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Implement tire selection and care are keys to productivity

Scott Sloan Published on 11 June 2014

implement tires

There’s no question that proper tractor tire selection and care can greatly impact performance. The right tire at the correct level of inflation will provide benefits such as reduced soil compaction, improved traction, better fuel efficiency and longer life.

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As such, a diligent tractor owner makes a concerted effort to choose the right tractor tire and take good care of it. What many operators don’t realize, however, is the importance of selecting the right implement tires and the impact they can make on the owner’s bottom line.

Because implement tires are used only for a couple of weeks out of the year, their selection and care may seem trivial to many growers, so price is often the determining factor in the purchase.

However, timing is everything in farming, and if a grower is experiencing downtime during those couple of weeks out of the year, yield can be negatively affected. That’s why it is important for growers to take a close look at what type of tire they put on their implements.

One size does not fit all for implement tires, and the decision to choose one type of tire over another ultimately comes down to how the grower intends to use his or her equipment. The following characteristics must be evaluated during purchase.

Speed rating
The vast majority of implement tires are rated for 25 to 30 miles per hour. Yet it’s becoming more common for larger implements such as balers to be towed behind a pickup truck or even a tractor-trailer. In this case, it’s crucial to select a highway-rated implement tire.

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Though a highway implement tire may allow growers to arrive at their destination more quickly, they have to realize what they’re giving up in terms of performance in other areas. Because the compounding and construction of highway tires are significantly different than non-highway tires, they may not have the durability in the field that many farmers look for in a tire.

It comes down to how the grower intends to use the tire. If the grower is working in extreme field conditions (such as in sharp corn stubble), he or she would likely benefit from running a non-highway tire. If this means they have to travel at slower speeds on the road, it’s a compromise that will likely result in longer tire life when compared to the alternative.

Load capacity
Choosing an implement tire at the appropriate load capacity isn’t just as simple as comparing it to the weight of the implement. Many people fail to take into account the effect of road use on load capacity.

As speed increases, the load capacity of a tire decreases. Although a stationary implement may be well within the tire’s capacity, the dynamic loading of tires during transportation at higher speeds can put them into a vulnerable situation.

If being used for higher speeds or particularly rough gravel roads, it’s recommended that the grower selects a tire with a higher ply rating. Doing so will not only ensure the tires aren’t loaded beyond their limit but can also help decrease susceptibility to puncture damage in the field.

Size and shape
In addition to being concerned about the field damaging their tires, some growers are concerned about their tires damaging the field. Even minor subtleties in the shape of tires can have a significant impact on the field.

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Specifically, if a grower is cultivating after the crop is up, the edges of a square-shoulder implement tire can cut off the roots. Thus, a rounded-shoulder design is recommended for minimal crop damage.

Tread design
Implement tires have traditionally been ribbed, but as tractors are becoming more powerful, many growers are becoming more concerned about the traction of their implement tires, especially when working in wet soils. As such, lugged implement tires are becoming more common.

A ribbed tire tends to plow through deep mud rather than rolling, which can be hard on both the field and the fuel efficiency of the tractor. So a grower working in extremely muddy conditions that sees very little road travel would benefit from a lugged tire. However, if you see much road time, a ribbed tire will last longer than one that is lugged.

Radial versus bias
Bias tires are generally less expensive than radials and because price is the deciding factor for many growers, bias tires are chosen more often than not. There are, however, many benefits to using radial tires on an implement.

With radials, a grower doesn’t have to sacrifice as much performance in one area to get performance in another. Radials have a much stronger carcass and are less susceptible to wear and damage. They also tend to have less heat build-up than bias tires, which means they wear out less quickly during road transport.

Radials are also able to carry the same weight at lower inflation pressures than a bias, which results in better flotation and less soil compaction in the field. Their strong carcass makes for better resistance to puncture damage and better road-ability with less tread wear.

Premium technologies
For growers working in extreme field conditions, tire manufacturers are constantly working to develop new technologies that help overcome real-world challenges. One such technology features Kevlar belts to fortify the tire’s carcass.

Made with the same material developed to resist bullets, the Kevlar offers an additional layer of protection from the sharp stalks of today’s corn hybrids. While premium technologies such as this come at a higher price than standard implement tires, the cost of ownership often proves to be lower for growers who have traditionally had issues with stubble damage on their conventional tires.

Implement tire care
Regularly checking the air pressure of implement tires is the best way to ensure their longevity. The deflection caused by underinflation can cause the tire to wear rapidly and unevenly, particularly in the shoulder area, eventually leading to cracks in the carcass.

Overinflation, on the other hand, creates an underdeflected tire, leading to increased wear on the center of the tire. Moreover, the tightly stretched carcass becomes more susceptible to impact breaks.

A properly inflated implement tire, however, can live a very long life. Because these tires are generally used only for a portion of the season, the rest of the time is spent in storage. Thus, it may be worth putting the implement on blocks during the off-season.

That way if a tire goes flat, the rim doesn’t have to bear the weight of the machine. A rim could potentially cut into the sidewall of the tire, and when spring rolls around, the grower may have to replace the tire rather than simply inflating it.

Bottom line
When it comes to implement tires, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Although choosing a brand or type of tire may seem like a trivial decision based on price, choosing the right tire for the application can greatly impact performance and longevity, and reduce the chances of downtime.

A grower must base his or her decision on how the tire will be used, with special attention given to speed rating, load rating, tread design, size and shape, and construction type. Proper selection and care will ensure an implement will be running when the grower needs it most. PD

PHOTO
Implement tires have traditionally been ribbed, but as tractors are becoming more powerful, many growers are becoming more concerned about the traction of their implement tires, especially when working in wet soils. As such, lugged implement tires are becoming more common. Photos courtesy of Scott Sloan.

scott sloan

Scott Sloan
Ag Products Manager
Titan Tire Corporation

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