Forklifts play a significant role in ensuring businesses continue to operate smoothly. Therefore, it is important that each part of the forklift is maintained in order to reduce downtime and provide operators with a safe and effective machine. Tyre maintenance is commonly overlooked and it is often confusing when it comes to knowing when to replace forklift tyres. Today we will determine when a forklift’s tyres need to be replaced and the importance of knowing when to replace them, focusing particularly on cushion and pneumatic tyres.
Your forklift’s tyres do a lot more than help your truck move around the warehouse… Unlike car tyres, those on a forklift are absolutely necessary to keep your operation stable and safe. But how do you know when a tyre becomes dangerous? And how can you stay safe for longer?
Frighteningly, it’s an area where 28% of companies get it wrong: 3% of tyres are replaced too late (which puts operators and their co-workers at risk) – while 25% of tyres are replaced too soon (wasting natural resources and cash).
There are many different brands of forklift tyres, although nearly all of them come under either cushion or pneumatic. Both of these types of tyres have differing warning signs when it comes to knowing when they should be replaced. With cushion tyres, they are generally beyond their useful working life when thirty to thirty-five per cent of the rubber is worn. With pneumatic tyres, one must look at the tread wear; once the tread has gone you have reached the point where traction and stability are becoming compromised.
The best approach is to get the maximum wear from every pound you spend on tyres – and then change them at exactly the right moment to be safe. Here are some tips to help.
Choose the right tyre for the job
There are three types of tyres. Pneumatic tyres suit travelling at higher speeds over longer distances in a large yard area, but can be vulnerable to punctures; press-on solid tyres are for smooth surfaces only and cushion tyres are a hybrid of the two. For many companies, this last category meets their needs. Cushion tyres comprise three layers of material: top (an anti-abrasive layer), middle (a soft, shock-absorbent layer) and base (a rigid base to ensure tyres are fitted securely). These are also available as a non marking variety suitable for working in clean environments such as the food or pharmaceutical industry.
If you’re in any doubt at all, ask your forklift supplier for advice on the best tyres for your truck and workplace.
Although cushion tyres wear slowly, they are easily damaged. It is important to look out for the below warning signs:
- Simple wear: Check the amount of wear on your forklift tyre. It is common for cushion tyres to have a wear indicator mark. Once the top of the tyre meets the wear mark this is when you should consider purchasing a new tyre.
- Chunking and Cracks: Pieces of rubber can fall off the forklift tyre because of litter debris or forklift misuse. This results in the tyre having huge chunks taken out of the rubber and needing to be replaced.
- Flat Spots: This is caused by misalignment, tyre spinning or when the forklift comes to a sharp halt. Flat spots can be identified by looking for a part of the tyre that is balder than the rest.
- Tearing: A forklift tyre can be torn when it is exposed to sharp objects, which can result in imbalance and is extremely dangerous.
Pneumatic tyres differ from cushion tyres as they are primarily used for outdoor work. You will need to pay attention to the following:
- Inflation: If the tyre is under or over-inflated this will affect the stability of the forklift and accelerate wear. On a truck fitted with pneumatic tyres if one tyre is under inflated the truck will lean to one side when picking up a heavy load. It is therefore imperative that pneumatic tyres are inflated correctly and checked regularly to ensure tyre pressures remain correct.
- Cuts: If there are visible cuts or cracks it is important to replace the tyre. This is because cuts can result in sudden air loss and therefore, improper balance.
- Balding: Tyres will wear at different rates, therefore it is important to inspect the tyres for even tread wear.
Solid tyres are perhaps the longest lasting of all forklift tyres and can give many years of service. Solid tyres offer less ride softening than cushion tyres and are best suited to operating on smooth surfaces indoors and outdoors. As solid tyres become worn down they will give the forklift driver even less of a softer ride. After many years of service the tyre can also become harder due to the rubber becoming perished. Solid tyres will usually have a wear line to show when they have reached the end of their useful life but may require changing prior to this if they are very old and perished. If in doubt, ask your forklift supplier for advice.