If you are a commercial truck driver, you know that winter driving takes extra care, especially in the area of equipment. But have you given proper thought to your truck’s tires? Whether you are a fleet manager or owner-operator, the condition of your tires should be paramount as old man winter wakes from his slumber.
For large commercial tires, you’ll want to start your inspection in the fall. It will be easier for you to assess vehicle traction before the ice hits the road. Need a primer on what to do? Let us help.
First, let’s start with tread depth. The legal tread limit for steer tires is 4/32” and 2/32” for all other tire positions. Does that mean you should be flirting with the legal limit? Absolutely not. Tires that no longer have significant tread depth will not have the same level of traction as new or retreaded tires.
Although you may be okay running rib tires in certain wheel positions during warmer weather, you will be taking some serious risks running those tires in the winter. Replace any old rib tires with new lug tires to dramatically improve drive tire traction under heavy snow, ice, and slushy conditions.
The best way to make sure you’re running the rubber that’s right for the winter (say that five times fast), you’ve got to be doing a proper and thorough inspection.
Prior to the onset of winter, make sure you check the following:
- Measure the tread depth at specific locations around the full circumference of the tire.
- Inspect for signs of any irregular wear.
- If there are any punctures, repair them.
- Double check the age of the casing.
- Inspect the tire sidewalls for any signs of impact breaks or cracking and rotate, as necessary.
Now let’s take an in-depth look at each of these factors.
Don’t make the mistake of measuring tread depth from any old random location on the tire, as this can be misleading. Instead, take tread depth measurements at each major groove between specific points on the tire.
Some tires come with stone ejectors at the bottom of each major groove. Don’t measure tread depth at the stone ejector, as doing so will give you an artificially low measurement. Also ensure your tread depth measurement device is properly calibrated.
Pinpointing irregular wear isn’t just about winter safety, but it also helps with fuel economy. Run your hand across the tread surface and make a visual inspection to ensure uniform wearing.
If you find any shoulder cuppings, depressed ribs, irregular lug wearing, or anything else, you may need to take a look at either vehicle alignment, under inflated tires or overloaded runs.
If you discover tire punctures that appear very severe, you may need to consider full repair or replacement. Otherwise, keep in mind that tires like to pick up puncturing objects.
When you are evaluating the tire for puncture wounds, make sure you look a full 360 degrees around the tire. If you want to make sure you minimize road service calls while maximizing for winter risk, check thoroughly for punctures.
Tire Casing Age
Depending on the fleet and driving application, most fleets will have their own proprietary targets where it comes to tire casing age. But whether it’s six years or eight, you’ve got to make sure you have a solid number based on your tires’ historical performance and retreadability.
Not sure how to identify your tire’s casing age? Check the last four digits of the DOT code located on the side of the tire. There’s your casing age.
Inspection and Rotation
When you are doing a fingertip diagnostic, check the tire sidewall for any noticeable undulations and visually check for signs of impact damage and ozone cracking. Once the inspection is done, check for signs of needed rotation.
In some delivery operations, the rear drive axle tires wear out much faster than front axle tires. One example of this is when trucks are frequently turning in city driving applications.
The bottom line? Thoroughly check your tires before the winter snows start to fall.