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Use 5-point irrigation tire air pressure program

Mindy Ward pivot irrigation in harvested field
TAKE CARE OF TIRES: Irrigation tires are likely one of the most overlooked on any row crop farm. They are exposed to the elements 24/7, 365 days a year. Keeping them in top shape requires routine maintenance checks.
Mother Nature beats on your irrigation tires, but the right tire and maintenance can extend life.

An irrigation tire on the farm sits in the field 365 days a year, exposed to rain, cold and heat. Yet, it is often the tire most overlooked in your farming operation.

Dusty Hininger, regional sales manager with Firestone Farm Tires, says most irrigation tires last up to five years, with some making it 10 years. Extending life expectancy often depends on the type of tire and environmental conditions.

Why irrigation tires crack

“The oxidation of ultraviolet light from the sun is very hard on tires,” Hininger says. Tire technology adds antioxidants and antiozonants to help prevent the degradation and cracking of rubber caused by exposure to oxygen, ozone and temperature fluctuation.

Some base model irrigation tires do not have quite the amount of antioxidants needed to withstand repetitive hot summers. Hininger says farmers need to ask for those with high antioxidant or anti-ozone blocking agents. His company is a leader in this type of technology under all weather conditions.

If it isn’t the heat, it is the cold. “Irrigation tires don’t get a break,” Hininger says. “They are not like other pieces of equipment on the farm that at least sit in the barn or shed for a season. They are out there with Mother Nature beating on them every day, and to top it off we put water on them.”

While Firestone tires stand up under many different environmental conditions, Hininger says the key to longer life in any irrigation system is a maintenance routine that focuses on a tire air pressure program.

Monitor your irrigation tires

All tires lose air over time, Hininger says. “You need to know that you have enough air in those tires to handle the load.”

He suggests farmer set up an air pressure program that looks something like this:

1. Inspect tire. This should be done at the beginning and end of a growing season. It is important to check tires to see if there are any cracks that can cause air leaks. Extensive cracks may mean it is time to replace the tire. “The worst time to find out you need a replacement is in the middle of the season,” Hininger says. “It creates a lot of downtime.”

2. Measure air pressure. Don’t rely on your own eye. “Farmers tend to look at an irrigation tire and say, ‘Yeah, they’ve got plenty of air in them,’” Hininger says. “I’ve been in the ag tire business for 25 years, and I can’t look at a tire and tell you how much air is in them without putting an air gauge on them.” Using a pressure gauge on each tire is the only way to be certain they have the right amount of air.

3. Check in monthly. Assessing air pressure once a year is not enough. Hininger understands the time constraints of farmers, but he says frequency matters. “I know farmers who check them every month, and they have tires out there for 10 years,” he notes. “Checking air pressure really pays off.” He says farmers should find a consistent time to inspect systems and stick to it, or consider No. 4.

4. Hire it out. In Hininger’s region of Texas, farmers pay high school students to verify irrigation tire pressure for them. “They ride on a four-wheeler, wait for the wheels by the road and then run from one tire to the next just checking air pressure. It frees up the farmer and creates work for the kids.”

5. Pump it up. While tire air pressure varies depending on size of pivot and tires, Hininger says it should be at the optimum pounds per square inch. “Running an underinflated tire is how cracks develop, and that causes them to fail.” He adds that an underinflated tire is also more costly in the long run because it has a shorter useful life.

Ultimately, Hininger says the most efficient irrigation tire is the one with the right air pressure to carry the load to get the optimum footprint to get the best traction.

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