Tool carriers come in many shapes and sizes. Skid steer loaders, compact track loaders, telehandlers, wheel loaders, backhoe loaders, and excavators share one thing in common: The rubber that meets the road, dirt, or grass has a major impact on the machine’s overall performance.
These machines are popular for a wide range of applications because of their ability to use various attachments. However, there’s a good chance the tires or tracks supplied by the manufacturer are not the best match for all of the different applications. Just like one attachment can’t handle every application, tires and tracks aren’t designed to give you the same performance in every environment.
Knowing that, it might be time to upgrade the rubber on your tool carrier.
GROUND CONDITIONS CONSIDERATIONS
Most tool carriers today are outfitted from the manufacturer with universal tires or tracks, which are designed for average performance in a wide range of applications and environments. If you want a better than average rate of return, there are other considerations you need to know. By matching the right tires and tracks to the working environment, application, attachment, and even the operator, you will maximize your tool carrier’s performance.
“Most manufacturers will only offer one standard block patterned for tracked machines, and one-to-two tread patterns in tires,” says Greg Hawthorne, general sales manager at MWE, a manufacturer and distributor of aftermarket tracks and tires for the compact equipment industry. “And, these tread patterns are usually designed to be more ‘universal,’ which means they will perform okay in several environments but won’t excel in any. You will get better performance by using the appropriate tread pattern for their working environment, and your tracks or tires will last longer because that’s what they are designed to do.”
Hawthorne goes on to explain how you need to work with a track and tire distributor, like MWE, to get the right fit for your needs. “We start by asking you a series of questions,” he says. “We need to know what kind of work you are doing, and where you are doing it. If you are a landscaping business primarily working on turf, we’re going to recommend a track or tires designed for better flotation. Turf tracks and tires have a non-directional pattern that leaves a flat footprint and their rounded sides help prevent turf gouging while turning.”
While turf tracks and tires are designed for optimum performance in that environment, Hawthorne is quick to point out that they don’t do well in most others. “The gap between lugs are not wide enough to shed mud and the rubber compound used on turf tires tends to be softer, which makes them more susceptible to damage from sharp objects like rocks,” says Hawthorne. “It’s just one example of how track and tire performance varies between ground conditions.”
Most tire and track manufacturers categorize tread design into the categories of hard surfaces, mud, dirt, sand/gravel, and snow. On hard surfaces, you are going to want a tread pattern with smaller gaps between lugs, so there is more rubber on the road. This design will wear better, last longer, and provide a more comfortable ride for the operator. In dirt or mud, tracks and tires with a wider gap between lugs shed material and provide more traction.
Unlike single-purpose machines, the work of a tool carrier can vary greatly, which makes selecting the right track or tire challenging. Hawthorne advises you to look at all the work a tool carrier performs throughout a month and begin to categorize it. “Often, tool carriers will use multiple attachments but basically do the same kind of work,” he explains. “For example, wheel loaders and telehandlers are often used for pick-and-carry work. You may be using a bucket or a set of forks, but the application type is ultimately the same. For this type of work, we would refer to ground conditions; find out what kind of material a contractor is carrying and how many hours a day the machine is working. Ground conditions will help determine tread pattern. Material weight and hours of operation will help determine the appropriate tire ply and quality for their needs.”
Tracks and tires with a directional tread pattern help prevent spinning tracks or tires while digging, dozing, or loading loose heavy material with a bucket. Demolition, recycling, or brush removal applications have a greater risk to puncturing a tire, so you may want to look at running solid tires on your tool carrier.
“Tracks and tires that are low quality or not appropriate for the working conditions will affect the productivity of the operator,” says Hawthorne. “Tracks and tires with tread patterns designed for working in dirt and mud will vibrate at higher speeds on hard surfaces, and those designed for hard surfaces will feel a lot stiffer in uneven terrain. For operators who are sitting a machine 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, ride comfort is a critical component in the consideration process.”
In addition to the tread pattern, Hawthorne says the quality of a tire’s construction will also impact ride comfort. “Poorly constructed tires use cheap rubber compound and have thinner sidewalls, which will cause the machine to feel loose. When a machine feels loose, operators tend to slow down or hesitate in their work.”
TRACK AND TIRE OPTIONS
The number of tire and track options on the market varies by tool carrier type. Many manufacturers will offer up to seven tread options for compact track loaders and excavators. There are even more options available for skid-steer loaders. To get the right fit for your needs, Hawthorne recommends going to an equipment track and tire distributor. “Equipment dealers usually have limited options,” he says. “Track and tire distributors stock a larger range of tread patterns and quality. Also, we cut up every single tire and track we offer to inspect the quality of the rubber compound and the steel belts. We also work with several contractors and rental stores to test the performance of our tracks and tires.”
During the hustle and bustle of the daily jobsite demands, tracks and tires are typically the last thing you are thinking about. However, taking a few minutes out your busy schedule to ensure you’re using the right tracks or tires on your tool carriers will help drive productivity and help you get the most from your machine. ■
About the Author: Todd Versteeg is a co-owner of Signature Style PR + Marketing representing MWE, a manufacturer and distributor of aftermarket tracks and tires for the compact equipment industry based in Columbus, Ohio. www.mwesales.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, June 2017
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