Whether you’re talking about retreads or low-rolling-resistance, wide-base tires should be part of the topic. But what do you really know about wide-base tires and their care?
The fact is, as with any other tire, proper care will ensure your wide-base single tires have a long lifespan and deliver a significant return on your investment.
The Wide, Wide World
The perception exists that wide-base tires are more susceptible to wear than standard tires in dual assemblies. While earlier incarnations of wide-base tires were susceptible to some forms of irregular wear, newer manufacturing techniques have all but quashed those problems.
Tire manufacturers are producing new wide-base tires that are optimized for different uses, such as highway or regional. Today’s wide-base tires are built with specific casings and tread patterns designed to better manage load stresses placed on the tire.
Wide-base tires will wear differently than standards, but that is by design, since wide-base tires have much bigger shoulders than duals. New design techniques are meant to fight irregular wear in the shoulder area.
Follow the Wear
The main difference between wide-base and standard is that on standard dual setups, you have four shoulders spreading out the load stresses between them. Wide-base tires do it alone.
The challenge manufacturers’ face is in defining a solution to irregular wear that addresses the actual problem; a problem that usually isn’t their tires. Most problems arise from poor tire maintenance, over- or under-inflation, and load type. Even the type of pavement can affect a tire’s performance.
In the end, irregular wear – whether on standard or wide-base tires – can only be addressed with proper maintenance. Wide-base tires suffer the same four performance issues that their dual cousins do: tire condition, vehicle alignment, inflation/tire/loading pressure, and whether or not they are the right spec for the job.
Inflation and Loading
It’s not the tire supporting the load, it’s the air inside of it. Wide-base tires need to be inflated to account for the heaviest load they will carry. As a result, when the truck is empty, the tires are totally over inflated. Although duals have the same problem, it’s more apparent with wide-base tires.
Take Bridgestone as an example. For a 445/50R22.5, they recommend an inflation pressure of 100 psi for 8,820 pounds of tire load. For loads around 8,460 pounds, 95 psi is fine. Even lighter loads and the number drops to 85 or 90.
Operating closer to max gross vehicle weight, with adjustments for load, is how most fleets achieve proper inflation and wear profiles. Some carriers even use inflation/deflation devices or lift axles to reduce tire wear.
No matter what you do, if the correct inflation pressure is used, the tire will achieve the desired contact and wear evenly. Keeping inflation in mind at all times will help your tires live a longer life.
Alignment and Mechanical
Whether you are talking about big rig trucks, passenger cars, or any tire types, alignment can make or break how evenly a tire wears. The lack of proper alignment kills tires, in any application, no matter what.
Although keeping a large commercial vehicle in correct alignment may be an expensive proposition, it’s important to think long term. Ensuring the front end and drive axles are properly aligned isn’t just good for tires either, it also pays dividends in better fuel economy.
Mechanical problems also have a big impact on tire wear. Worn and loose components, such as kingpins, bushings, shock absorbers and wheel bearings can directly impact the wear profile on your tires.
Axle flex on trailer axles can also create negative camber conditions. Add this to potentially loose bearings, and there’s a major tire wear culprit.
The Right Tire
When everything is said and done, the most important factor of all is making sure you buy the right tire in the first place. Smaller fleets should lean on the advice of tire dealers or online advisors.
Larger fleets usually have maintenance managers who have direct relationships with tire suppliers. Generally, they do more right than wrong.
In the end, all tires will wear, no matter if they are standard or wide-base. If any difference can be pointed out, it’s that wide-base tires are less forgiving of bad maintenance or improper conditions.
So, remember that wide-base tires may be money savers, but you have to make sure to follow through on proper maintenance to get a good return on your ROI.
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