Tread Lightly: The Ultimate Guide to Tire Buying

From ribbed to lug, when looking to replace the tires on your plumbing van and off-road equipment, here are a few tips to consider
Tread Lightly: The Ultimate Guide to Tire Buying
When you select tires, be sure to prioritize important performance attributes – things such as mileage, traction, fuel economy, retreadability or a balance across all those criteria.

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Few items on your service vehicle are more important to driving safety than tires. So it stands to reason that buying the right tires for the job is a critical consideration, especially since buying the wrong kind can lead to premature wear, decreased safety and higher operating expenses, says Donn Kramer, director of marketing and innovation for Goodyear. 

The first step is considering what the tires will be required to do. Once that’s defined, then it’s time to choose a specific type of tire. Two basic choices are ribbed tires – which feature shallower, non-skid treads from 22/32 to 12/32 of an inch deep – and lug tires, which feature traction-boosting knobs. If lug tires make more sense, you have two more design choices to make: open shoulder or closed shoulder. 

On open-shoulder tires, which are better suited for off-road driving that requires more traction, the outside tread is separated into individual tread blocks that leave openings to the tire casing.

A closed-shoulder design, which is better suited for over-the-road highway use, features an outside tread that forms one continuous “shoulder” around the tire.

“Open-shoulder tires provide better traction for stopping and starting in off-highway conditions, and they also clean the tread better when operating in wet and muddy applications,” Kramer explains.

“When they start to spin, open-shoulder tires can clean themselves, as opposed to closed-shoulder tires, where the treads fill with mud.

"In industries where contractors take vehicles back to a job site and sit for a period of time, that’s an important consideration.” 

Kramer also notes that as drivers select tires, they need to prioritize important performance attributes – things such as mileage, traction, fuel economy, retreadability or a balance across all those criteria. 

“You need to minimize your total operating costs,” he says. “If you drive a lot off-road, you might prefer traction, mileage, retreadability and good fuel economy. So you need to maximize the lowest cost of ownership for any product you’re using. That should be your ultimate goal as a buyer of tires or other vehicle components.” 

For off-highway driving, lug tires make sense on the drive axle and are good candidates for retreading.

There are three ways to retread a tire, which extends its life. The first involves applying a new tread that’s cut to the proper length to fit the tire casing (the part of the tire below the tread), then letting it cure. Or a technician places a strip of new rubber on the casing, which then goes into a mold that shapes a desired tread design. In the third method, a splice-less tread is applied to the casing; because there’s no splice, it minimizes the chances of separation, Kramer says. 


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