Understanding the reasons behind tire failure can help them live long and productive lives.
April 2018, TruckingInfo.com – Department
Tire service providers and retreaders can be a great source of failure analysis if the unit number and wheel position are tracked. Photos: Jim Park
It’s said that dead men tell no tales. Dead tires, however, sure do. Ignore them, and you do so at your expense. Since tires rarely self-destruct, there is always a smoking gun, and it’s in your best interest to find it. You do that through failure analysis.
An expert can tell at a glance what’s happening to a tire, often by just looking at it or rubbing a hand over the tread face. Tire wear, you see, isn’t the tire’s fault. There’s something wrong with the truck that’s aggravating the situation. You must fix that to arrest the tire wear. So where do you start?
If you do not have the luxury of an in-house expert, a service provider can probably help. Jeff Lecklider, president of Gem City Tire in Dayton, Ohio, performs that service for dozens of fleet customers.
“We work with the customer to help them to reduce their tire costs, and we usually start with a fleet survey,” he says. “We’ll give them a baseline of the condition of their fleet, including tread depth, air pressure, any tire conditions, irregular wear, flat tires, etc., and then we recommend a course of action. We do this regularly so we can spot problems as soon as they become visible.”
Various mechanical problems leave telltale signs on tires. Take cupping and scalloped wear on a steer tire. That’s usually caused by some non-uniformity in the tire/wheel assembly, such as non-concentric mounting or a moderate to severe out-of-balance condition. Feathered wear on a steer tire is another easy one – it’s a sign of misalignment. But which misalignment condition? Here you might need to dig a little deeper. It could be an excessive toe-in condition. It could be drive axle misalignment creating a side thrust. Or it could be a bent tie rod.
“Tires are symptomatic,” says tire expert and semi-retired consultant Asa Sharp. “There are a variety of other things on the truck that cause the wear. For that reason, it’s very important to conduct a thorough out-of-service analysis when the tire comes off the truck, or if you’re smart about it, during the regular fleet tire surveys — before the tires hit the scrap pile.”
Yes, the world is out to get your tires. Truck stop parking lots, curbs and road hazards take their toll, but inadequate maintenance can be equally to blame.
It obviously makes sense to monitor in-service tire performance, watching for irregular wear and mechanically induced damage, but tracking wear and using that insight for future tire purchases really pays off. Tire tracking can be tedious, but it is getting easier. Most maintenance software platforms enable tire tracking, and some of the tire pressure monitoring systems offer the ability to self-populate those databases.
“On top of providing real-time tire pressure and temperature readings and alert schedules, we’re also able to provide fleets with historical performance data to unlock tire performance trends,” says Vanessa Hargrave, CMO of Advantage PressurePro. “We’re now able to help fleets move their tire maintenance programs from reactive to proactive.”
When Kirk Altrichter was vice president of maintenance at Crete Carrier Corp. (he’s now vice president of fleet services at Kenan Advantage Group), he participated in a Tire Benchmarking panel discussion at a TMC meeting where