Summer is a time to stay cool and to be especially savvy about truck tire maintenance. Avoiding potential hazards while on the road, particularly those that are heat-related, can be made simple by following a few guidelines from the experts.
"Maintaining proper tire inflation pressure is the number one issue facing drivers today," points out Al Cohn, manager, training & technology for Goodyear's Commercial Systems business. "This is true year round, but particularly in summer. It's important to realize that increases in the outside temperature can make underinflation an even greater problem."
According to Cohn, underinflation increases tire deflection, which leads to higher internal tire heat. "But couple that with a higher ambient temperature and you can speed up the process," he explained. "Not many people realize when air temperatures go over 60 degrees F, tires gain two psi for each 10 degrees F increase. Tires already gain 10-15 psi under normal operations in any temperature, and it takes three to four hours for the levels to return to normal. So the lesson is to check your tires while they are cool, and never release inflation overage from hot tires as they will end up becoming underinflated."
If that happens, it could lead to serious problems. "Poor inflation paired with the excess heat from the summer sun can cause tire components to come apart," said Cohn. "Heat that's generated on the inside of a tire is its own worst enemy, and when internal rubber temperatures reach in excess of 200 F, it can cause problems."
While improved retreading processes have helped reduce tire separation, Cohn says low inflation can contribute to reduced tire miles, loss of retreadability, bad fuel economy and an increased number of punctures. To avoid low pressure to begin with, Cohn recommends a visual tire inspection be performed on all tires prior to a run. "In addition to inflation levels, look for signs of sidewall damage and tread area punctures," he advised. "Fingertip diagnostics are also a great way to check tire wear. Running your hand across the tire tread surface can identify alignment related wear conditions. For example, if you run your hand across the steer tread surface and you feel a wear pattern that is not smooth, you probably have a vehicle toe-in condition. Catching alignment wear conditions early will allow tires to see high removal miles."
According to Cohn, it is essential to check your tires at least weekly with a calibrated air pressure gauge. "Calibrated is important," said Cohn. "There is a difference. Standard air pressure gauges tend to quickly lose their ability to read exact pressure levels and that could leave you under or over-inflated."
Cohn's last tire tip? "I'm a big proponent of drivers and mechanics working with a tire professional trained in basic tire maintenance issues," he said. "Once all company team members understand tires are the number one cost next to fuel, they become a lot more important. Anything you can do to protect that investment is critical."