Sept Oct, 2002





Ounce of Prevention Worth A Pound Of Cure
Forestry Equipment Tire Maintenance

By Tony Kryzanowski

When it comes to tires on grapple skidders, porters and wheel loaders, you’re speaking about one of the biggest wear items on the unit. Outside of the engine and transmission, tires are in constant production. Therefore as any serious logger will tell you, tires require regular inspection, and a preventive maintenance program can ensure that contractors achieve the predicted life expectancy that each tire is rated for.

Under normal operating conditions in the Northwest, that is about two years on a skidder — although tire longevity can range from 1000 to 9000 hours, depending on how and where the unit is put into service. Loggers should inspect for severe chunking or cuts in the tread face or sidewall where there is a significant amount of exposed cord. Quite often, this type of damage can be fixed with a section repair.

Spending $100 to repair an exposed area of nylon and steel is a good investment considering the high cost and downtime associated with a total tire replacement. Firestone/Bridgestone senior project engineer in charge of forestry tires, Stuart Miller, says that in addition to regular inspection for wear and damage, "one of the things that loggers really have to get into the habit of doing is checking the air pressure."

Checking air pressure about once a week will smoke out any problem with abnormal air pressure loss, which usually indicates a bigger problem. "The most important thing a customer can do to enhance tire wear is to maintain proper air pressure, proper load for the machine and tire and to keep a close watch on any snags or cuts that appear much deeper than normal," says Les Schwab’s Vice President in charge of Purchasing, Phil Powell. Avoiding cuts is obviously a key objective for all owners of wheeled forestry equipment.

According to industry experts, the rocky and hilly terrain common in the Northwest do not work in the wheeled equipment owner’s favor. "Hilly terrain puts more weight on the downhill tire on the machine," says Powell. "That increases the load and creates more heat in the tire . . . heat is the enemy of all tires. If a tire is run under inflated or overloaded, the effect is the same and the tire will not last nearly as long."

Most Northwest loggers chain up their skidder tires to improve traction and reduce wear, but there have also been some recent advances in tire technology that are giving the industry a leg up. For example, Firestone/Bridgestone has introduced a line of cut resistant compound (CRC) tires. "It’s a major improvement over where we were before and we have documented that," says Miller. "We are seeing significant improvement in tires with the new tire compound."

The company has also launched a "severe service" version of CRC tires, with more rubber under the tread and in the sidewall, bigger beads, and a higher ply rating. Furthermore, they have also introduced a new tubeless tire, reducing the expense associated with purchasing a tubed tire. Powell says any time there are multiple elements in a tire such as a tire and tube, this increases heat buildup during use. So from the standpoint of combating heat, availability of a tubeless tire is a positive step.

The introduction and expanded use of wheeled porters has had a dramatic impact on tire wear and tear, although the economics of using a porter limits its use to specific forestry environments. Because the load is carried rather than pulled, this significantly reduces tire slippage and thus extends tire life. "When it comes to porters, in some cases, contractors will probably end up replacing the machine before they need to replace the tires," says Dynamic Tire Corp. sales manager, Ray Giansanti.

His company retails the Primex line of forestry equipment tires, and he emphasizes to loggers that it is definitely worthwhile to ask questions and shop around. At one time, the market was dominated by only a couple of tire suppliers. Now, the market is more competitive, both in terms of the value that loggers can get for the price they pay, and tires manufactured to address issues in a particular niche market. 

Giansanti worked in western forestry conditions for a number of years, and says the trend toward more skidder, porter, and wheel loader owner/operators has reduced incidences of tire abuse because owners have more of a stake in the equipment’s uptime and generally high performance. Getting full value for your tires begins with purchase of the equipment itself. During the negotiation process, loggers have the option of asking the equipment supplier to deliver the unit for tire installation at the receiving end. That way, contractors can take advantage of local expertise related to the area’s logging conditions, and match the correct tires for local conditions.


You can read more about tires in the next issue when we feature accessories that can add to your tire’s life.


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This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 28, 2004