Pickup owners can save money, find quality
As automakers roll out bigger and bigger trucks, many farmers are getting frustrated with the growing price tag of the tires that support them. Enter retread tires, which manufacturers say can save money and bring quality to agricultural operations.
"Retreads are used every day on airplanes, military vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks and by millions of truckers and motorists all across the country," says Steve Phillips, director of sales for Oliver Rubber Company LLC, based in South Carolina. "Retreads are safe, they’re cost-efficient and they’re an environmentally friendly option for farmers."
The low cost—between 50% and 60% of the retail value of a new tire of the same size—is made possible through the use of recycled material, says Joel Hawkins, vice president of TreadWright, based in South Dakota. The company uses 70% recycled materials in its tires.
"You’re saving tires from going into landfills; you’re saving on using more oil and rubber," explains Hawkins, whose grandfather and father started the business.
While the family had produced retread tires since before 1984, it found new opportunities when the market shifted toward cheaper imported rubber amid growing demand for SUVs and pickups in the early 1990s. While imports made competition difficult, they were also of a lower quality, Hawkins says. So Hawkins’ father shifted his focus to the light truck tire market.
Choose carefully. When selecting a retread tire for light trucks, it’s important to consider several factors, Phillips says. First, farmers should buy from a dealer who retreads tires using a controlled process in which casings are inspected for uniformity and reliability.
In the TreadWright process, the manufacturer acquires used tires and inspects them to ensure they can safely be used. The rubber is sent to an independent lab to be tested for parameters such as tensile strength, elongation, hardness and ozone resistance. A buffer removes the old tread to a specified texture just above the belts. The tire then goes into a machine called an Orbitread, which applies new rubber in a continuous 1¼" ribbon wrap until the proper depth is achieved.
Afterward, the tire is spin-balanced, pressed and cured. The new tread design is molded using steam heat at between 300°F and 320°F for a little more than an hour.
It’s key to consider where retread tires will be used.
"If the tread is going to be used for highway purposes ... then the farmer or the individual would want to select a tread that was best for that application—typically a ribbed tread, something that might offer some degree of fuel efficiency with regard to the tread," Phillips explains. "If the application is off-road or on-farm use primarily, the farmer might look for a traction-oriented tread."
TreadWright will continue to accommodate ranchers who use 16" rims on their pickups, Hawkins says, even as it introduces its first 20" model this year. TreadWright also offers tires for medium-duty trucks such as F450s and F550s, but its emphasis remains on light trucks. Demand for deeper tread is also high.
Retread tire usage is growing, Phillips says. Prices for new tire raw materials such as rubber and steel have increased tremendously in the past several years, making retreads an even better buy.
You can e-mail Nate Birt at email@example.com.