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Heavy Equipment Tire Wear and What It Can Reveal About Your Machine

Heavy Equipment Tire Wear and What It Can Reveal About Your Machine

The tires of a heavy machine from a side-view

Heavy Equipment Tire Wear and What It Can Reveal About Your Machine

Reading time: 6 min

Robust heavy equipment tires are essential to the operation of heavy equipment, such as wheel loaders and dozers. These tires allow wheeled equipment to operate in challenging terrain, providing traction and stabilization. With time and use, heavy equipment tires can wear down, losing their effectiveness. While some level of tire wear is normal, certain types of wear may indicate a problem with your equipment or the way it’s being operated.

In this guide, we’ll explore the types of tire wear that occur most frequently in heavy equipment. Understanding common wear patterns and what they indicate can help you extend the lifespan of your tires, reducing operating costs and improving machine performance.

The Effects of Heavy-Duty Tire Wear

The impact of heavy-duty tire wear on construction equipment can be significant. Uneven tire wear, a common issue, can greatly reduce a machine’s efficiency. It may lead to inconsistent contact with the ground, causing problems like reduced traction, decreased fuel efficiency and compromised load distribution.

Performance Issues

These issues not only slow down operations but also put additional strain on the machine’s engine and transmission. Uneven tire wear may also impact the equipment’s handling, making it harder to maneuver and causing precise operations to become more challenging.

Safety Concerns

From a safety standpoint, excess tire wear poses substantial risks. Worn tires have a diminished ability to handle loads safely, increasing the likelihood of slippage and accidents, especially in wet or uneven terrain. Additionally, worn tires are more susceptible to blowouts, which can be catastrophic. These incidents can lead to equipment damage, injuries or worse.

Uneven Wear

Uneven tire wear can also contribute to the wear and tear of other machine components. Misaligned or unevenly worn tires can create an imbalance in the equipment, leading to increased stress on the suspension, bearings and axles.

Financial Impact

The financial implications of premature tire replacement are substantial. Tires for heavy construction equipment represent a substantial investment, and replacing them before the end of their expected lifespan incurs considerable costs.

These costs include not only the direct expense of purchasing new tires but also the downtime required for tire replacement, during which the machine cannot be operated.

Other Effects

Other effects of heavy-duty tire wear include increased environmental impact due to the more frequent disposal of worn tires and the need for replacement tires. There’s also an indirect cost in terms of fuel efficiency.

Causes of Uneven Tire Wear on Heavy Equipment

Sometimes, tires do not wear evenly. Instead, you may notice that your machine’s tires are wearing more to the inside–or outside–of the tires. There are several common causes of uneven tire wear on heavy equipment.

Operator Actions

The way an operator handles heavy equipment plays a crucial role in the wear pattern of its tires. Aggressive driving, sharp turns, rapid acceleration and abrupt braking can cause excessive or uneven wear.

Neglecting Maintenance

Neglecting routine maintenance tasks can greatly accelerate tire wear. Tire rotation, which is a key part of tire maintenance, helps ensure that tires wear down more evenly. Failure to rotate tires can lead to uneven wear patterns, as each tire position experiences different stresses and loads.

Ignoring wheel alignment is another critical mishap. Proper alignment ensures that tires are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other, optimizing their contact with the surface. Misaligned tires tend to have uneven contact with the terrain, leading to rapid and uneven wear.

Tire Pressure

Tire pressure is another major factor influencing tire wear. Operating a machine with low tire pressure causes the tires to flatten, increasing the contact area with the ground. This not only leads to the outer edges wearing down faster but also increases the strain on the tire structure, potentially leading to internal damage.

On the other hand, tire pressure that is too high results in a smaller contact area, concentrating wear on the center of the tire tread. Therefore, to prevent uneven or undesirable wear patterns, it’s essential to keep your machine’s tires inflated to the proper pressure level.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors, such as ground conditions and terrain, also play a significant role in tire wear. Rough terrain, like rocky or uneven surfaces, can cause cuts, punctures and accelerated wear on tires. Operating on abrasive surfaces like gravel can erode tread more quickly, whereas soft ground conditions may lead to increased slippage and additional wear.

Other Factors

Other factors affecting tire wear include the quality and design of the tires, the total weight and distribution of the load carried by the equipment and the operational speed.

High-quality tires designed specifically for adverse conditions and heavy loads tend to wear down more slowly and evenly. Additionally, operating equipment at high speeds, especially on harsh terrain, can significantly increase tire wear.

How to Spot Tires That Need to Be Replaced or Rotated

Figuring out when to rotate or replace tires on heavy equipment is important for maintaining the machine’s efficiency and safety.

The initial signs of tire wear are visible both in the tire's physical condition and the equipment's operational performance. Physical indicators include significantly reduced or uneven tread depth, visible wear bars and structural issues like cuts, cracks or bulges on the tire's sidewall or tread.

Common wear patterns include center wear from over-inflation, edge wear due to under-inflation or poor alignment and patch wear resulting from spinning on abrasive surfaces or improper loading. These patterns provide insights into underlying issues like inflation and alignment.

Tires on heavy equipment, much like those on cars, need regular rotation to ensure even wear. This should typically be done every 500 hours of operation or every six months, depending on the severity of usage.

Deciding between rotation and replacement hinges on the wear's severity: severe damage like deep cuts or extreme tread wear necessitates replacement, while uneven wear with adequate tread depth indicates a need for rotation.

Final Thoughts

Uneven tire wear leads to decreased efficiency, compromised handling and increased fuel consumption. In addition, it poses safety risks, including the risk of accidents due to poor traction and potential blowouts.

Regularly monitoring and maintaining the tire wear of your heavy equipment is the best way to prevent uneven or excessive wear, improve performance and safeguard the wellbeing of operators. If your fleet experiences excess wear due to tire issues, you can find replacement components at the EquipmentShare Shop. Our online catalog makes it easy to find the best OEM and aftermarket parts for your equipment. Don’t see exactly what you’re looking for? Reach out to our parts experts and get personalized assistance. 

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