Despite three years of relatively flat tire costs, it’s still not cheap to replace tires in your fleet. With a well-defined tire maintenance program in place, you can save a considerable amount of money by prolonging intervals between replacements. Of course, tire maintenance isn’t only about cost savings. Better-maintained tires mean better fuel mileage, improved driver safety, as well as lower chances of roadside emergencies and expensive downtime.
Since there are several factors that contribute to the life and performance of a tire, here’s some advice that could save you headaches in the long run!
1. Maintain the right air pressure
Proper tire inflation is one of the most important things you can do to prolong tire life. Tires are optimized to have a certain amount of air in them, and there’s only a small window of variance (+/- 10%) that can affect ride quality, fuel economy and tread life. A tire that’s underinflated for the load it’s carrying will develop irregular wear and fail prematurely. An overinflated tire produces a harsher ride, reduces traction and becomes more susceptible to damage from road hazards and curbing.
Proper maintenance should also include a program that not only maintains the proper air pressure, but that also prevents vehicles from needing to pull over on the side of the road. We suggest having your drivers check their air pressure regularly (once a month) with a simple pressure gauge to ensure it stays at the recommended psi.
2. Keep wheels aligned
Proper wheel alignment might be as critical to keeping tires in great shape as proper inflation; it prevents handling and ride issues, as well as irregular wear. Proper alignment requires quality equipment, a highly trained technician, and a good maintenance program to ensure they’re done in a timely manner.
3. Filter the air you use in your tires
The quality of the air inside your tires can have a big effect on how much life you get out of them. Tires are designed to run with clean, dry air. Every air compressor should have filters and in-line dryers to make sure the air going into the tire is dry. If air that’s contaminated with water gets inside, the moisture can break down the inner liner and the steel belts.
4. Wash tires and wheels
Snow, ice and other debris that stays on a tire can cause the rubber to deteriorate prematurely. Salt and other road chemicals can eat away not only at tires, but also at steel or aluminum wheels. Tires and wheels should be washed using warm soapy water—not petroleum based chemicals or other rubber-harming solvents—making sure the inside duals are given as much attention as the outside tires.
5. Choose the right tires
No matter how well you take care of your tires, if you're not running the right kind for the job, the process becomes far more difficult. In addition to considering the vehicle, think also about how much on-road and off-road driving each vehicle is expected to do, as well as the seasonal conditions in your area. The old adage applies here: "You get what you pay for.”
6. Monitor drivers’ habits
Driving style has a major impact on tread wear and overall fuel economy—it’s widely said that good driving habits mean up to twice the tire mileage of an inexperienced driver. Likewise, aggressive driving, speeding, and harsh braking can cause flat spotting and curbing, which reduce the performance and life of a tire. It’s hard for any fleet to control drivers’ habits, so educating drivers as much as possible is key. If your fleet has multiple types of vehicles—and drivers rotate between different models—it’s important to have your staff understand the unique handling of each.
7. Analyze your scrap tires
Scrap tire analysis is a great way for fleets to understand why tires are failing or have had to be removed from service prematurely. By evaluating each tire when it is removed from service, reoccurring problems or wear patterns can be detected early and fixed.
8. Keep records
Tire recordkeeping is important for determining tire cost per mile; it should help you make good tire purchasing decisions moving forward. Remember: the system you use (whether paper or computer) is only going to be as good as the person recording and tracking the data.
9. Consider telematics
There’s a wide range of capabilities in tire pressure monitoring systems that incorporate telematics. Some systems simply provide the tire pressure or send alerts when the pressure is irregular; others can analyze the data and suggest ways to improve tire use and maintenance. Telematics is an interesting consideration because it takes the tire monitoring responsibility away from drivers, and puts it back in the hands of fleet maintenance and management personnel who will act quickly. If the vehicles in your fleet already include on-board diagnostics, let your drivers know not to ignore the air pressure alert.