Important Truck Tire Maintenance Recommendations

Truck tires are operated in a different arena than car tires. Load pressures are much greater, sidewall stress is much greater, and the temperature of the tire created by the friction of running up and down the highway is much higher. All of these factors represent the basis of the argument for drivers to practice a regular tire maintenance program consisting of the following principles:
1. Both original rubber tires and recap tires must undergo the same maintenance program. They are both susceptible to the same factors and their lives will be a reflection of the maintenance efforts they receive. To use recaps or original rubber is a consideration based upon individual preference and application of use. But the recommendations of tire maintenance are the same.
2. Tire pressure must be checked every day. Ouch! I know that may be a tough pill for many drivers to swallow, but it’s true. Given that over-the-road trucks generally travel anywhere from 500 to 1,000 miles per day, that’s a lot of ground covered and a lot of exposure for the tires to have without addressing the risks involved in picking up a nail, bolt, wire, or suffering a cut going over a railroad track or curb.
3. Speaking of nails, bolts, and such, it is not acceptable to continue to run with the object embedded in the tire for any length of time, which is generally considered to be not more than a day. The object is only going to be driven further into the rubber until it penetrates the liner. Once that happens, air pressure may start to leak, but worse yet, the liner begins to suffer expansion of the wound and continued operation under this condition is going to lead to liner failure. The next thing that happens is a flat tire on the highway, creating the expensive downtime on the side of the road as well as the expenses of a replacement tire along with the costs of the tire service. The object should be removed as soon as possible and the tire should be repaired as soon as possible.
4. Any tire that reads below 70 psi should be considered as a flat. The loss of that much air pressure means something is wrong and the tire should be removed and inspected to find the cause of the leak.
5. The valve stems should always have the caps put on them and they should be replaced immediately if they are missing. The spring-loaded valve cores inside the stems are subject to accumulations of dust, grime, and mud if left exposed. The dirt can erode the valve core seat creating a leak or an accumulation can cause the valve core to be stuck in the open position that may never be detected under ordinary circumstances. Many a tire-buster has removed a tire, taken it apart looking for a leak in the carcass only to discover that the valve core was leaking, which can generally be remedied while the tire is still on the truck. Save everyone some heartache and grief. Keep the caps on the valve stems and insist that your service people see that they stay on.
6. Steering tires are usually considered to be the most important of the 18 tires on a rig, and rightfully so. Those drivers who have had the experience of wrestling their rig safely to the side of the road because of the loss of a steering tire at 60 mph can attest to their importance with first hand knowledge. With the advent of radial truck tires in the 1970’s, a new era was ushered in that posed several new challenges for the trucking industry. First of all, drivers had to make some adjustments to their driving because these new radial tires created a different feel of handling for the truck. Secondly, there were some new aspects of tire maintenance that confronted truck operators. A radial tire absolutely cannot be run low on air pressure, particularly on the steering axle. With greater loads now bearing upon the tires, higher speeds are creating higher operating temperatures, and it makes maintenance of these tires more critical than ever before. A tire on the steering axle cannot be operated on a front end that is out of alignment. There have been cases documented where a tire’s usable tread was gone in less than 5,000 miles, and it was attributable to misalignment of the steering axle. A radial tire certainly cannot be run out of balance on a front end, but that principle applies to using the tire on any other axle as well. The longstanding rule of thumb is that a tire should never require more than 16 ounces of weight to bring it in to balance. If it does, it is considered to have a manufacturing defect and should be returned to the seller. Any radial tire that has a total indicated runout (TIR) in circumference is considered to be out of round and that is a manufacturing defect that warrants the tire being returned to the seller. Many a maintenance manager has scratched his head over a driver’s complaint of a "bounce in the ride" that in many cases was attributable to a tire somewhere on the unit that was running out of balance or out of round.
7. Not all tires are created equal. When putting new tires on your rig, matters not whether they be original rubber or recaps, matching and mating must always be considered. Mating of tires simply refers to the type of tread. It is always best to have the same type of tread operating side-by-side in tandem applications, even to the extent of applying the principle all the way across the axle. Matching tires has to do with the placement of tires side-by-side that are closely matched in circumference. That means one tire must not be taller than the other. Placing a simple carpenter’s square across the top of the tires and down the side wall will reveal any spaces that exist. In general, properly matched tires are within one quarter inch of each other. Anything greater than that is going to impose a greater load (and thus more heat) on the taller of the two tires and we know the rest of that story, don’t we?
8. Speaking of tandem axles, it would be well to regularly check the alignment of the drive axles on the tractor. Maintenance folk have gone nuts sometimes trying to determine the cause of outer and inner rib feathering wear on the steering axle tires after ruling out misalignment, balance or tire problems. A set of misaligned drive axles on a tractor can create a condition known as "scrubbing" of the steering tires in turns because the misaligned drive axles are actually pushing the front tires sideways in the turn. To maximize your tire investment, a regular program of tire maintenance needs to be practiced with the principles just set forth. Are you up to the challenge? It’s your money!
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