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Truck Topics

Tire Maintenance 101

By Bob Caffee
Posted Apr 20th 2012 4:36AM
Expenses come in many forms, from the initial purchase to reduced fuel mileage and faster wear if allowed to run low. It is also a safety issue, as a low or flat tire can blow out and cause damage to your truck or other vehicles, with possible injury. The tire industry now says if a tire is 15% low it is considered flat. A flat tire builds heat as it rolls on the road. To some extent it will gain pressure as it builds heat, but not enough to compensate for being low. In a lot of cases the tire will blow out and the result is what is left along the road.

What do you need to do tire maintenance?

Two things:
1) a good tire gauge that can be calibrated.
2) a tread depth gauge.

I will add to this by saying any tire gauge is better than not having one at all. I guess you also need about 15 minutes to check your tires also, but you have to do this during your pre-trip don't you?

Simply put, tires are the most overlooked items of an inspection. At the least, tires should be checked with a gauge once a week. We have a tire pressure monitoring system on our truck; this allows us to check actual tire pressure at any time with a push of a button. For an investment of about $600, we can do a full pressure check in about 20 seconds. If we have one low, it can then be aired up to proper pressure. This system also has a warning if any tire gets low by 10%, and another warning at 25%. The warnings will come whether you are moving or sitting still. So if you run over something and get a slow leak it will tell you when it gets low so you don't ruin a tire. The peace of mind is worth the price, plus if you save blowing out a tire - the price of a road service call to replace a blown tire can get cost more than the system.

Ok, back to the gauge. Checking tire pressure is simple. Find the valve stem - there is one for every wheel, usually in a hole in the face of the wheel. Once you locate the valve stem, remove the cap. This could be plastic, but if it is, it needs to be replaced with a metal one - DOT doesn't like the plastic caps. Once you have the cap off, press the gauge firmly onto the open end of the stem. The reader bar will protrude from the end of the gauge telling you how much air is in the tire. Simply read the meter of the gauge, and if it is where you want it to be, put that metal cap back on and you’re done. Recommended pressures are printed on the tire sidewall. If it needs air, most truck stops have air either on the fuel island or at the shop, just ask. Just like you checked the air you put air in the tire. Remove cap, press and hold air hose chuck on the valve stem for a bit then check with your gauge again, repeat till up to pressure. If you over-fill the tire don't worry; use your gauge and lightly press the chuck on the stem till you hear air leaking, keep doing this until down to pressure.

The tread depth gauge will let you know when to rotate or replace your tires. Tires on the steer must be replaced on or before a minimum tread depth of 4/32  and the drives or trailer tires must be replaced on or before a minimum of 2/32 or you will risk being out of service by DOT. Tires on the right side usually wear faster than the left due to the crown of the road. It is recommended that once there is more than 6/32 difference from side to side the tires need to be rotated. It's a good idea to have the tires rebalanced while you have them off for rotating.

To use the tread depth gauge just hold the barrel of the gauge between the thumb and the middle finger, place the index finger on the end of the gauge plunger and push the plunger in. Then find the most worn spot of the tread and this is where you need to measure.  With the pointed end of the gauge down, place it into the tread groove and push the barrel down. This will cause the plunger to come back out of the barrel so you can read the 32nds on the side of the plunger. Pretty simple and worth the time.

So that's all there is to maintaining your tires, other than keeping the alignment right, you should be good to go.

Until next time, check those tires, improve your bottom line and be safe.

6 Comments

  • - April 28, 2012
    wolfie62-=|=-A good start, but woefully inadequate. Most trucks have 3 different postings of recommended tire pressure; One on the tires, one from the truck manufacturer, one from the truck "builder, or customizer". For instance, many tires state a maximum recommended pressure of 120 psi for maximum load. The truck mfr may state 110 or 105 psi for that model of truck. The customizer may state 100 psi for the truck at rated load. Which one to use? How to adjust for high ambient temperatures? Many questions left unanswered here.
  • - April 28, 2012
    wolfie62-=|=-A good start, but woefully inadequate. Most trucks have 3 different postings of recommended tire pressure; One on the tires, one from the truck manufacturer, one from the truck "builder, or customizer". For instance, many tires state a maximum recommended pressure of 120 psi for maximum load. The truck mfr may state 110 or 105 psi for that model of truck. The customizer may state 100 psi for the truck at rated load. Which one to use? How to adjust for high ambient temperatures? Many questions left unanswered here.
  • - May 8, 2012
    Don Lanier-=|=-I wonder if anyones running Nitrogen in truck tires, its not subsceptible to the Ups and downs of air temperature such as standard AIR, If anyones running it what have you seen in tire longevity, wear ratios etc...
  • - May 8, 2012
    Don Lanier-=|=-I wonder if anyones running Nitrogen in truck tires, its not subsceptible to the Ups and downs of air temperature such as standard AIR, If anyones running it what have you seen in tire longevity, wear ratios etc...
  • - May 23, 2012
    Mhyne-=|=-When i opened the box and took it out, i was imresespd it's heavy and fills your hand, the display is large and clear, the controls were easy to get to. It seemed very solid and robust. The first thing i noticed that i didn't like was a small piece of dirt or debris under the glass of the display. It wasn't a deal breaker, but it caused me to think negatively of the workmanship. I put it inside the case that comes with it, and zipped up the case. I thought how nice that was, a well padded case to keep it in. Wanting to take another look at it, i unzipped the case and took it out and turned it on and off, and admired how nice the display was. Then, i put it back in the case and zipped it up again but it wouldn't zip up. The zipper had broken. The case was useless. But still, it seemed nice in the sense of being sturdy and with the nice large clear display, and also, i liked the little flash light on the tip of it, for seeing valves in the dark. This was right after work at night and i was inside the house and didn't try it out yet. Later that night i tried it on my tires. I had a hard time getting it to fit the valve. Lots of air escaped. sometimes it fit right on and took a reading, other times, i couldn't get a good fit. Before it had arrived, i had bought locally a different brand, Accu-gage, it's a red colored one, similar shape, but not heavy and metallic feeling, more of a plastic feel, lighter. the display is also very easy to see, in red. It is much less elaborate than the one i got from Amazon, not programmable, no flashlight, although the tip does light up in red. The thing about this red one is, it's so easy to get a good fit on the valve with one hand, it's just about impossible to leak air unless you're trying to because you want to let a little air out. I got it at Pep Boys. The model number is DT 107, about $12. Still i wanted to like the heavy one with the big clear display and the flashlight. I was handling it, sitting in my car, when i noticed the rubber was peeling away from the silver plastic in one place on the back of the unit, on the fat end that fits in the palm of your hand. It was coming apart. I tried using it to check the pressure in my tires one more time, before putting air in them, and couldn't get it to fit on the valve it was one of those times when it wouldn't fit. That was it. I decided to send it back. The red one would always be my Go To gauge. I don't need another one. If it was just the broken case, the dirt under the glass, and the rubber peeling away on the back, i would still keep it, if it worked well, but the problem of the air escaping and having to struggle with it to get a reading, and letting air out of the tires when i don't want to, that was the deal breaker. I imagine some of the units of this model are fine this seemed like the kind of thing where i got a bad one a piece of dirt under the glass, an unusable storage case, rubber peeling away on the back shoddy workmanship. But i don't know if the difficulty getting a good fit would vary from unit to unit, or if that's just in the nature of the parts used. The other brand, the red one, is perfect every time. A completely different experience. It's the way a gauge should be, no hassle, no struggle, no aggravation, just take the pressure. And also well made, nothing falling apart.
  • - May 23, 2012
    Mhyne-=|=-When i opened the box and took it out, i was imresespd it's heavy and fills your hand, the display is large and clear, the controls were easy to get to. It seemed very solid and robust. The first thing i noticed that i didn't like was a small piece of dirt or debris under the glass of the display. It wasn't a deal breaker, but it caused me to think negatively of the workmanship. I put it inside the case that comes with it, and zipped up the case. I thought how nice that was, a well padded case to keep it in. Wanting to take another look at it, i unzipped the case and took it out and turned it on and off, and admired how nice the display was. Then, i put it back in the case and zipped it up again but it wouldn't zip up. The zipper had broken. The case was useless. But still, it seemed nice in the sense of being sturdy and with the nice large clear display, and also, i liked the little flash light on the tip of it, for seeing valves in the dark. This was right after work at night and i was inside the house and didn't try it out yet. Later that night i tried it on my tires. I had a hard time getting it to fit the valve. Lots of air escaped. sometimes it fit right on and took a reading, other times, i couldn't get a good fit. Before it had arrived, i had bought locally a different brand, Accu-gage, it's a red colored one, similar shape, but not heavy and metallic feeling, more of a plastic feel, lighter. the display is also very easy to see, in red. It is much less elaborate than the one i got from Amazon, not programmable, no flashlight, although the tip does light up in red. The thing about this red one is, it's so easy to get a good fit on the valve with one hand, it's just about impossible to leak air unless you're trying to because you want to let a little air out. I got it at Pep Boys. The model number is DT 107, about $12. Still i wanted to like the heavy one with the big clear display and the flashlight. I was handling it, sitting in my car, when i noticed the rubber was peeling away from the silver plastic in one place on the back of the unit, on the fat end that fits in the palm of your hand. It was coming apart. I tried using it to check the pressure in my tires one more time, before putting air in them, and couldn't get it to fit on the valve it was one of those times when it wouldn't fit. That was it. I decided to send it back. The red one would always be my Go To gauge. I don't need another one. If it was just the broken case, the dirt under the glass, and the rubber peeling away on the back, i would still keep it, if it worked well, but the problem of the air escaping and having to struggle with it to get a reading, and letting air out of the tires when i don't want to, that was the deal breaker. I imagine some of the units of this model are fine this seemed like the kind of thing where i got a bad one a piece of dirt under the glass, an unusable storage case, rubber peeling away on the back shoddy workmanship. But i don't know if the difficulty getting a good fit would vary from unit to unit, or if that's just in the nature of the parts used. The other brand, the red one, is perfect every time. A completely different experience. It's the way a gauge should be, no hassle, no struggle, no aggravation, just take the pressure. And also well made, nothing falling apart.

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