Heat and Tires

 A very famous tire engineer once stated, “Heat is to tires as Kryptonite is to Superman”…in other words, its worst enemy. Taken all together, hot summer temperatures, under inflated tires, heavy loads, and traveling at high speeds and you have a recipe for tire disaster….that is exactly why you see more alligators on the highway in the summer season. During the winter or spring months, a tire that was being run under inflated would have heat buildup that would dissipate into the atmosphere as the ambient temperature is cold. Now, when operating in temperatures in excess of 100 degrees the heat will increase significantly in an under inflated tire. The effect that proper air pressure has on tires is endless. When a radial truck tire has been inflated to its proper air pressure according to the weight it is carrying, the operating temperature should be around 150 degrees. Let us assume that 100psi is the fleet standard. The rule of thumb is that for every loss in air pressure of 2psi, the tire temperature will increase 5 degrees.

What can fleets do to minimize tire related issues during the summertime months?

  • Tire pressure needs to be checked more frequently in the summer. Weekly is recommended.
  • Review with drivers the proper tire inspection procedure during a pre-trip inspection.
  • Do not rely on the looks of the tire or striking the tire to determine inflation pressure. The only accurate way to access the pressure in a tire is to use a tire gauge. Keep in mind just 2 psi deficit in pressure increases the heat by 5 degrees.
  • Plan your tire program around mounting new, deep tread depth tires prior to the winter season. When summer hits, the tires will be worn down and generate less heat.
  • Inspect tires for punctures and damage more frequently in the summer months. Tire punctures tend to increase during the summer because the tread rubber becomes hotter and “softer” and acts as a magnet to nails and road debris

Bottom line: Checking your tires on a regular basis for both air pressure and any signs of irregular wear is essential if a fleet wants to maximize mileage and increase fuel economy.