Routine evaluation is key in the maintenance of skid steer loaders and their all-important tires. Checking for issues before they become larger ones can maximize performance, offset damages and extend their useful life, all the while minimizing the impact to the equipment.
So, what are some of the care and maintenance tips dealers can pass onto their customers who own skid steer loaders?
“The answer is simple — evaluate tire wear and air pressure on a routine basis through tracking tire life and always matching tire depths according to the OE equipment manufacturer’s recommendations,” says Justin Brock, marketing manager for Construction & Tweel, Michelin North America. “Doing these things will lead to better wear rates and less stress on the equipment.”
The tread and the sidewall are the two key areas to check when evaluating tire wear, according to Brock. “Be on the lookout for signs of cutting, chunking, stone drilling or debris penetration and rubber tearing. Some of these damages are signs of over- or under-inflation, or poor site maintenance in a fixed site application. Determining the root cause may allow you to address the concern and mitigate or eliminate the damages,” he explains.
BKT’s Dave Paulk, manager of field technical services, also points to the importance of checking tire pressure. “It is important to keep air pressures checked and set properly to ensure the longevity of the tire. Low air pressures on bias tires will destroy the sidewall and bead areas. Repair slow leakers as quickly as possible to ensure they don’t go flat while working,” he explains. While ensuring that lugs are tight to minimize the risk of damaging the wheels and tires, it’s also important to “make sure that mud and rocks are cleaned out of the tread area,” he continues.
Ryan Lopes, Alliance Tire Americas’ national product manager of material handling and solid tires, echoes that tire inflation is paramount. “Pneumatic tires need to be inflated to the proper pressure in order to function the way we designed them to. If they are overinflated, sidewalls won’t flex the way they should, the footprint will be smaller than optimum, you’ll see irregular wear and traction and impact resistance will suffer. If they’re underinflated, they’ll lose some of their stability and suffer from heat buildup, which can dramatically reduce tire life. It takes just a few minutes to check air pressure and make the necessary adjustments. Those few minutes can save you a lot of money,” Lopes advises.
Good overall maintenance practices should also come into play to keep skid steer loaders and their tires in top-working order. According to Camso’s Andy Gaffney, product line manager of track and construction, such practices include checking inflation pressures, tension for tracks, tire rotation and a good cleaning and inspection to remove rocks and dirt. And, as far as parts go, Gaffney advises to “inspect undercarriages and sprockets; when they become sharp this may kill your track.” He offers this bit of advice regarding installation best practices: “Don’t mix patterns on the same machine: tires should all match and fit the same.”
Lopes also emphasized the importance of preventive maintenance when it comes to skid steers.
“Clean debris out of your treads and bead area, and remove nails and shards from your tires. It sounds like common sense, but there are a lot of people who don’t pay enough attention to preventing a problem before it becomes a real issue,” Lopes says. “Similarly, make sure your tires are clean of oils and other chemicals and don’t store tires or tire equipment near electrical motors. Electric motors produce ozone, which can oxidize tire compounds and destroy your tires.”
Paulk also offers this advice when skid steers are stored away for a season: “Ozone and ultraviolet rays will cause rubber to age and crack prematurely,” he says. “Tires should not be stored near lubricants, solvents and oil as this will cause the rubber to prematurely break down. It is best to store on a flat surface, and not in rocks, if possible.”
Paulk also advises that it is best to inflate tires to max air pressure for storage, so they are not flat when you have to move the skid steer. “Air pressures fluctuate with air temperatures. If the weight of the skid loader sits on underinflated or flat tires, it could damage the sidewall of the tires,” he says.
Skid Steer Operators
Operators can help extend skid steer tire life or wreak havoc on them, just by their driving habits.
“Because they are often called upon to switch rapidly from forward to reverse and back again, pivot in a tight radius, and get into narrow spots, skid steer drivers can be murder on tires,” says Alliance Tire Americas’ Lopes. “It’s right in the name: Skidding can speed tire wear. So can sharp turns and abrupt braking. You experience dynamic changes in load, as the weight in the bucket or on the fork shifts, as the loader changes direction. And, skid steers often impact curbs or objects as the operator squeezes into tight areas. I have complete admiration for the skills of good skid steer drivers, but I also encourage them to drive just a bit more conservatively to protect their tires,” he continues.
Camso’s Dominic Gosselin, product line manager for the Americas – construction tires, agrees, noting that there should be basic education to ensure good driving behaviors and offering this advice: “Take curves slowly and avoid obstacles.”
In general, advises Gosselin, dealers can help their clients select the right product for their application by considering: What impacts the client’s productivity – is it traction, flats, tire life? And, how did the previous/current product fail? Was it the sidewall, tread, uneven tread wear, or an early end of [tire] life?
Check out the rest of the December digital edition of Tire Review here.