Corn stalks and stubble, rocks and rough rural roads are just a few of the things that can take a toll on farm machinery tires and create planting delays. Just one hour of downtime can cost you up to $570, says Brad Harris, tire field engineering manager for Firestone. That might sound extreme, but delays during prime planting season can be costly.
“It can take half a day to get a tire repaired, and if you get delayed further because a rain front moves in, you could lose as much as 5% of your yield potential,” Harris says, citing an 18-year-long study by Pioneer.
Harris says it takes only 15 to 20 minutes to evaluate the tires on a piece of equipment—minutes that could pay for themselves many times over this spring, once you get in the field. Here is a seven-step tire checklist Firestone has developed to help you along the way.
- Check tire pressure periodically. That will help you know whether the tires can carry the load and get maximum traction, the most pull possible. Over- and under-inflation can damage your tires, so be sure to set the inflation pressure with an inflation calculator, and use an accurate gauge.
- Inspect tire sidewalls. Look for cuts and cracks. Superficial cuts are common and not a concern. “It’s when we start seeing the cord of that tire that we need to consider purchasing a new one,” Harris says. “Anytime we see any of the fabric that could cause us major problems down the road.”
- Check the tread. Look at the tread depth. If it’s worn down the tire might still function adequately in dry conditions but probably not in wet and muddy conditions. “If you've only got about 20% of your tread depth left from when the tire was new, start thinking about purchasing some new tires for that piece of equipment,” Harris says.
- Evaluate the area around the tread. Tires can take a lot of abuse over a single season and might be ugly but still function fine. However, if you see stubble damage or exposed cord, it’s probably time to replace them.
- Check your contact area. “One of the quickest and easiest ways to check if you achieved the right inflation pressure is when that tractor is on concrete (a level surface), make sure you’re making contact with the bar in the ground,” Harris advises. “You want two to three bars in that outside area making contact with the tractor, when it's all set up correctly.” Harris adds that he encourages customers to have their Firestone dealers come to the farm and weigh their equipment. “If we know the weight of that equipment we know what the pressure should be to carry the load based on the tire size,” he notes.
- Inspect the valve stem and surrounding area. If you’ve lost the valve cap, replace it. If you don't have the cap on, mud and dirt can get in there or even a little rock and push that valve cord stem down a bit, causing the tire to lose air. “If you’ve got a tire that seems to leak all the time, just take some soapy water and spray it around that valve to make sure that it's not the valve that's leaking,” Harris adds.
- Check all the hardware on the tires, on the wheels and the ballast. “We've got eight to 12 bolts holding the front or the rear wheels to that tractor, so torque everything,” Harris advises. “We don't want those bolts to come loose and we lose a tire plus the ballasts themselves when we go to the field. This takes a little time, but it helps us catch things before they become a problem.”