Easy to Forget

I'm looking for ways to get more tread life out of my tires, and I'm looking at everything. Aside from inflation levels, looking into nitrogen, and developing a better retread program, what else should I be considering? — Reader

My father used to say, "Tires are easy to take care of, but easier to forget about." What he meant was that, aside from keeping them properly inflated, tires tend to get lost in the maintenance shuffle.

My father's advice includes many things you can do to extend the life of your tires. I won't cover all of them here, but I will offer a few key tips:

BUY QUALITY TIRES—Extending the life of your treads starts with the right tires. Sure, you could save a few bucks with a cheaper tire, but you'll also be replacing it a lot sooner.

BALANCE—Just like buying quality tires, spending a little money up front for a good balancing method is worth the investment. From our own experience and tests, we've been able to prove that alternatives to lead weights can extend the life of a tread by up to 30 percent. Bottom line: there have been too many advances in balancing technology in recent years for fleet owners to still be using standard lead weights.

ROTATE AND ALIGN—A lot of fleets delay scheduled rotation and alignment maintenance until it starts taking its toll on their tires. While your techs are in there, have them check the wheel bearings and suspension components.

TRAIN YOUR DRIVERS—Some drivers don't think about maximizing tire life because they don't know how. Train your drivers to do proper pre- and post-trip checks, and remind them not to jump curbs or drive too fast.

TRACK YOUR TIRES—Maintaining accurate records of your tire maintenance program will not only give you a better idea of which vehicles and tires are performing best, but you'll also be able to determine which drivers are getting the most out of their tires. This data can also be used in a program that rewards drivers for taking care of their treads.

By the way, it's no coincidence that many of the same maintenance practices that help you extend the life of your tires can also help you save money on fuel. I call those double-dipping budget savers no-brainers. Sure, it doesn't explain why some people still don't do enough to take care of their tires, but it does give you yet another reason to get your tire maintenance program in order.

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