Checking the forgotten farm tool
By DARCY DOUGHERTY MAULSBY
DES MOINES- How much can delayed planting cost? Up to $570 per hour, when lost time, reduced efficiency, potentially lower yields and other issues are factored into the equation, according to Firestone Ag. Don’t let tire problems become part of the challenge, especially if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate this spring.
“Time is money, especially at planting,” said Tom Rodgers, executive director of global ag solutions with Firestone Ag, which exhibited at the 2019 Power Farming Show in Des Moines in late January. “You need tires that won’t let you down when it’s go time.”
Firestone Ag has outlined these seven steps to help farmers perform preventative maintenance to maximize tire service life:
1. Use a digital tire gauge. Keeping tires properly inflated is vital to farm equipment’s performance and your safety. Use a digital tire-pressure gauge to check tire pressure.
“With digital, there’s no guessing like there can be with a needle on a gauge,” Rodgers said. “Check all your tires, including those on your tractor, tillage equipment and planter.”
Firestone Ag has created an online Tire Pressure Calculator to help determine accurate inflation pressure for various farm equipment tires. (Just search “Firestone Ag” and “tire pressure calculator.”) “With today’s heavy equipment making multiple passes through the field, soil compaction can be a real risk,” Rodgers said. “Ensuring tires are properly inflated can help maximize yield.”
Also, be aware of how temperature influences tire pressure, and adjust accordingly. “With every 10-degree drop in temperature, you can lose 1 pound of pressure in a tire,” Rodgers said. “With the wide temperature swings that can occur in the spring and the fall, you could go from having properly inflated tires to under-inflated tires, due to a drop of 4 or 5 pounds per square inch (psi) in pressure.”
2. Visually inspect tire sidewalls. Take a look at your farm equipment’s tires in a well-lit area. Check the sidewalls, looking for cracks, cuts and other signs of wear and tear.
“Time is never fair to a tire,” Rodgers said. “If you see signs of wear, and take action before these issues become a problem.”
3. Check tread depth. Firestone Ag’s website lists the original tread depth of its various ag tires. To assess tread depth on used farm equipment tires, lay a yardstick or board over the tire tread, and measure the depth of the remaining tread.
“If there’s only 10 or 20 percent of the tread depth remaining, it’s time to replace the tire,” Rodgers said.
4. Try to control stubble damage. Stiff, sharp stalks are no friend of farm tires.
“Heavy stalks can be really intense on tires,” Rodgers said. “Tires have to take every one of these sharp points as farm equipment rolls through the field, and those stalks erode tires over time.”
If stubble damage or exposed cords are visible, it’s time for new tires, he added.
Stubble shoes or stalk stompers made of a durable poly material help knock down stalks and help prevent excessive tire damage.
“Breaking off stalks from that rigid, upright position means significantly less erosion on tires over time,” Rodgers said. “While we’re always working on more durable compounds for our tires, we’ll never make tires hard enough to withstand rigid stalks.”
5. Check the contact area. Look at the lugs to make sure there’s no space between the lugs and the ground.
“If the lugs are up in the air, you’ve overinflated the tires, which causes the tires to ‘crown up,'” Rodgers said. “Make sure tires aren’t over- or under-inflated.”
6. Pay attention to valve stems. A valve stem is a small but essential part of any farm tire. A lot of things can damage valve stems, from sticks to big rocks, said Rodgers, who recommends checking value stems for cracks, corrosion and dirt. Always use valve caps, and keep a stash of extra valve caps on hand. Also, make sure there are no leaks in the valve stems – Rodgers recommends a simple soap test.
A soap test can be done by pouring a mixture of water and dishwashing soap onto and around the valve stem. Any air leaking out will make bubbles in the soapy water wherever the leak is occurring.
“Damage to an inexpensive valve can make a multi-thousand-dollar tire go flat, so make time to check this important area,” he said.
7. Check the wheels, nuts and bolts. Tires and wheels work together as a system, making the rim-to-tire interface a key area. Ensure everything is properly tightened. Also, make sure no debris has lodged in this area.
“Look to make sure no rocks have bent the rim,” Rodgers said. “The soap trick will work here, too, to spot any leaks.”
The bottom line? Never be afraid to check your tires or let them fall into the category of “forgotten farm tools,” Rodgers said. “We get busy with a lot of things, and important maintenance chores can fall to the wayside. Then there’s no time to get them done when it’s time to go the field. January and February are good times to check your tires and fix any issues so you’re ready for planting.”
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