Proper tire pressure saves fuel and time

Inflating tractor tires properly is a quick and easy way to save fuel and time during field operations.

With diesel fuel prices hovering above $4 per gallon and weather-related planting delays, producers are looking for ways to improve tractor performance and fuel efficiency. One of the quickest and easiest ways to accomplish this is to inflate radial tires to the lowest recommended pressure for the load they carry.

A survey conducted in Oklahoma found that only 45 percent of the tractor tires were within the recommended tire inflation ranges. The benefits of proper tire inflation are clearly depicted in Photo 1. This photograph was taken during a field demonstration at MSU’s Ag Expo where identical tractors were hitched with a cable and pulley system to a third tractor pulling a high-draft tillage tool. The front tractor with properly inflated tires consistently performed better than the trailing tractor with slightly over inflated tires. The tractor with the properly inflated tires will consume less fuel and perform field operations in less time.

 Tire inflation demonstration at MSU’s Ag Expo.
Photo 1. Tire inflation demonstration at MSU’s Ag Expo. Photo credit: Tim Harrigan, MSUE

Tire inflation recommendations

Weigh each axle after the tractor has been properly ballasted. If fully mounted equipment will be transported, weigh the rear axle with the equipment in the raised position. If liquid manure tanks or grain carts will be towed, add the loaded tongue weight of the equipment to the rear axle weight. Manufacturers can provide this information. Determine the weight carried per tire by dividing the axle weight by the number of tires. 

Use load and inflation tables available from the tire manufacturer and inflate tires to the lowest recommended pressure for the weight carried per tire. Adjust inflation pressures whenever axle loads change. 

Use a high quality tire gauge that is easy to read, accurate, consistent and graduated in at least one psi increments. Gauges designed for use on ATV tires are recommended. Digital, pencil and dial gauges will all work, however, dial gauges tend to be the most easily damaged when dropped. 

Check the inflation pressure often and when the tires are cold, preferably in the morning. Gauge readings can be 1 to 3 psi higher when the tires are warm.

If fluid ballast has been added to the tires, measure inflation pressure with valve stem in the same position for all tires. Pressures at the bottom of the tire can be 1.5 psi higher than at the top.

For optimum performance, set all tires on an axle to the same pressure.

By properly inflating radial tires, you will reduce fuel consumption and finish your field work in less time.

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