For landscaping companies and homeowners alike, creating that perfectly landscaped lawn begins with the purchase of the right equipment – the lawn mower.
But just as a lawn needs upkeep, so do the machines that keep it looking pristine. And that’s where you – the tire dealer – come in to be the solution for your community’s lawn mower tire woes.
“Lawn care professionals can’t afford downtime, so having a solution for them on your shelf simplifies the buying process,” says Brian Preheim, market segment manager for outdoor power equipment and agricultural tires at The Carlstar Group, which manufactures Carlisle-brand lawn tires. “Taking the time to learn more about the product and understanding its intended use can help assure customers are maximizing their investment.”
As a tire dealer, building your expertise on lawnmower tires can be an add-on to the services you already offer. And if your shop is equipped with the right products, it can become the go-to place for your community’s tire needs – both residential and commercial.
To integrate this segment into your business – and better understand the specifics of lawn mower tires – we’ve talked to the experts about what you need to know to make sure your customers keep their mowers performing at their best.
Taking on the Terrain
The power lawn and garden equipment industry is projected to grow 2.5% per year through 2021, according to research from The Freedonia Group.
That means this segment offers a revenue opportunity for tire shops across the country. But in order to offer an effective lawn mower tire program, partnering with a good distributor or tire manufacturer is key, says the team at Kenda Tires, manufacturers of tire and wheel assemblies for lawn mowers.
“The good quality tires make customers come back, and great variety will turn your store into a one-stop shop,” the Kenda team says.
To make your store that one-stop shop, Kenda recommends educating your salesforce in specialty tires.
“It is a good customer service and generates additional business,” the team at Kenda explains. “Customers may come in for a car tire but conveniently have their lawn mower tire replaced, too.”
Marketing this service – for example, placing posters around the store to make customers aware of the lawn and garden tires your carry – allows your customers know that you’re knowledgeable about turf tire solutions, Kenda says.
In addition, Preheim recommends stocking the original equipment brand, size and tread pattern to simplify the tire-buying process for customers.
Dial Down to Application
Once a shop creates a lawn mower tire program, employees need to know how to match customers with the right product. Justin MacLanders, business development manager for Michelin Tweel Technologies at Michelin North America, which manufactures the airless X Tweel Turf, recommends determining the type of mower and how customers are using it.
“Is the mower being used for commercial purposes? Or if the consumer does not want to worry about flats or pressure maintenance, is it being used under conditions where it may be experiencing flats due to debris, field conditions, high usage, etc.?” McLanders asks. “Is it difficult to change flats where the equipment is being used? Are flats causing the owner-operator or crew downtime?”
Preheim also recommends shop employees start by asking customers about their overall satisfaction with the tires they have. Then, make a recommendation from there, he says.
To make the right one, technicians and service advisors need to be sure the replacement tire is of comparable or the same size to the OE tire.
“There is some variation from manufacturer to manufacturer for a given nominal size in bias ply manufacturing, so it’s important to make sure a replacement tire doesn’t create an interference or a deck-height issue,” says David Dahl, research and development manager for OPE, HST and AG SP tires at The Carlstar Group.
Another consideration is the traction requirement that comes from the tread design that certain applications require.
“Tires with deeper tread depth like the Carlisle branded Turf Master, Multi Trac C/S and Turf Smart tires are preferred by those who provide lawn care services for a living,” Dahl says. “The deeper tread depth provides the durability and traction needed for extended use required by professionals. Typically those heavier machines use 4-ply-rated constructions to handle the load requirements. The popular Turf Saver tire, with its classic chevron pattern, is designed for the needs of homeowners who have front-engine riders and smaller zero-turn mowers.”
Dave Paulk, field technical manager for BKT Tires, says a large percentage of mowers come with a turf-type tread design as an OE fitment. This type of tread offers less ground compaction, soil disturbance and grass disturbance. Unless the soil is wet, turf-type treads leave virtually no tracks or ruts, and traction is not a priority.
Alternatively, a tire that has a bar-type tread design is used to deliver traction even in loose soil, making it a good choice for garden or lawn tractors, especially those that need to maintain sideways stability on hillsides.
Dahl says more biting edges or distance between the tread elements will provide better traction, but that comes with a trade-off in protecting the lawn. A customer’s experience with the OE tire can help determine if that traction and lawn protection balance is where they need it to be, he says.
Another factor tire dealers and shops need to consider is that lawn tires are made in several different ply ratings, Paulk says.
“Most mowers come from the factory with a 2-ply rated or a 4-ply rated tire. Some sizes are made in a 6-ply rated and 8-ply rated tire,” Paulk says. “The heavier ply ratings give the tire more weight carrying capacity. They also have slightly thicker casings that can help with puncture resistance from thorns and sticks.”
Upkeep and Storage
When landscaping companies perform their end-of-year or end-of-season checkup on lawn equipment, their inspection should include the tires, The Carlstar Group’s Preheim says.
During colder months or when inactive, mowers should be stored inside, Paulk says.
“Not only will you protect your mower from the elements, you will also protect your tires,” Paulk says. “Sunshine and ozone are the enemy of rubber products. These will cause tires to weather crack, sidewall crack and dry rot prematurely.”
Recommend that your customers store lawn mowing equipment in a cool, dry place and out of direct sunlight is important to make sure that tires do not go completely flat while in storage for winter. The wheel will damage the sidewall plies if it sits on them for a long duration, Paulk says.
Before taking lawn mowers back out again for use, Paulk recommends tire dealers teach their customers to check their lawn tires’ air pressure since most lawn tires have lower ply ratings, which means they’ll lose air in their inner liners if the tubes aren’t used.
The Kenda team recommends that customers consult manufacturers’ recommendations for proper inflation and that they monitor their tire pressure closely. Overinflation, Kenda says, may not get the traction that a certain tire is designed to have. Under-inflation may cause the cutting deck of a mower to sit unevenly, resulting in an uneven cut.
Tech Talk: Replacing Lawn Mower Tires
Replacement tires should be selected based on application, the Kenda team says.
When lawn mower tires need to be replaced, the wheels first need to be inspected to ensure they aren’t bent and that the tire will properly seat on them, says Dave Paulk, field technical manager for BKT Tires.
A wire brush may be needed to clean the wheel to ensure a good bead seal. If the tires are tubeless, Paulk recommends replacing the valve stem, which is made of rubber and affected by the same elements as tires. If tubes are used, Paulk advises to put a new tube in a new tire to save problems down the road.
When mounting, some type of lubricant should be used on the bead of the tire to allow it to easily slide over the edge of the wheels. This will minimize mounting damage to the rubber that covers the bead and helps to seal the tire to the wheel. The bead can also be kinked or bent if mounted dry.
If replacing the complete wheel assembly, Kenda advises to consider the wheel placement (drive wheel or idler wheel), proper rim size (diameter and width), style and size of bearings, proper hub length and offset.
Going Airless with Michelin X Tweel Turf
New technology has flooded the tire industry, and that’s no exception when it comes to the turf tire segment.
Last summer, Michelin North America put its airless Tweel tire technology to work in launching the X Tweel Turf tire for zero turn radius mowers.
The Michelin X Tweel Turf is designed to perform like a pneumatic tire, but without the risk and costly downtime associated with flat tires and unseated beads, says Justin MacLanders, business development manager for Michelin Tweel Technologies at Michelin North America.
“High performance compounds and an efficient contact patch are designed to provide a long wear life that is two to three times that of a pneumatic tire at equal tread depth,” he says. “Once they are bolted on, there is no air pressure to maintain, and the common problems of unseated beads and flat tires are completely eliminated.
The tire also has consistent hub height, which helps the mower deck produce an even cut. They can be used on John Deere, eXmark, Scag, Gravely, Ariens, Hustler, Kubota and many other commercial mowers.