If tires could talk

by James Menzies

TORONTO, Ont. –If you’ve got a stack of scrap tires taking up space in your yard, you just may be sitting on a goldmine of information that can help you make better decisions on choosing and using new tires.

Every one of those tires has a story to tell; information that can be gleaned to make smarter tire choices. And with the prices of new tires escalating, there’s good reason to take the time to determine what you can learn from your throwaways.

“A lot of fleets are now doing scrap tire analysis because it’s something we as the tire industry have been stressing as the price of tires increases,” says Doug Jones, customer engineer support manager with Michelin Americas Truck Tires.

An effective scrap tire analysis begins the moment a tire is removed from the vehicle.

“When a tire comes out of service, you need to indicate on the tire what vehicle it came off of, identify the mileage that is on that tire and the wheel position,” Jones advises.

“It would certainly help if you know what vehicle a tire was taken from and the axle position,” agrees Tim Miller, commercial tire marketing communications manager with Goodyear. “Knowing the side of the tire that was outside and inside would be valuable, too,” he adds, noting very few fleets take the time to record this information at the time of removal.

Inspecting the tire immediately upon its removal provides a couple of advantages.

“If you inspect every tire that comes off the same day it comes off, you have two things,” explains Greg McDonald, engineering manager with Bridgestone America’s Tire Operations. “One, if it was a simple road hazard that caused the removal, you can repair it right away so it doesn’t sit out in the weather and allow moisture to destroy the tire. And two, if there’s a problem with the vehicle you can get the vehicle fixed before you put it back on the road. If all you do is replace the tires, you’ve guaranteed you’re going to ruin another set of tires.”

Good record keeping is imperative to any effective scrap tire analysis program, says McDonald.

“The main thing is to have records. To go do a scrap tire analysis may give you an idea of what was in that pile, but it may not be representative of what you see day in or day out, year-round. You have to keep records to be able to compare what goes on throughout the year and get a full picture of what is causing tires to come off. And if a fleet changes maintenance procedures due to what they’ve seen in a scrap tire analysis, they have to be able to refer back to see if it made any difference,” he says.

Tire experts Truck News spoke to say a simple Excel spreadsheet is sufficient for record keeping and in some cases even a pad and pencil will suffice. In most cases, costly tire tracking software programs are unnecessary, they agree.

If you neglected to record tire information at the time of removal, tire failures caused by vehicle-related issues may be harder to trace back to the source, Michelin’s Jones points out.

“You can still glean a lot of information (from scrap tires), but not as much as if you do your pre-work up front,” he says.

When looking at tires that have been sitting around collecting cobwebs, one of the first things to look for is a tire’s retread history. This is indicated by the DOT-mandated branding of the tire’s sidewall that indicates the retreader, retread date and other pertinent information. The number of retread stamps alone is a good indicator of tire casing longevity.

“Every retreader has to put a stamp on the tire that tells you who he is and when he retreaded that tire,” Goodyear’s Miller explains. “If a tire has four retread brands on the sidewall, you know it’s been retreaded four times and that’s a good indication the casing did a good job for you. If you see a lot of tires in your scrap pile that are not getting a retread or having one retread, there’s something you need to look into there.”

This is especially true if you’ve switched tire suppliers to save on up-front costs.

“If you save $20 on the front end and never get to the retread state, you’re losing more at the back end than you’re saving at the front end,” McDonald points out.

Every fleet has its own retread policy, but a decent casing should achieve at least three or four retreads.

Another thing to look for is any obvious cause of a tire failure. If you find many tires with punctured treads, Miller suggests performing a cursory inspection of your yard to see if that’s the source of your problems.

If your own yard is free of debris, then it may be worth having drivers keep an eye out at customers’ facilities to see if some simple sweeping can solve some puncture-related tire woes originating from their sites.

If punctures are originating along the sidewall or if there is evidence of curbing, some driver training may be in order.

Another driver-related issue that can be discovered when analyzing scrap tires is a lack of routine maintenance. If tires are failing with no signs of punctures, Miller said it could be due to improper inflation pressures. Miller suggests looking for the telltale sign of a bluish hue along the inside of the tire, which usually indicates there’s been excessive heat buildup.

Another indication of incorrect tire pressure is irregular wear. According to Michelin’s Jones, overinflation will usually result in rapid wear at the center of the tread while underinflated tires will cause irregular wear along the shoulders.

“The most damaging thing as far as the tire is concerned is overinflation,” Jones says.

But just because signs of irregular wear are present, don’t go blaming the drivers without first investigating possible equipment-related causes. A misaligned vehicle is often a culprit when it comes to irregular wear, says McDonald. Different types of irregular wear are indicative of different alignment issues.

For instance, McDonald says “cupping” suggests the beads may be improperly seated or the tire improperly mounted. Other mechanical sources of irregular wear could include defective shocks and suspensions or maladjusted wheel bearings. To connect the dots between cause and effect, most tire experts speak highly of the TMC’s Radial Tire Conditions Analysis Guide, which is available through the American Trucking Associations’ online store: www.atabusinessolutions.com.

Colour photos allow you to easily identify your scrap tires’ symptoms and determine the likely causes of the problems.

“Every fleet should have a copy of it,” Jones emphasizes.

If you find that there are widespread issues among your scrap tires, it may be time to reevaluate whether you’re using the right tire for the application, Jones points out.

“For a lot of fleets, their core application may change. Maybe they were primarily long-haul but they end up being regional or vice-versa,” he points out, noting many fleets fail to change their tire selection accordingly.

The good news about all of this is that if you’re using tires from a reputable supplier, there’s expert help available.

Most tire dealers and suppliers have professionals that get genuinely excited about climbing around piles of scrap tires and looking for problems to solve. Before setting out on a scrap tire analysis program, however, Miller has one final piece of advice: “Don’t find two tires and call it a trend,” he warns.

“You need to find a lot of tires. If you’re a small fleet, it’s going to be hard to find something that’s statistically valid in just one viewing. It might take a couple of visits to find something. For a large fleet that’s got a lot of scrap tires, looking at a couple hundred tires will probably give you a good idea about some trends.”


Need help with scrap tire analysis?

If you’re looking for expert advice to help you set up a scrap tire analysis program, most reputable tire suppliers will be happy to provide it. You can also find a wealth of
information online at the various manufacturers’ Web sites:

Bandag: www.Bandag.com

Bridgestone: www.BridgestoneTruckTires.com

Firestone: www.FirestoneTruckTires.com

Goodyear: www.Goodyear.com

Hankook: www.HankookTire.ca

Michelin: www.MichelinTruck.com

Tire Retread Information Bureau: www.retread.org

Yokohama: www.YokohamaTire.com

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  • I have several tires on my b train bulker seems to be all on drivers side wearing like one of the photo’s in the above artical.Would like to know
    i guess. Is there a solution this is a 1 year old trailer.