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An Efficient Tractor Starts With a Good Tire Gauge

Maintaining proper inflation pressure is good for your tires, your tractor and your soils.

Would you head to the field in the morning before fueling up? How about before checking the fluid levels in your tractor? Or inspecting and lubricating your equipment? Now, how often do you check the air in your tires before you pull out of the shed? If a pressure check isn’t routine, it could be costing you big bucks.

Generally, we keep an eye on our tires. If one looks low, we’ll grab a tire gauge and add air. But improperly inflated tires can impact several factors, including:

  • Tractor performance and efficiency
  • Soil compaction
  • Tire longevity

There is no single, simpler way to improve tractor efficiency than to use the proper tire inflation pressure.1 When tire pressure and tractor ballasting work in harmony, research shows the combination can result in a cost savings of between 3 and 10 percent.2 That’s $600 to $2,000 across 1,000 acres, (assuming $4-per-gallon diesel fuel), according to Iowa State University estimates. Plus, additional savings in time (labor and depreciation).

Reduced compaction

Proper tire inflation not only improves tractor efficiency but also can reduce soil compaction intensity from the tires. Overinflated tractor tires reduce tractive efficiency, while increasing compaction.3 Underinflated tires wear sidewalls quickly.4 Adding duals or triples to your tractor lowers the carrying load on each tire, which reduces the necessary tire inflation rate. This also decreases the depth and intensity of the compaction. The goal: Lightly ballasted tractors and tire inflation pressures maintained at minimum levels for safe operation and satisfactory tire life also protect the soil.

Getting it right

Inflate tires according to tire load and inflation pressure tables.3 These tables are available through the tire manufacturer or your Case IH dealer. The loads listed in the tables are the maximum loads for a given tire design and inflation pressure that will provide safe operation and acceptable tire life at the maximum rated speed. Adjust inflation pressure according to the terrain, soil type and other conditions. Use a good tire gauge capable of readings within 1 to 2 pounds per square inch.

Careful management of ballast and tire inflation pressure can maximize tractive efficiency, minimize compaction, increase tractor drivetrain life and increase profitability.3 Neither practice usually requires an investment in new equipment. But the time spent provides immediate fuel savings and improved performance. And that’s a win-win in any growing season.

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RESOURCES
1DeJong-Hughes J. Tires, Traction and Compaction. University of Minnesota Extension website. http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/soils/tillage/tires-traction-and-compaction/#load. Accessed January 26, 2017.
2Hanna M. Managing Field Operations to Reduce Energy Costs. Iowa State University Extension website. http://farmenergymedia.extension.org/sites/default/files/Managing%20field%20operations%20to%20reduce%20energy%20costs.pdf. Accessed January 26, 2017
3Casady W. Tractor Tire and Ballast Management. University of Missouri Extension website. http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=G1235. Published August 1997. Accessed January 27, 2017.
4Hanna M, Harmon J, Petersen D. Ballasting tractors for fuel efficiency. Iowa State University Extension website. http://farmenergy.exnet.iastate.edu/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/02/PM-2089G.pdf. Accessed January 27, 2017.
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