Ounce of Prevention Worth A Pound Of
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
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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