Unsurprisingly, not all forklift tires are black, round or created equal. Forklift tires differ by their usage type, material and composition, traction, cost and durability. As such, selecting the right type of forklift tire for your application is an important task. As with any other vehicle, such as a car or truck, your choice of tire has an effect on performance, fuel efficiency and even safety. Selecting the right tire for your needs and application, as well as keeping them properly maintained, is also a great way to maximize your return on investment. What follows is a comprehensive forklift tire guide including a breakdown of tire types, usage and application information.
Designed for indoor applications, cushion tires are constructed of solid rubber attached to a round metal rim and have the smallest diameter of the available options. This corresponds to a smaller forklift chassis, lower ground clearance and a superior turning radius when compared to other models. In turn, this results in a more maneuverable forklift capable of operating in the narrow aisles and restrictive spacing typically found in indoor applications including manufacturing and distribution facilities, receiving docks and/or greenhouses.
Polyurethane tires are lightweight and provide more resistance to chunking, splitting or tearing under a load than rubber tires. These tires generally improve vehicle fuel efficiency as they combine good traction with low-rolling resistance. And, while usually have twice the lifespan of rubber tires, this only applies to light duty indoor applications.
Pneumatic forklift tires are larger and wider than solid cushion tires and are constructed of a treaded rubber exterior with an internal cavity filled with air or polyurethane foam. When combined with the added durability and ground clearance that result from these components, pneumatic forklift tires are the preferred option for heavy-duty and/or outdoor applications with rough, uneven terrain. Since forklifts are built without a suspension system, pneumatic tires also provide the operator with superior comfort by suppressing bumps and vibration, thereby decreasing operator fatigue and improving productivity.
Similar to pneumatic air tires, solid pneumatic tires are constructed of aggressively layered rubber with one distinct difference - the absence of a hollow internal cavity. Solid pneumatic tires are best viewed as a mix between the solid construction of a cushion tire and the durability of a pneumatic tire. The net effect of this combination is a forklift tire that is less susceptible to punctures or damage from sharp, irregular objects or debris typically found in storage facilities, lumber mills and scrap metal yards. This dynamic construction also ensures that solid pneumatic tires are more versatile than the other two tire types, enabling owners to utilize them in small to mid-sized operations with both indoor and outdoor applications.
Non-marking forklift tires are made from a mixture of synthetic rubber and white silica (chalk) gel or resin instead of black carbon. By replacing black carbon with silica, these tires do not leave black marks and/or residue due to rapid starts, stops or turns. Instead, non-marking tires leave a chalk-like dust, which doesn't adhere to the floor and is easily swept up. This is absolutely essential for applications in the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical industries, where black carbon residue is prohibited by law. Non-marking tires are available in cushion, pneumatic and pneumatic air models. Check out one of our other blog articles for a closer look at the differences between marking and non-marking tires.
When selecting your tire type, it's important to take your application, forklift type and work environment into consideration. As far as the choice between cushion or pneumatic tires, forklifts are usually designed for a specific type of tire. This limits your choice but you'll still be able to switch between traction and smooth cushion tires, or between pneumatic and pneumatic air tires. Here's a breakdown of your tire choice by application:
In addition to being isolated from the outdoor environment, indoor applications are typified by a smooth, debris-free floors and surfaces, which makes them an ideal environment for cushion tires. Here, cushion tires tend to last longer, improve maneuverability and increase traction. Examples include retail, distribution, manufacturing and warehousing applications.
Outdoor and rough-terrain applications generally use pneumatic or solid pneumatic tires as these provide increased traction and increased stability on uneven, loose terrain. What's more, these tire types also improve operator comfort through their capacity for shock absorption (remember, forklifts do not have suspension systems). Examples include agricultural, lumber, mining, oil and gas and railyard applications.
Cold environments or environments with consistently wet floors typically use polyurethane tires with micro grips (small, raised dots) or razer stripes (narrow, diagonal grooves) since they provide increased traction and braking ability. There are also specialty tires specifically made for cold environments, such as those with a walnut surface treatment, which help to increase traction on icy surfaces.
Sensitive applications, such as food, paper or printing are often required to use non-marking tires since standard tires contain carbon black. This creates a fine dust particle during use that can cause cross-contamination issues. Other sensitive applications, such as manufacturing facilities that deal with materials or products that are highly combustible, require static-resistant tires that prevent a potentially deadly build-up and discharge of static electricity.
As you can see, a lot of thought and consideration needs to go into your tire selection. For assistance changing your tires, deciding on the type that best suits your application, or help with a sudden blowout, contact Lucas Liftruck Services today. With 20+ years of experience in the industry and access to the best tire brands in the industry, our sales experts will make sure you're outfitted with the right tire for your forklift and application. To book a consultation, contact us today!