib is a fantastic high-end tire specifically engineered for front-end loader work. In addition to being on the expensive end of the spectrum, available sizes are somewhat limited. Other Michelin tire models, as well as Mitas brand tires tend to have softer sidewalls, which can make loader work, especially at maximum weights, a real chore. And, in our experience, some Goodyear models tend to have cracking problems when used in loader applications, which is why we’re not recommending them here.
If it’s time to outfit your loader tractor with a new set of tires, give NTS Tire Supply a call and let us help you find the right pair for your application and budget.