Is Your Antique Tractor Road-ready For This Year's Parade?What you need to know about tires for your antique tractor
Summer is in full swing, and with the season come ample opportunities for farmers to show off their restored antique tractors. Communities across the country have annual traditions — including parades, tractor rides and fairs — that prompt farmers to shine up their antique tractor and get it out on the road. Before hitting the road, however, it's important to make sure the tires are safe and ready for the pavement.
"Farmers take great pride in their restored tractors, just as an auto enthusiast takes great pride in his restored convertible," says Skip Sagar, sales representative for Titan/Goodyear Farm Tires. "For a lot of these guys, their annual parade or antique tractor ride is the highlight of their summer. The last thing they want on the day of the event is a flat tire. So, it's really important that they take good care of those tires and make sure they're ready to go on the day of the event."
In order to ensure a safe and smooth ride this year, Sagar recommends that antique tractor owners be cognizant of three key issues — proper tire storage, tire maintenance and tire selection.
A well-cared-for tire on an antique tractor has a potential shelf life of 30 or 40 years, and a large part of a tire's ability to live up to that potential is proper storage.
"Rubber is a living and breathing organism, and it naturally evolves and becomes harder over time," says Sagar. "As the rubber becomes harder, the potential for spider cracks increases. The effect of ozone drastically expedites this process, so it's very important to store your tires in an area that isn't exposed to any major sources of ozone emission."
Some of the common sources of ozone include sunlight, fluorescent bulbs and welding machines. So, Sagar recommends limiting antique tractor tires from exposure to all three.
"Sometimes it even helps to leave a nice coat of mud on the tires before putting the tractor in storage. Once the mud dries, it forms a protective barrier that can help limit the effects of ozone," says Sagar.
In addition to limiting the effects of ozone, Sagar recommends a couple of easy steps a farmer can take to ensure the tires stay in good condition while in storage.
"At the end of the year, it never hurts to jack up the tractor and deflate the tires, so as to relieve them from carrying the weight of the tractor while going unused," says Sagar.
"It's also important that tires maintain their flexibility, so if you have time and the weather is nice, it's good to take the tractor out and run it down the road every so often. Doing so is not only good for the engine, but it helps the rubber to remain flexible."
Once summer approaches, and the antique tractor is ready to come out of storage, it's important to go begin with a visual inspection of the tires to spot any noticeable signs of damage.
"Any signs of cracking or uneven wear could be a symptom of a greater underlying problem," says Sagar. "The real test, though, is if the tires are holding air. So, it's important to check inflation pressures and check them often. If you notice a decrease in air pressure over time, that's also a sign that the tire may need to be repaired or replaced."
Upon initial ride, Sagar points out that there are several signs that often point to a problem with the wheels or tires. For instance, if the tractor is pulling hard to the left or right, or if you're experiencing an unusually rough ride, that often points to a problem. When in doubt, Sagar says it's best to consult a certified tire dealer for advice and/or service.
"A lot of times, a tire can appear to be in good shape with no visible cracking or uneven wear, and it can be holding air well, but there can be a problem below the surface," says Sagar. "If you notice a rough ride, that's something you should have looked at by a certified dealer. A lot of times the dealer just needs to ‘true' the wheel and tire. Doing so identifies the high and low spots on both the wheel and the tire. Often, remounting the tire with high and low spots aligned with the wheel will vastly improve the smoothness of the ride. That can definitely help for some of the longer summer tractor rides — like here in Iowa — that go 60 or more miles in a single day."
Lastly, Sagar stresses that there is no maintenance tip more important than maintaining the proper tire inflation pressures. So, before hitting the road on the day of the event, ensure tires are inflated to levels outlined by the Tire and Rim Association (TRA), which should be based on load.
Despite proper storage and maintenance, there comes a time when antique tractor tires simply need to be replaced. Because the tires of yesteryear are much different than modern agricultural tires, you have to know where to look to find the perfect fit for your antique tractor.
"We often point our customers toward specialty dealers, like M.E. Miller in Ohio," says Sagar. They do a great job of stocking hard-to-find tires, not only for tractors, but for all types of rare or antique equipment, including forklifts, trailers, implements and passenger vehicles."
Titan has also been willing to make small batches of tires for antique equipment. This year, the company took it one step further and modified an old mold in order to improve its design.
"This year, we modified an old tire design to include a center rib, which we call Center Rib Comfort Ride — or CRCR technology. With a rib running down the center of the tire, all the lugs are connected, so there's less squirming and more stability. That provides a much smoother ride when compared to those old designs that simply weren't meant for running 60 miles on the road in a single day," says Sagar.
A portion of all proceeds from the CRCR tire sales will benefit the Future Farmers of America (FFA).
Key tire considerations to ensure your antique tractor is road-ready:
- Store tires away from sources of ozone emissions.
- Deflate tires and jack up tractor when not in use.
- Conduct a visual inspection at the beginning of the season.
- Ensure tires are inflated to TRA standards and are maintaining air pressure.
- Engage a certified dealer if any signs point to problems with the tire or wheel.
- Check with your preferred tire manufacturer or a specialty dealer for replacement tires.