Buyer's Guide Tractor tires

Agriculture.com Staff 02/19/2009 @ 8:00am

The tires that support your tractor are not just a purchase, they’re an investment. And you want to optimize that investment by choosing the right tire for your equipment.

"You have pretty expensive rubber under your machines and could easily be looking at $10,000 to $15,000 worth of tires," says Tom Rodgers of Firestone.

Before you make that investment, ask yourself seven key questions.

Your tractors probably have a variety of purposes around the farm - tilling, planting, harvesting, or a number of other uses. Whatever the case, be aware of the conditions your tractor will operate in to help determine the type of tire you need.

"Is more tread depth required for more traction? Do you need an R-1 or an R-1W? R-1W tires can give you almost twice the usable tread depth of an R-1," says Bob Rees of Michelin.

Rodgers notes that R-1 tires do well in normal farming conditions. Whereas, R-1W tires can be better suited for tractors used in higher wearing environments, such as feedlots or machines with greater than normal road use. R-2 tires are best for wetter conditions.

It's important to consider what kind of load the tires will be expected to handle. "For example, a large header and bin extensions can add thousands of pounds to a combine. Be sure the tires you choose can tackle the load," says Rees.

Rodgers says the critical thing to remember is that you don't want to cut on load indexes or ply ratings. "The ability to be able to carry the load is important, and you don't want to overload a tire. So be certain to buy enough tire to carry your load," he advises.

Take a close look at the tires that are currently on your tractor. "Did the size work well for the application? In terms of traction, wear, ride comfort, and overall value for the money, how did the tire perform in light of your expectations?" asks Rees.

Because of their construction, radial farm tires can help improve traction, ride comfort, durability, soil compaction, and tire life. They also allow you to run tires at lower air pressures.

"You should get about 15% improved traction from bias to radial tires. What you're gaining is better traction, a larger footprint, and less compaction that goes with that. This, in turn, would save you fuel (because of less slippage) and improve efficiency (you're finishing sooner because you're slipping less)," says Rodgers.

There's a significant price spread between the two. "If you have two like sizes of radial vs. bias tires, on average, radial tires are 25% more expensive than a bias tire," says Rodgers. He emphasizes that ply ratings are key, and he cautions not to skimp in this area.

As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Tires are no exception. "A tire with a less expensive initial cost may perform well in ideal conditions. A premium tire, however, may allow you to get the work done in adverse conditions, as well as offer more tread life," says Rees.

Investing in a premium tire may calculate out to be a better value over the life of the tire.

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