Tires are critical to the efficiency of your tractor, influencing a wide variety of factors such as the load being carried, soil compaction, power and much more. Knowing how to choose your tires will allow you to get the most out of your tractor, reducing fuel consumption and keeping the ground in good condition.
Keep these features in mind when looking at the many tire options available.
DECODE YOUR TIRE
Each tire has seemingly random numbers and letters printed on its side, but these numbers are not random. They tell you everything you need to know about the anatomy of that tire.
As you read, you will learn what the important details mean and how to use them to find the right tire for your tractor. Note that information is displayed differently on each tire, not to mention some are metric and some are standard. Knowing the basics will allow you to figure out the important characteristics of the tire, regardless of how it is displayed.
Wider tires offer more flotation on sandy or muddy soils. There is less ground pressure per square inch because the weight of the tractor is spread over a larger footprint. If you have wider tires, you have more traction. The more surface of the tire is in contact with the ground, the greater the traction. A wider tire is heavier, requires more power to turn, and is more susceptible to cuts and snags simply because it has more tire on the ground.
LOAD INDEX (RATINGS)
Each tractor has a total load capacity, which includes the capacity of the axle, wheel and tires. This determines the maximum load capacity of any component you use, so it is an important detail to consider. Start your tire search with the International Load Index, which will help you figure out which tires you need based on how much weight you plan to carry on a regular basis.
When you start looking for tires, you can find the load index number on the outer edge of the tire itself, as explained above. If not, you can always ask your salesperson.
STYLE: RADIAL VS. BIAS
All tires are manufactured in two ways: radial or diagonal. These two styles differ in some respects:
Bias tires tend to be cheaper, with a durable sidewall that can withstand damage from most things on the ground, like rocks and branches. This makes them more widely used than radial tires, which are more expensive.
However, the advantages of radial tires are many, including longer tread life and potential higher fuel efficiency because they can operate with lower air pressure, which also increases traction. They also tend to last longer on the pavement and compact the ground less, while providing a more comfortable ride for the user.
To determine if a tire is diagonal or radial, see the following indicators:
- “-” Indicates bias – I.E. 16.9-30
- “R” Indicates radial – I.E. 18.4R30
All tractor tires are tubeless or tubeless. The tubes live inside the tires and are generally needed when a tire needs liquid ballast, which is dictated by the tire itself and your personal preference. Tubeless tires tend to last longer and are easier to repair; When a tube tire is punctured, you will have to disassemble it to repair both the tube and the tire itself. The decision to choose a tube or tubeless tire is a personal one, unless the tires you need or want require tube.
Tire pressure affects how efficiently your tractor moves across terrain, as well as soil compaction, transmission and fuel consumption. This makes it an important element to consider when buying and maintaining tractor tires. The first thing to know is that high pressure tires increase soil compaction, reducing efficiency, versus low pressure, which reduces compaction and increases efficiency.
To determine the best inflation for your tires, it is best to consult the manufacturer’s recommendations. Most brands share their pressure charts for each individual tire, taking into account load capacity and tread.
OUTFITTING FRONT AND REAR TIRES
The rear and front tires on the tractor are not the same, and choosing the most suitable ones will affect the load power and soil compaction. Most of the rear wheels are equipped with R-1 tires, also called Ag tires, which are best for dry terrain.
If you need more traction, you will have to turn to R-1W or R2 tires. Both offer greater tread depth, allowing you to maintain traction and fuel efficiency on wet and damp terrain. If it is a loose gravel terrain, the best is a grass tire (R-3) or an industrial tire (R-4), which is the compromise between the R-1 and the R-3: the traction of the lug design with minimal impact from a grass tire.
On two-wheel-drive tractors, the front tires are styled differently from the rear and are centered on the ribs, which improve steering and control. There are three main styles, all of which offer maximum steering control. These tires start with the base model, the single rib (F-1), which provides steering control and ground traction. For more lateral traction, an F-2 (three-rib design) could be considered and for hard surfaces or heavy loads, the F-2M (four-rib design).
HOW IMPORTANT IS MATCHING FRONT AND BACK TIRES?
If you have a 4WD tractor, it is absolutely necessary to maintain the correct ratio between the front and rear tires to avoid major damage to the transmission. The rear tires are usually twice as large as the front ones. The front tires could turn twice for each rear turn. If the front tire is changed to rotate more or less times (a tire is too small or too big), the drive train will jam. This is a very common problem as there are more 4WD tractors than 2WD tractors. It should also be noted that on 4WD tractors, the tread pattern at the front and rear is usually the same.
There is a lot to consider when choosing the right tires for your tractor. Keep these features and details in mind as you research your options.