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Want to Ensure Multiple Retreads?

TORONTO. Ont. - Let's begin by dispelling a myth about retreads. 'Gators - the shredded tires that occasionally litter the highway - are likely caused by poor maintenance practices. Forget any misconception that they must be treads that have peele...


MAINTENANCE: Tire blowouts are often the result of underinflated tires.
MAINTENANCE: Tire blowouts are often the result of underinflated tires.

TORONTO. Ont. – Let’s begin by dispelling a myth about retreads. ‘Gators – the shredded tires that occasionally litter the highway – are likely caused by poor maintenance practices. Forget any misconception that they must be treads that have peeled away from re-treaded casings.

Look no further than the edge of the remnants if you require proof. Any visible strands of wire have come from belt packages, meaning that the casings themselves have failed.

This has become a mantra among those who retread tires, and it obviously needs to be repeated because it’s still seen as one of the biggest misconceptions about their work.

Tire failures are overwhelmingly caused by under-inflation, says Goodyear’s Richard Kirk, referring to the most likely cause of blowouts. And the low pressures can also be blamed for limiting a casing’s potential for retreading.

Local refuse haulers may be able to retread their casings six to 10 times before sending them to the scrap heap, because their treads wear away long before the design life of the casings. (Thank everything from curbs to multiple starts and stops for the rapid tread wear.) Linehaul fleets, meanwhile, will tend to retread casings at least twice, sometimes moving drive tires to trailer positions and then to yard mules in the process.

The resulting retreads are also better-manufactured than ever, thanks to processes that have advanced well beyond those used by dust-filled shops of a bygone era, when artisans hand-buffed casings to prepare them for a second life.

But how do you spot the best shops for today’s work?

Most people don’t understand the technology behind a modern retreading operation, says Tire Retread Information Bureau spokesman David Kolman, who recently attended Bandag’s retreading school. “[They think] you tear off the old tread and put on the new tread, but it’s considerably more involved.”

Specifically, today’s testing equipment offers plants the chance to scan a casing for potential damage, to ensure that it can support another tread in the first place. “They have a machine that uses electrical impulses to find holes and cuts that you may not be able to see.”

Such inspections are particularly important because many premature failures are caused by casing damage that would go undetected by the naked eye, Kolman says. “The biggest problems are manufacturing defects and signs of impact that might have broken the casing.”

The advance of technology hasn’t ended with the inspection process, either. Computerized buffing machines now ensure that pre-determined depths of rubber are stripped from used tires at the beginning of the process.

Retreading is being dominated by major manufacturers such as Michelin, Bandag and Goodyear for a reason, says Michelin’s Ralph Beaveridge. “Increasingly the big organizations – because of the scale involved, because of the ability to bring high technology into use – have an opportunity to dominate that business.”

And one of the best ways to spot a modern retreading facility is to inspect the shop, he adds.

“Old retreading plants are dirty, dusty places. Some of the newer plants, there’s [a greater focus] on how to keep the places clean,” he says, referring to air filtration systems and meticulous floor cleaning procedures. (Cleanliness is a key to the process, since any debris left floating in the air can end up in the glue that’s used to attach the tread to the casing.)

But one of the most important things to look for in a retreading shop is its ability to demonstrate that it follows an audited process, Kirk adds, suggesting that this step will ensure that you’ve chosen a facility that adheres to proven practices.

Ultimately, you’ll also get what you pay for. The industry’s fringe players may buy casings that are rejected by reputable shops, and slap treads on them to create bargain-basement products. But the resulting offerings are known as “may pops” for a reason, Kolman says.

Meanwhile, customers have a role of their own. Tires need to be pulled before they wear down too far, Beaveridge says as an example. “The casing is the biggest part of the investment … to truly take advantage of that, you need to retread. But sometimes that [goal] gets compromised by the desire to squeeze another couple of trips out of a 6/32 tire.”

Before you know it, the tread will wear down too far, and the casing will be lost.

Fleets may look at their investment differently if they consider that the majority of a tire’s price is linked to the casing, he says.

There’s no question that retreads are a popular option for Canadian operations, since related sales surpass the number of new tires sold in the replacement market, Beaveridge adds. “Probably close to 70 to 80 per cent [of fleets] are using retreads in one form or another.”

After all, a retreading policy is simply a matter of protecting your investment.


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