As harvest season approaches, keep in mind the importance of checking the condition and air pressure on harvest equipment tires before hitting the field. The added weight and load capacity on equipment and tires from harvested crops is exponentially greater compared with a few years ago.
The modern combine can hold more than 400 bushels in the grain tank. With a 12-row head and a full grain tank, it can weigh more than 50,000 pounds, putting significant pressure on the front axle and tires.
A 1,200-bushel grain cart loaded with soybeans will put about 65,000 to 70,000 pounds of pressure on the axle and tires. Even with dual tires, either scenario is an extreme load and can be a greater load than an ordinary agriculture tire is designed for.
Additional equipment and tire load combined with additional speed make it important to take the time to inspect tires and wheels on equipment.
Dawson Tire and Wheel offers this preharvest checklist:
1. Check the air pressure. Be familiar with the load and inflation tables relative to the actual tires on your equipment. During harvest, make sure they have the maximum air pressure that can carry the required loads. Tires lose air pressure over time when equipment is sitting in storage, so this step is critical.
2. Check tire condition. Note any damage or cracking in the sidewalls. The sidewalls of the tires are especially critical to carrying heavy loads. If there is any question whether some damage or cracking is likely to fail during high loads or higher speeds, send Dawson Tire a picture or have someone inspect it. The failure of sidewalls during harvest is common. The damage in tire failure, to machines and people, is not something anyone wants to experience.
3. Check the "age" of the tires. Aging tires often fail, even if there is nothing visually wrong with them. There is a "DOT" number on the tire that includes the year the tires were manufactured. After the year 2000, tires were manufactured with a four-digit number that includes the week and year of manufacture. For example, the number 2415 means the tire was manufactured in the 24th week of 2015. The number 5103 means the tire was manufactured in the 51st week of 2003. Tires manufactured before the year 2000 usually have a three-digit DOT code, which is the week and last digit of the year. In this case, the number 213 means the tire was manufactured in the 21st week of 1993. Dawson Tire recommends any tire over 10 years old be closely monitored and inspected for weather-cracking and irregularities — and be replaced if there is any doubt.
4. Measure the tread depth of the tires. Tires that are worn out cause more fuel to be consumed because of excessive slipping. Especially during wet harvests, the proper traction will keep slippage to a minimum, and cut costs because of fuel consumption.
5. Understand the load capacity of tires at higher speeds if moving equipment from field to field when it is loaded. The maximum load capacity usually is noted on the tires. Weigh your equipment if necessary when it is loaded to see what the actual weight of the equipment is for your application.
6. If using tires that are extremely "overloaded," consider a different tire or wheel configuration. Call Dawson Tire or your local dealer to understand how an "IF" or "VF" tire in the same size can carry more load at the same air pressure. If running single tires, consider switching to a dual-tire configuration.
7. Check wheels and rims for any visible cracking, especially near where they bolt on. Dealers often see rims that have "cracked out" because of extreme loads. Replacing these wheels will keep your downtime to a minimum.
8. Check bolt tightness for the correct torque. Both over-tightening and under-tightening bolts or nuts that hold the wheels to equipment can damage equipment and cause downtime or injuries. Check the owner's manual for the correct torque and wrenches to ensure wheels are installed correctly on equipment.
9. If removing the wheels and tires from equipment, check the torque on bolts or nuts that hold the wheels at a minimum interval of every 50 hours and multiple times after replacing the wheels. This ensures that bolts or nuts don't come loose and cause damage or downtime.
10. Clean the mounting surface from rust and dirt when reinstalling wheels or tires. A small piece of dirt can cause wheels that were tight at assembly to become loose during operation and damage drivelines, hubs, final drives and more.
Those who have questions or may not have a dealer nearby can direct questions to Dawson Tires' online Ask an Expert tool for free access and advice.