Buying the best tractor tires isn’t as simple as going into any of a dozen retailers, plunking down a couple of hundred dollars, and walking out with something to get you through the next few years. Tractor tires will run you into the thousands of dollars, and unless you’ve become that mythical kind of farmer who has begun harvesting money from trees, you’re going to want to make your decision carefully.
Not only will you leave yourself with a better fitting product, but you’ll also leave yourself with a little more walking-around money and a lender who’s happy you’re making smart choices.
Consider the purpose
Depending on the size of your machine and what you’ll be using it for, you can generally choose between turf, industrial, and ag tires.
- Turf tires: It you’re going to mostly be mowing grass or plowing snow, then turf tires are your best bet. They offer minimal disturbance of grass and other sensitive areas. They also offer maximum flotation, meaning that they are stable on loose or sandy ground and can make it easier to maneuver machinery. They tend to have tread that provides solid forward, reverse, and lateral traction.
- Industrial tires: These are tires with good bite but can still manage to not make a mess of things or be particularly hazardous on asphalt. These tires are seen most on forklifts, loaders, skidders, skid-steer vehicles, backhoes, and forestry equipment, among many other things. They’re able to stand up to punctures, tears, and gouges quite well.
- Ag tires: These are the big boys with aggressive tread. They can handle a muddy field like nothing else, but they’ll also tear up a lawn if you give them a chance — and they’re not built for long distances over asphalt or concrete (if you have to drive good ways on public roads between farms, be prepared to trailer your tractor if it’s outfitted with ag tires). Ag tires are going to be common on tractors, combines, sprayers, and skid steer loaders, and are highly durable. That’s what we’ll focus on for this article.
This link titled “How To Choose the Right Tires for Your Tractor” delves into the specifics of front vs. rear tire choices, what the numbers on the sidewall mean, and how to understand the ply rating.
Any piece of machinery is heavy — that much is obvious. In your fields, minimizing the ground compaction and leaving soil loose enough for plants to easily grow is vital. That’s where features such as Titan’s Low Sidewall Technology or Firestone’s AD2 Technology come into play. Because those kinds of tech can run with a lower tire pressure, there’s a better distribution of weight. You can also expect those tires to be more stable (and safer) on the road; the left-to-right wobble on machinery is gone; and there’s no more road lope (that bouncy feeling on the road where you’re getting shaken around in the cab). Plus, they can help improve fuel efficiency.
The last thing you want is a tractor tire that leaves you slipping and sliding. You’ll want to find a tire that has enough tread bars to keep you safe and comfortable in the field. Firestone became known for its 23-degree tread bars decades ago, a feature that improved grip and offered more surface contact than others in the industry. While the 23-degree design has innovated further, so have other companies. So be certain to factor in the specifics of the tread to best give you a smooth ride and maximize horsepower.
A durable bead — meaning the edge of a tire that sits on the wheel — will make you happy with your performance in the long run. Many ag tire models boast reinforced beads to help keep a tire in working order even under crummy circumstances. There’s a reason that people say breaking the bead is one of the hardest parts of changing a tractor tire, and if it’s that hard to change in the shop, you know it’ll be hard to break in the fields.
No matter what, keeping a good maintenance schedule will be important to getting the most out of your tires. Ask at the point of purchase (or at least read the manual) about what kind of care your tires will need to keep them in tip-top shape. Proper PSI is a must — over-inflated tires are prone to wear on the treads while under-inflated tires could bruise your rims or lead to sagging sidewalls. When you buy, you’ll also be able to ask about maximum speeds for your specific tire. Most of the time, you’re going to be topping out at 15 mph in new tires (of course there will be exceptions), but once they begin to age or are under strenuous loads, you’ll certainly need to be more cautious in that regard.