CALGARY, Alta. – One of the keys to a quality retread tire is the quality of the casing it’s built on and tire manufacturers have spent an inordinate amount of time ensuring tire casings can be re-used.
“We make – and the premium tire manufacturers make – all our tires with multiple retreads in mind,” explained Greg Cressman, with Yokohama. “With multiple retreads in mind, the steel casing is built with multiple layers of steel belts. So you’re re-using a highly-engineered casing.”
Tires remain the one of the top costs of doing business in the trucking industry. Retread tires offer an opportunity to help reduce a fleet’s tire costs, but industry experts agree the exact savings are difficult to calculate as there are a number of factors to take into consideration.
“It varies fleet by fleet but in almost all cases it makes sense economically. Fleets need to make the most of their casing investment,” said Chris Hoffman, with Bandag. (Since this article was written, Bandag has been acquired by Bridgestone.) “It varies by fleet and you would have to run through the numbers but the savings is almost always there.”
In the initial cost alone, the upfront savings of retreading a tire instead of buying a new tire are evident.
“The cost of the retread is only a portion of the cost of a new tire. You’ll still get a number of miles on the retread and it will increase your cost per mile,” noted Guy Walenga, with Bridgestone/Firestone.
Getting the most out of a retread is becoming increasingly easier today as the availability of quality retreading is more widespread. Retreaded tires can even offer a similar lifespan to the original purchase.
“It’s absolutely possible given these high quality retreads. Getting 300,000 km in a retread is actually attainable with the high quality retreads out today,” noted Cressman.
Given the availability and improved quality of retreaded tires the ability to integrate a retreading program could help drive down costs.
“Your cost per kilometre of use per tire can go down dramatically if you have an effective retread program in place,” added Cressman. “From a purely economic point of view you can save dramatically. It’s all about reducing the cost per kilometre of their usage.”
Get the wheels turning
There is no set standard for outlining a retread program. A wide variety of application conditions need to be considered before a retread program can be properly assessed.
“I strongly recommend to any carrier to spend time with their tire professional and find what makes best sense for their fleets,” said Ralph Beaveridge, with Michelin.
With a variety of retread tires available, planning out your needs before they arise will help ensure a fleet receives the proper tires.
“Even within our own product line, even though they all go through the quality process, they are designed for different applications,” explained Hoffman. “Some are designed towards traction and some are designed towards better mileage; there are different products for different applications.”
As well as ensuring the proper retread tires are chosen to perform in a desired application, tire professionals can also help map out the plan of a successful retread program.
“Get your dealer involved to manage the process from the first step; select a proper retread pattern to achieve your application goals,” said Cressman. “They can give guidance on when to pull a tire at the proper tread depth to remove the used tires from service to maximize the good casing.”
A strong case
“Casings are the core of your tire investment,” according to Al Cohn, with Goodyear. “If you focus on that investment, you will reap the rewards of a lower cost per mile for the life of the tire.”
For a tire to lend itself to multiple retreads the casing has to be taken care of and remain in strong condition.
“Always start with a good quality name brand tire that has a good quality casing that will lend itself to multiple miles and retreads,” explained Walenga. “The first thing to do is to ensure the tire is properly mounted and keep proper inflation for the life of the tire. Make sure your vehicle stays in alignment so you don’t burn through the tread.”
The number of times a tire can be retreaded also varies depending on the application. There is no set number or set age as long as the casing passes inspection.
Most retread facilities will put the casing through a three-part inspection process. The first step is a 14-point visual inspection, followed by an electrical performance inspection and then a shearography inspection to look inside at the casing. Shearography is a process that uses a vacuum and lasers to determine the quality and integrity of the tire casing.
It also may be required to pull a tire with enough tread depth to protect the casing.
“Even though you are giving up 1/32-inch of usable tread, that value is outweighed by the value of a healthy casing and lower risk of tire failure,” said Cohn. “There’s some value in maintaining deeper treads than required.”
Ongoing inspection of new tires and their inflation levels as they are in service will also help maintain the integrity of the casing, to ensure its maximum retreadability.
“You have to take care of it. Have an inspection process in place to retain the value of the casing,” explained Cressman. “The tire has to go into its original intended application to maintain a proper casing. Start off on the right foot and maintain the inspection process.”
Not all retreaded tires are created equally. Whether the retread wrapped around the casing of a tire is pre-cure or mold-cure is not as important as where the retread was developed in ensuring quality.
To ensure the process is up to snuff, Hoffman suggests receiving product from an ISO-certified factory. A quick visit to the retread plant also may give a peak into the quality of the product.
“If there’s black rubber dust and it’s dirty and grubby, they will probably not address as much concern to the quality of the retread,” noted Beaveridge. “A place where you’re comfortable eating lunch will probably pay attention to quality and detail in the retreads coming out the end.”
Supply is everything
Brand names are a sign of quality, but there are other factors as well; and it all comes back to the tire’s casing.
“One concern right now is how retreadable are casings from off-shore suppliers?” noted Cressman. “They may offer a great cost up-front, but the retreadability of those casings remains on large a question mark.”
The problem right now is the question mark. There is no official evidence to condemn off-shore suppliers, but there is no concrete evidence to support them either.
“There are different grades of casings and a premium new tire will get more retreads out of it, than a cheaper new tire,” explained Hoffman. “Some are being retreaded, but others aren’t; so we don’t have a lot of information right now.”
In the end, it all comes down to quality. A quality retread starts from the inside at the casing and works its way outward to the tread of the tire. The best way to ensure a quality casing and retread is to be proactive.
“As a fleet you need to be keeping good records to make informed purchasing decisions in the future. That’s how you will find out if you have a really quality casing,” added Walenga.
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