How to Maintain Tires on Heavy Equipment

Keep your machines rolling along with some tire TLC.

With an excavator, backhoe, loader or forklift, there's no jacking up the equipment on the side of the road and doing a quick tire change in case of a blowout or flat. That's why regular tire maintenance is so important.

The first element of any tire maintenance program is a check for abnormal wear and tear before and after each use. Many construction sites have a lot of debris scattered around, and although equipment tires are big, they're not indestructible.

Cleaning tires at the end of a shift can reveal damage hidden under mud and dirt. And removing rocks or other embedded debris can prevent it from further penetrating the tire. Check the condition of lugs and look for any sidewall separation and bent or otherwise damaged rims, which can harm tires and wheels.

Above all, make sure tires are inflated to the optimal pressure. Underinflated tires can reduce the life of the tread and lower fuel efficiency. Both under-inflation and over-inflation can cause costly and dangerous blowouts. (Over-inflating tires on purpose in order to overload them is a bad strategy, one that can backfire.) Over-inflation can also cause impact cuts.

Each tire is designed to carry a specific load at a specific inflation pressure. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for the tire you’re using. Maintenance and proper use of a specific model can affect the warranty.

How often tire pressure should be checked depends on how the equipment is used, including how far it’s driven and what load it carries. If there are several machines in the fleet, manually checking the tire pressure on all of them can add up in terms of labor costs. A tire pressure monitoring system can automatically check pressure so workers don’t have to.

Another thing owners can do to extend the life of tires is promote good driving habits. Operators should slow down for potholes and rutted surfaces if they can't dodge them, avoid jackrabbit starts and hard braking and take turns at low speed.

If stored, tires should be kept in a dry place with moderate temperatures, away from corrosive chemicals and the heat of other equipment, for no more than 90 days.

It may be tempting to drive tires into the ground, so to speak. But you’ll save more money in the long run — and avoid downtime related to tire failure — by retiring tires that have given all they have to give. Don’t wait too long to retread or replace.