If you ask any truck driver what road problem they feel is the most annoying, yet one they constantly deal with, likely the first thing that will come to mind is a flat tire. Beyond trucking, a flat tire is the nemesis of any driver, going back to the beginning age of the motor vehicle.
During the early days of automotive and trucking technology, vehicle tires were essentially nothing more than large versions of early bicycle tires. Yet, it wasn’t long before they were modified to meet the rigorous demands of early roads.
And although the tires of today make failures on the road less of an issue, flat tires remain a threat for any enterprising fleet of the day. One of the main reasons for this lies in the complex nature of a repair. For motor vehicles, repairing a tire is far simpler than it is when dealing with a large commercial motor vehicle.
Compound that with how expensive tires are and it isn’t surprising that smart fleet managers try to get every last ounce of life out of their truck tires. When a failure occurs, in order to keep uptime and profitability from suffering, it is vital that tires get fixed quickly and properly.
Watching for Bubbles
The first line of defense in catching a bad tire should be during a truck driver’s pre-trip inspection. The best – and most effective – way to discover if there is a slow leak in a tire is by checking the tire pressure using a properly calibrated tire gauge.
Unlike days of old, one should never hit a tire with the handle of a tool. Hitting the tire with a stick does little more than let the individual know that there is air in the tire, but it does little else.
Outside of taking the pressure reading with an accurate gauge, truck drivers or maintenance technicians should focus on specific signs of impending tire failure. One specific sign is called a “balloon.”
Balloons are protruding areas of the tire interrupting the smooth surface layer. If something is protruding, check to see if air is leaking by putting liquid around the area, whether it be soapy water or water by itself.
Per the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association Truck and Bus Tire Repair Guidelines, there is a specific way technicians should inspect a tire. First, prior to a cursory physical examination, the tire should be put into a safety cage, inflated, and then the liquid can be applied to spot an air leak.
Basic Repair Technology
Basic tire repair technology has been around for a long time. But as the emphasis has shifted from the tire to the technician, a few things have changed.
Once a technician has spotted a problem with the tire, it will require both patching on the inner casing and a void filler where the puncture is located. Filling the injured area of the tire with string plugs should not be considered a viable repair.
To get the most life out of an injured tire, the casing must be restored to its original condition. By using a patch and a spreader, you can open the tire, access the inner casing and remove any foreign objects, buff the area around the injury and then use a proprietary mix to fix the damaged casing.
An important consideration is that fleets rarely use one type of tire. Repairs should vary depending on the tire type and application. And even though repair methods have changed, allowing tires to be brought back to life more quickly and efficiently, good training and attention to detail is important in ensuring tires are brought back to service at a fraction of what it would cost to purchase a brand new tire.