4) Torque Wrench
Who hasn't seen a tire guy whaling away on wheel lug nuts with a big 1-inch impact wrench? Sure, it gets the nut on tight, but how tight is anybody's guess.
Too tight and it can stretch the stud and damage the nut. Not tight enough and the nut could easily come off, along with the other nine nuts and your wheel. Nobody wants a wheel-off incident, but a surprising number of small operators court disaster everyday by not using the proper tool to install truck wheels, namely, a calibrated torque wrench.
The Technology & Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations, the Tire and Rim Association, and several other groups have specific torque requirements for wheel fastening hardware. You can't even get into the ballpark with a conventional impact wrench. Impact wrenches are fine for running the nuts onto the studs and getting the wheel centered on the hub pilots, but that's as far as their usefulness goes. The final couple of turns on the nut should be made with a calibrated torque wrench.
5) The Instructions
Many males have this thing about instructions. Here, a good case can be made for making sure your tire technician -- who in some really small fleets may also be the dispatcher and recruiter -- has been trained and certified in truck tire and wheel installation. In fact, it's required under regulation. As a fleet owner, you'll be under the microscope if the company is involved in a wheel-related failure, so training certificates and proper policy and procedures manuals are vital.
These are available from TMC, OSHA, the Rubber Manufacturers Association and other organizations as well as private sector suppliers such as J.J. Keller & Associates.
Because it's relatively easy to get a tire off and back onto a truck, doing it yourself can seem like an easy to save a few bucks on a professional service call. But don't kid yourself. Having the right tools is just the beginning.
Tooling a shop and certifying technicians for tire work can be an expensive undertaking. Couple that with the difficulty finding trained technicians, as well as the liability inherent with tire service, it's easier to see why many fleets opt to outsource their tire work.
Southeastern Freight Lines' tire manager, Harold Black, says his technicians do no repairs or tire breakdown work -- it's all outsourced.
"Our technicians are responsible only for airing up tires that are not flat, for conducting inspections, and removing and installing tires on vehicles," Black says. "We have a policy requiring any tire that is less than 80-percent inflated -- for us, this is 80 PSI -- to be removed from the vehicle and sent to our vendor for inspection, evaluation and possible repair."
Black says his technicians will do only the odd bead-seating job in the shop, but he still has to have all the prescribed safety equipment.
Just remember before you start, there's a reason the pros charge real money for the service. You can do it yourself, but make sure you have the right tools before you start.