Sometimes, it’s the little things that make a good program better, even great. However, some little things can haunt fleets unexpectedly, creating disabling problems that can be elusive to diagnose and difficult to correct.
We tire people tend to focus on the big issues proper tire selection, application, and maintenance, with inflation pressure checks dominating in-service recommendations. This sage advice deserves top billing in all fleet tire programs.
Still, the reality is that the basics the smaller and sometimes more subtle considerations are just as important. Overlay this with our time-squeezed work schedules, and the little things sometimes get forgotten.
Worse yet, some may never become known in the first place, as detailed, hands-on training programs are replaced by self-paced Internet-accessed material with no teacher-student interaction.
Here, we’ll discuss five lesser-known truck tire issues that should be included in every commercial tire dealer’s knowledge base. These ‘little’ problems, though encountered less frequently, can wreak havoc if ignored.
1. Tire Inspection on New Vehicle Deliveries
Although most new vehicles arrive with tires properly mounted and undamaged, all tires should still be inspected before placing them in service. A quick check of the GG ring (a molded circumferential ring in the tire sidewall) just above the rim flange will confirm the tire is mounted concentrically onto the rim. Improper or no mounting lube is the most common cause of problems here.
It’s also prudent to check visually the entire tread circumference for distorted or spongy areas. Contact with petroleum, overheating from chassis dynamometer testing and overinflation/high-speed damage during delivery are all potential causes of these problems. Cuts, snags and tear damage can also be quickly spotted by visual checks.
2. Storing Tires On and Off Vehicles
Unmounted tires should be kept indoors or at least in a shaded area, which is dry, clean and away from ozone sources, such as electric motors. They should also be racked vertically or stacked in a way that avoids deformation of the tread area. A good rule of thumb is to avoid pipe stacking tires more than eight high if they are stored horizontally.
Tires mounted on vehicles should be relieved of loading or rotated periodically to avoid localized tread and sidewall deflection for extended times. Exposure to sunlight should be minimized by covering the tires or parking trucks in an east-west direction so the tires are not susceptible to lengthy sun exposure. In all cases, contact with petroleum products (including asphalt) should be avoided when storing tires. The interior of all unmounted tires should be checked to ensure the absence of dirt or other debris prior to mounting. The use of filtered valve cores is recommended to avoid trapping any foreign material in the critical valve-sealing area.
3. Cleaning Tires
Truck tires, once mounted, can be cleaned for cosmetic reasons, although most manufacturers agree that dirt doesn’t adversely affect performance. Soap and water is a preferred cleaning assist. Harsh chemicals, especially any that are petroleum based, should be avoided.
Normal weathering and resistance to airborne chemicals is addressed by antioxidants and antiozone additives in modern sidewall and tread compounds, so tire dressings and chemical protectants are generally unnecessary. Mild steam cleaning is acceptable, but high temperatures and pressures, such as those often used for degreasing mechanical components, must be avoided. Tires can actually be burned or punctured by some steam-cleaning setups.
4. Emergency Puncture/Leak Repairs
Puncture repairs should preferably be made by reputable shops or retreading facilities and consist of a plug in the puncture opening, combined with a patch in the tire interior. All emergency over-the-road repairs made by unknown vendors and all rope-type repairs should be checked and corrected by dismounting, inspecting and properly repairing the tire as soon as possible.
Aerosol sealants containing petroleum or propellants of unknown chemistry should never be used and, therefore, should be removed from tires as soon as possible if they have been installed by mistake.
5. Hidden Tire and Wheel Damage
Often, tire and wheel damage is not visually apparent. Detection requires dismounting and careful inspection. Two events trigger most cases of damage wrecks or axle-end overheating due to brake or bearing problems.
Tire beads burned from overheating brakes can lose their structural function and must be scrapped. Steel wheels can become bent, distorted or otherwise damaged, and alloy wheels can be distorted from excessive heat, especially in the critical bead-seating area. Thorough tire and wheel inspections, using criteria obtained from component suppliers, should be a mandatory part of collision repair and brake/bearing overheat repairs.
Training programs offered by tire and wheel manufacturers offer lots of valuable information on these and other topics. Also, ATA’s Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) offers several excellent reference publications designed to educate tire servicing personnel in accurately diagnosing and addressing many of these important tire and wheel conditions.