Improving the Performance of Existing Farm Equipment with Tires
Farmers with hopes of purchasing equipment this year, whether new or used, are discovering one of the most challenging markets in recent memory. Reuters recently reported that the supply of tractors in North America is the tightest it’s been in 18 years. One option available to farmers is to take steps to improve the efficiency and productivity of the equipment they’re already running and wait for the market to cool. A simple, easy, and cost-efficient way to give existing equipment a boost is with new tires.
Photo courtesy of Degenhardt Tire
Shortage of New Farm Equipment
A host of factors have vastly diminished the availability of new farm equipment, such as supply chain disruptions that have left manufacturers short of vital materials (like steel, plastics, and microchips), reigned-in production during the pandemic, and labor shortages. Further driving the lack of new ag equipment inventory is an increase in demand by farmers buoyed by high commodity prices.
In Canada, total tractor sales through March 2021 are up 84% when compared to 2020 and include a 40% increase in four-wheel-drive machines and an 86% increase in two-wheel drive units. In the U.S., total farm tractor sales rose 22.7% in April compared to 2020, with tractors in the 100+ horsepower range up 29.2%.
Rising Cost of Used Farm Equipment
The lack of available new ag equipment has led many farmers to look toward the used market, but the increased demand combined with an already depleted inventory—and the rise of online auctions (which expanded the pool of buyers)—has led to skyrocketing prices. Greg Peterson, better known by many as “Machinery Pete,” an authority on used ag equipment claims “early 2021 is the hottest used equipment market I’ve witnessed.”
Improving Equipment You Own with Tires
The inability to purchase new machines and the astronomical prices of used equipment have led to many farmers deciding to ride out the hot market with the equipment they already own. With challenges come opportunities, and proactive farmers can use this moment to find cost-efficient ways to improve the productivity and efficiency of the equipment they own, without taking on the expense of new (or new-to-them) equipment. One of the ways they can easily do this is with tires.
Buying a new high-horsepower tractor is enticing, but outfitting equipment with the “right” set of tires allows machines to efficiently transmit the power they have to ground. After all, a 500-horsepower tractor is that in name only, if just 400-horsepower is getting to the ground. The addition of an application-specific tire with the right combination of tread pattern, lug depth, lug-to-void ratio, and construction might just unlock the otherwise underutilized potential of that old tractor.
Better Torque Transfer
It’s not just tractors that have improved over the years—tires have, too. Making a simple switch from bias-ply tires to radials can help you make up the horsepower gap between the tractor you dream of and the tractor in your equipment shed. The sidewall of a radial tire flexes more than that of a bias-ply tire at the same load and pressure and also requires less air pressure to carry the same load. These two factors result in radial tires having a larger contact area on the ground, which enhances traction—and therefore the torque transmission. Radial tractor tires also have lower rolling resistance than bias-ply tractor tires. The combination of lower rolling resistance and better traction result in higher fuel efficiency for a tractor running on radial tires compared to bias-ply tires.
Increased Load Capacity
If a new tractor capable of pulling heavier implements and loads isn’t in the cards this year, you can improve your current machine’s capacity with high-tech VF tires. VF tires, like our steel-belted Alliance AgriFlex+ 354, can carry up to 40% more load than a conventional radial tire while operating at the same inflation pressure. VF tires can also carry the same load as a standard radial while operating at 40% less inflation pressure, which allows tires to put a wide footprint on the ground and helps ensure the efficient use of horsepower while minimizing soil compaction.
Better ergonomics, air-conditioned cabs, huge monitors, smartphone integration—it seems like every year tractors improve the operator experience. While tires can’t improve connectivity or allow farmers to watch Netflix during planting, they can significantly improve the ride quality of a tractor. The flexible and independently operating sidewalls of radial tires absorb bumps and provide a less-jarring ride than bias-ply tires, which goes a long way to improving the comfort of your tractor. The smoother ride also reduces wear and tear on the machine, which is extra important on aging equipment.
Tire Inflation for Improved Equipment Performance
Operating tires at their optimal inflation pressure is one of the best ways to maximize machine performance and minimize its impact on sensitive farmland. From high-tech to low-tech solutions, there are a variety of ways farmers can increase the performance of older equipment.
Central Tire Inflation Systems (CTIS)
CTIS allows operators to make adjustments to tire pressure without leaving the cab of their tractor and is a great investment for those looking to upgrade their farm equipment. With the ability to simply and easily adjust tire pressure for speed and load—for example, increasing tire pressure for traveling at high speeds on the road and lowering pressure when working in the field—CTIS leads to improved traction, increased fuel efficiency, and reduced soil compaction. CTIS isn’t as expensive as people think, and a few years of added tire life can pay for a unit.
Regularly Checking Tire Pressure
Even if a CTIS system isn’t in the budget, managing tire pressure is an easy way to improve the performance of farm equipment. It can also extend the service life of tires, which will come in handy when purchasing a new machine later on. Operating either overinflated or underinflated tires at best shortens their life span and at worst can lead to tire failure.
Yokohama Off-Highway Tires America, Inc. offers a wide variety of tires specifically engineered to meet the needs of today’s farmers. From steel-belted radials to all-steel VF tires to compaction-reducing flotation tires, our Alliance brand has a tire to meet your needs. Contact your local dealer or rep today to learn more about how our tires can benefit your operation.