Cutting Ownership Costs: Tire & Track Maintenance

by Brian Frederick
May 29, 2018

Tires and tracks are vital for well-maintained equipment.

What’s the most important part of any building? That’s easy — everyone knows it’s the foundation. If you don’t have a strong base to start with, even the best designed building won’t be sturdy. Your equipment is no different. If you don’t pay proper attention to your tracks and tires, you won’t have stable footing, which will cause all sorts of problems, not least of which is a higher cost of ownership.

Tires and tracks represent a significant portion of cost of ownership.

For most construction operations, tires and tracks are the single biggest cost of ownership for a piece of equipment after operator expenses and fuel. To calculate how much tires and treads cost you, you need to factor in several numbers, including purchase price, as well as the cost of repair and replacement. Because life expectancy for tires is generally far less than the equipment they’re used on, their depreciation rate is much higher. But exactly how fast tires and treads wear out depends on your specific circumstances. 

In other words, you can expect tires and treads to play a significant role in cost of ownership, but there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for calculating lifespan.  The best way to estimate how long you can expect your tires and treads to last is by using historical data from similar operating conditions. 

Minimize upkeep and replacement costs with a good track and tread maintenance program.

The best way to ensure you’re not putting undue wear and tear on your tires or tracks is to keep them in optimal working condition. Here are some guidelines to help you maximize lifespan.

Tires

• Buy the right tires for the job — As a construction professional, you already know solid or foam tires are almost always a better jobsite choice than air tires, but there are many other options as well. In addition to choosing the right tire grade for your equipment (“E” for earth movers, “L” for loaders, etc.), you should also choose the right tread pattern for jobsite terrain. L2 tires give loaders good traction in soft and sandy terrain, but aren’t as durable in rocky lots as L3. 
Check tread depth — This is a key indicator of overall health. Make daily inspections a habit, checking for wear, cracks and abrasions. 
• Don’t forget to rotate — Just like on your car, tires can wear irregularly. Rotating them on a regular basis helps ensure they all wear more evenly and last longer. 

Tracks

• Prep your equipment before you get to the jobsite — Maximizing your tread life depends on making informed decisions before work even begins. Consider ground pressure needs and debris to determine whether steel or rubber tracks are a better choice. Choose the narrowest shoe possible to meet flotation and terrain needs.
• Train your operators — Pivot turns or constant operation on a slope can lead to accelerated wear. Encourage your operators to be mindful of these things and take more gradual turns and operate on level ground as much as possible.
• Monitor track tension — You should regularly check tension in working conditions and adjust it accordingly. Too much tension causes roller and idler wear and tear. Too little leads to instability. Proper tension ensures available power is put to its best use. 

Both tires and tracks

• Avoid abrasive materials whenever possible  — Crushed rock, rebar and recycled materials can wreak havoc on both tires and rubber tracks. Stones and construction debris can pierce or get stuck in tires, or get jammed in track idlers and sprockets.
• Try to minimize contact with curbs and walls — Constantly bumping into curbs, walls and other obstacles creates wear patterns and can damage and downtime.
• Make inspections and everyday thing — Operators should inspect both tires and treads on a daily basis to identify wear and tear and remove debris that can accumulate. Dirty and damaged tires and treads not only wear out faster, but they can also lead to excessive wear on other undercarriage components. 

Tires and treads are where the rubber literally meets the road (or dirt, in many cases). Whether your fleet is on tracks, tires or both, if you want to get the most out of your investment and minimize cost of ownership, you should have basic maintenance practices in place. 

Read more from this series:

Cutting Ownership Costs: Minimizing Fuel Consumption

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