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The key to increasing the life of ag tires, whether during harvest or when putting the machine away for the winter, boils down to air pressure.
Keeping tires at the proper air pressure is of primary concern during the off season; they should be checked once or twice a week to protect the sidewall and maintain the proper footprint.
The tires on tractors that come from a warmer region may be filled with liquid.
“If they have fluid in them, it’s important to make sure the tires aren’t filled with water,” Andy Spencer, general manager of Les Schwab Tires in Redmond, Ore., said. “I’ve had people who bought tractors from California like that and had them freeze over the winter.”
In colder climates, farmers often use calcium chloride or Bio Ballast for weight distribution in the back, he said.
“Make sure you maintain the right amount of tread base engaged into the dirt when you’re moving,” Spencer said. “If you have too much air you’re going to run in the centers, and if you don’t have enough air it’s going to run pretty flat on the sidewalls and break them down.”
It also takes more power and fuel to turn them without proper pressure, he said.
“Tractor tires hold so very little air; you’re talking 20-25 pounds, sometimes 35 pounds, depending on the size,” Spencer said. “For every 10 degrees in temperature the air pressure drops one pound per square inch. If you’re only running 23 pounds in one of those tractor tires and the temperature drops 10 to 20 degrees, the pressure dips, too, especially when we have our first big cold snap and it stays cold for a while after being 100 degrees.”
Combines are a little different breed, he said.
“Once harvest is over they’ll sit; just make sure they go into winter with no flats or slow leaks. If they have flats or slow leaks they’ll bleed off and you’ll have the weight of the machine sitting right on that flat tire; it can crack side walls out and ruin them, and ag tires aren’t cheap by any means.”
Having ag tires serviced ahead of harvest time can enable a farmer to share the service call with another farmer or two, he said.
“A lot of guys will go into harvest and not have a good system in place for inspecting their tires and things can snowball from there,” Spencer said. “They didn’t check their air pressure before they started and they get right in the middle of harvest and now they have a flat and everything comes to a screeching halt until the service technician can get there.”