Controlling Tire Costs

Next to fuel, tire costs are your biggest variable expense. Smart spec’ing and consistent good habits will help keep costs under control. 

Tire makers have made the move to specialization, so thoughtful spec’ing will pay off. When spec’ing a new truck, the drivetrain and engine controls are set based on the spec’d tire size. When choosing a replacement tire, adjustments may be needed. Remember that a deeper tread tire may not last longer. In fact, in the wrong application, a deeper tread tire may wear faster and burn more fuel. Tires with shallower tread depths often offer better fuel economy, but the tradeoff is shorter tire life. To combat the issue, tire makers are now improving tire life with compounding and silicate makeups.

Smart Spec’ing

When purchasing tires, there’s a few strategies to keep in mind that will help you save money up front, as well as cutting costs over the long haul.

Bang for the Buck

Whether you’re price shopping or not, make sure you’re getting a good value. Consider cost per mile, warranty and the possibility of retreading when considering models. You’ll want to keep records of your purchases that includes dates, mileage and tread depth, which will give you information to compare with future purchases.

Change it Up

Depending on the application, using a different setup may be preferable. A low-profile tire setup, which features a shorter height than width, is useful in long-haul applications. The low-profile setup’s aspect ratio creates advantages in fuel efficiency, as well as in weight, handling and tire life when compared to standard configurations when used in long-haul on-highway applications.

You can also consider wide singles, which weigh less, cost less and are retreadable. Because of the weight savings, wide singles deliver a fuel efficiency gain of 4%. Combine that with the savings in the cost of the tire, and you help to offset the cost of the new rims needed.

Consider Retreads

If you have a tire servicer you trust, consider developing your own retreading program. New tires can be retreaded up to four times, and tire makers are designing casings for retread use. With the cost of a retread tire at about half of new, you can save substantially. When considering retreads, ensure you’re working with a reputable dealer

Simple Steps

While the first step is to have the correct tire for your specific application, forming good habits and sticking to them consistently over time will help you see a real difference in tire life and cost.

Maintenance Matters

Routine maintenance is the best way to head off problems. Keep an eye out for the following problems and replace or repair components as needed:

  • Leaking fluid in shocks
  • Ability to initiate irregular movements in tie rod ends, kingpins, wheel bearings and torque rods
  • Worn bushings
  • Shock absorber rattles when moved
  • Shock is cool to the touch
  • Irregular wear to axles and suspension components

The most common reason tires wear out before their time – or fail entirely – is improper inflation. Since inflation is extremely simple, yet so costly if ignored, take the opportunity to conduct pre- and post-trip inspections. This allows you to not only correct inflation, but also to catch problems such as punctures, embedded objects or broken valve stems. Incorrectly inflated tires also waste fuel.

Another tip is to have your truck aligned before you get new tires. The technicians can use the tire wear on your old tires to make the correct adjustments. Don’t forget to make sure your bearings are mounted and adjusted properly as well. You can check that by finding the ring molded into the tire where the rim and tire meet and measuring the distance from the rim to that line at four points around the tire. If the variance is greater than 2/32-inch, have the assembly broken down and remounted correctly. Follow up with a run-out gauge to check the radial and lateral run-out to see how well the wheel assembly is mounted.

Drive Like a Pro

Bad driving habits are your enemy, so avoid hard braking, speeding, curbing and tight turns, which will lead to faster and irregular wear. Good driving skills will reduce wear, especially over rough driving surfaces. Implement habits such as steady accelerating, braking and steering.