Feature Article: Seven tire killers

John Baxter | May 03, 2010

Getting wheels aligned “is one of the best ways to spend your maintenance dollars,” Walenga says, “Misaligned steer tires will wear prematurely, especially when toe-in is way off. This can happen to the point where the treadwear cuts into the casing and even the cords, so the steel is gone. At this point, the tire is nothing but scrap.” An inspector will write you up, too, for a tire sustaining such damage.

While toe-in is the most important setting and the one you need to check and reset most frequently, total vehicle alignment – aligning the trailer, drive and steer axles at an appropriate mileage – is just as important. For example, a trailer that’s “dog-tracking,” or running with the rear to one side, will wear the tires on the tractor, too. Consult with your tire dealer or a quality alignment shop about appropriate intervals for your application.


4 Poor suspension maintenance

Normal suspension component wear will result in a need for periodic alignment. However, neglect of the suspension system will create a snowball effect, with the tire facing uneven stresses that change every few seconds, as well as a suspension system that simply cannot be brought to spec.

Says Miller, “Steering system, suspension and wheel end maintenance … periodic checks for tie rod end looseness, worn king pins, wheel bearings and shock absorbers are essential. Any of these components that are worn out will kill tire wear in two ways. First, it is impossible to do a proper alignment of axles (including toe, camber and caster) without the components being up to snuff.

“Second, looseness or a compliant component that should be rigid in any of these systems will create irregular wear conditions that are usually irreversible once they start.” In other words, when tread wears in a certain, irregular pattern, conditions are created that make that wear spread because the tire can’t roll smoothly and with all the tread rubber taking equal loads.

Key suspension maintenance activities include frequent greasing, at least twice every oil change, with the grease specified by the component manufacturer, and frequent inspection of tie-rods, king pins, suspension bushings and the like for looseness.

Also, replacing shocks whenever they fail to maintain a stable ride will eliminate uneven tread wear, while also preserving the life of all the chassis components and making the ride more comfortable.


5 Improper mounting and de-mounting

“I’m sure we’ve all seen YouTube videos of Arctic race teams mounting tires with starting fluid,” Gudermuth says, referring to spraying ether inside the tire and igniting it to blow a tire onto the rim. “Even if the tire survives the mounting process, it can easily damage the liner, leading to failure in service. The more immediate concern is detonation of the tire through the burned body ply, or from explosive accumulation of pressure in the wall of the casing.”

This mounting method isn’t the only foolish technique that has been around for years. Using improper tools with rough edges that pry too hard and damage the bead is a common one. Instead, use a tire mounting/demounting machine or tools designed to protect the bead from concentrated force.

For mounting, “You need a clean and round wheel,” meaning one that has never been damaged or over-stressed, Walenga says, “and the tire must be properly mated to that wheel.” The rim needs to be clean, so grit or dirt won’t keep the tire from sliding on properly in one area.

To check that mounting is even, look for the guide rib, a thin line on the outside of the tread. It should be an even distance from the outer edge or flange of the rim all the way around. This requires good mounting technique, plus the use of the proper lubricant on the rim and bead. Check both sides.

Walenga stresses the need to check the tire stem when remounting. Replace the core seal, which unscrews, rather than re-using the old one. The cap is supposed to be the primary seal, so replace that, too. The smartest procedure is to install a flow-through design that seals but also allows the driver to check pressure and put air in the tire without removing the cap.