Flat Tires Cost More Than You Think

Seven Tips to Extend Tire Life and Save You Money

Dan Miller
By  Dan Miller , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Tires face two hazards from stubble-stubble piercing and stubble erosion. Check tire pressures during refueling for pressure and for damage. (DTN photo courtesy of Firestone)

Stubble is a tire killer. Downtime from flat tires can cost $627 per hour in lost production potential (assuming an idle tractor hooked to a 16-row planter), Firestone calculates.

Today's corn, cotton and soybean plants are engineered to be strong, to stand up against wind, insect and disease damage. Tires -- some costing $2,000 to $5,000 each -- encounter two hazards in a modern field of stubble.

First, stubble. Stubble punctures the tire and causes rapid air loss.

Second, stubble erosion. As the name implies, stubble erosion occurs over time. The stubble gradually wears through the tire treads to expose the radial cords.

Life of tire also is affected by improper inflation. Inflation pressure must match load. Low pressure, without consideration for load rapidly degrades sidewalls. A $10 to $15 air pressure gauge can save many tires.

Air pressure changes by environment -- for example a slippery and muddy field versus a dry road surface with the tires turning at 40 miles per hour. High clearance sprayers run on 17-inch tires inflated to 64 pounds per square inch (PSI) to carry 60,000 pounds. Larger planters will transfer 10,000 pounds to the rear of the tractor going from field to road.

Correct tire pressure is a measure of tire size and the axle load. With those, inflation tables (or the Firestone Tire Pressure Calculator at firestoneag.com) calculate the correct minimum inflation pressure to carry the load.

There are ways to fend off stubble damage. Drive at angle to the row, not directly down the row, is one. Another is tread design. Firestone manufactures tires with a "stubble deflector" tread design -- the tread pattern pushes the stubble aside similar to a cowcatcher on a train.


Firestone offers other suggestions for extending the life of agricultural tires.

1. As much as 40% of engine power is lost through rolling resistance and slip. Check tire pressure with a calibrated gauge and set the inflation pressure using a pressure calculator. Inscribe the correct inflation pressure in permanent marker near the inflation valve. Correct pressure gives the tire a larger footprint, reduces slip, reduces fuel usage, limits soil compaction, reduces equipment wear and provides a smoother ride.

2. Unlike a human cut, a tire doesn't heal itself. Check the tire sidewalls for cracks, cuts, and other damage. If you see cords, it is time to shop for new tires.

3. Check tire treads and consider replacing if there is less than 20% left. At that point, tires are slipping, and fuel efficiency is taking a hit.

4. A 15-minute tire pressure check during refueling can prevent downtime. Check tire tread areas for stubble damage and exposed cords. Replace tires with obvious damage.

5. Check ground contact for gaps between the bar and the ground. If you can put your finger under the bar at the 6 o'clock position the tire, the tire is probably overinflated.

6. Check valve stems for cracks, corrosion, and debris. Make sure the caps are clean and intact and returned onto the stem.

7. Check nuts, bolts and wheel weights to ensure they are torqued correctly.

For more information, go to the Firestone Ag YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/…

Dan Miller can be reached at dan.miller@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @DMillerPF

Dan Miller