Back to the basics
Chain and Tire care saves money and increases machine productivity. When
you mention forestry equipment, most think of yarders and forwarders and other
high-tech equipment. Rarely do they conger up images of chains and tires.
Although chains and tires may not be very sexy, they keep the timber industry
rolling - figuratively and literally.
Are you: Buying the same
chains you always have?
Putting chains on the same way your dad showed you?
Wondering why you're always ordering chains at the worst time of the year?
If you answered yes to any of the
above, this article is for you. Chains have evolved, as well as methods for
putting them on. With the right chain and a good maintenance routine, loggers
can expect better performance and a lot less hassle.
"With some of the new machines, depending on what the application is, a
certain type of chain will be required," says Ed Leach, owner of White
Mountain Chain. "We're finding on some of the grapple skidders, you want to
use heavier chains because of the horsepower. But the forwarders, they don't
have a lot of clearance, so you can get the same result with lighter
chains." And Ed believes loggers may be surprised at what's new in the
"chain market" if they look around. For example, those who are
familiar with the double diamond will see a new twist - literally. "We have
a double diamond and a triple diamond with a twist length," says Ed.
"The complaint has always been that the links tended to lay down whever
they got worn. The SM2D and SM3D won't do that."
Keep 'em Tight
Once you've got the right chain, the golden rule to getting the best performance
is to keep them tight. "If loggers run them loose, they wear them
out," says Ed. "But then you get the other extreme, too. Some get them
so tight that they wear them out right in the center. The best thing I can tell
guys is to follow the manufacturer's installation directions. Don't just put
them on a certain way because you've always done it that way." If keeping
them tight is the golden rule - rotating them is the silver rule. "You need
to rotate them every 800 to 1,000 hours. They wear just like the tires,"
explains Ed. "Like your car tires, if you never rotated them, they would
wear in one direction. If you ever run a pair of tires down like that, the tires
get out of balance. If you rotate chains, either corner to corner or swap sides,
you get a lot more life out of them.
A logger can expect three to five seasons from their chains. However, inferior
steel and rocky terrain will decrease the life span. But it's the operator that
plays the biggest part in the "life span" equation. "I want to
tell them [the operators] to lighten up a bit. Those chains are there for
traction instead of digging holes," chuckles Ed.
When To Buy
The ideal time to buy chains is when buying new tires. If the tire already has
significant wear when the chain is attached, loggers often cut the chain to fit.
This not only shortens the life of the chain, but if the logger isn't
knowledgeable on where to cut chains, they can sometimes cause more damage than
good. The Spring is the best time of year to buy chains. The logger has pulled
off his chains and knows then what he'll need in the fall. By ordering in the
spring for a fall delivery, the logger not only ensures he'll get the chain he
wants (versus what is in stock), but he knows he won't be placing the order when
he's "knee-deep in snow, stuck in a ditch". "A little planning
goes a long way," says Ed. "I hate sending guys away because they
waited until the last minute."
Old Dog - New Tricks
Loggers may be surprised to learn that putting on chains doesn't need to be the
chore it once was. "There are ways now to put on chains that take 5 to 10
minutes (versus 30 or 40) when it's cold and wet," says Ed. I really
believe that's why a lot of guys don't want to rotate and maintain them -
because it's hard. I'm always willing to educate them on tricks I have
learned." Ed tells loggers it also doesn't hurt to go out and put your
chains on during good weather and make sure they fit correctly. Better to find
out then if they're too long or too short than out in the winter cold.
Steel vs. A Steal
Loggers are always looking for a good deal. When it comes to chains, that would
be good quality steel. "Guys can't go wrong with European chains. The
steel's a lot better," says Ed. "People call around and get the lowest
price, and they often have to get burnt first before they figure it out. I've
seen some loggers lose three or four days of productivity waiting for
chains." That's an expensive pair of cheap chains! "A little
maintenance goes a long way," adds Ed. "A lot of loggers I see will
run their chains until they drop and that causes more problems. It's money in my
pocket, but I'd rather they take care of those guys." separation, rim slip,
excess debris buildup, leaks and tube damage. All these can lead to unexpected
downtime, repairs and unwanted tube purchases. Just a few minutes of maintenance
each day can save hours of grief.
Many loggers take their tires for
granted. But the tires designed for today's large, heavy-duty forestry equipment
take an enormous amount of abuse. And they don't come cheap. The cost of a set
of four new skidder tires is approximately the same cost as a new engine for the
same machine. Neglecting tire maintenance can become costly, not only in terms
of replacement, but also unwanted downtime and reduced machine
To keep tires at their peak requires simple, proactive maintenance. oCheck air
pressure routinely - daily would be ideal. oDon't run your tires with air
pressure leaks or visible damage. oRepair tires at the first sign of damage.
Procrastination will reduce the life of the tire. o Minimize tire/rim spin. The
smoother the machine runs, the better the performance and the longer the life of
the tire. oAvoid excessive trash buildup between the rim flange and the tire
bead. Although air pressure seems like a simple thing to check, it is the
largest contributor to tire problems. Running tires on lower-than-specified air
pressure can result in fast tread wear, tire separation, rim slip, excess debris
buildup, leaks and tube damage. All these can lead to unexpected downtime,
repairs and unwanted tube purchases. Just a few minutes of maintenance
each day can save hours of grief.
But even with the best maintenance regime, problems still crop up. Today's large
machines are out in the woods longer and carrying heavier loads, tires run a
higher risk for punctures and tears. If you're experiencing more punctures,
tears and tread wear than normal, manufacturers suggest using the lowest
inflation pressure possible to match the maximum load on the equipment and
tires. You may also want to consider a higher ply rating or a larger size of
tire. A n o t h e r common problem for loggers is tire separation. In this case,
manufacturers suggest increasing the inflation pressure of the tire to match the
load of your machine. If necessary, reduce loads or change to a higher ply tire.
Also, a cut in your tire left unrepaired may work along tread plies or body
plies and begin to look like separation. Repairing tears as soon as possible can
avoid separation. Tires have come a long way, but they can go a lot longer if
operators become familiar with manufacturer's recommendations and begin daily
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