Seven Steps To Follow When Checking Tires

Planting season presents special dangers for farm workers and motorists. Drive slowly and cautiously during spring planting season, says MU Extension health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch.

A tire blowout could mean major delays, and major dollars. Check tires frequently to avoid unexpected, preventable issues during planting, spraying and harvesting.

“You need to check tire inflation pressure every day,” says Brad Harris, Firestone manager of the field engineering group for ag tires. “Too high doesn’t damage the tire as much—it just causes irregular wear that could affect the life of the tire and cause you to lose traction in the field.

“Underinflated causes the most damage. You’ll see rubber, cords and insides over-flex and break down those components,” he adds. “That’s when we might see sidewall removal or air through the sidewall, and those are preventable issues.”

Here are a few tips Firestone compiled to help you inspect tires:

  1. Check tire pressure, adjust up or down if needed
  2. Look for sidewall cracks, cuts or other damage
  3. Examine tread and consider replacing if there is less than 20% tread left
  4. Inspect tread areas for stubble damage and exposed cords and replace tires with obvious damage
  5. Study the ground contact area to ensure there is no gap between the lugs and the ground
  6. Watch for cracks, corrosion and debris on valve stems and make sure they’re clean and intact
  7. Survey nuts and bolts to make sure they’re properly tightened

Other important tips to remember. Wear and tear varies based on how you handle your tires, how often you’re on the road versus in the field and other factors. Consider how road driving, hot weather and UV rays affect tire life.

“On combines, for example, when we look at driving a lot up and down the road, the front drive tires will typically have enough pressure when the combine doesn’t have the head on it—it’s the rear tires that customers don’t realize take a lot of inflation pressure,” Harris says. “In road transport, the rear steering tires have as much if not more load pressure than the front tires. Double check the manual if you’re unsure.”

It’s also important to check tires when you have wide temperature swings. The way the tire holds air is different from 60º to 100º, so you should make sure the pressure is still correct or adjust accordingly.

If you don’t keep machinery covered in a shed or lean-to, your tires could be slowly damaged by UV rays.

“Usually premium tractor tires have protective waxes, but as they’re exposed to sunlight and age they lose the protective waxes and that can lead to damage,” Harris says. “When you get into later years [for the tire] it’s important to keep them in the shed.”