September 2013, TruckingInfo.com - Feature
Wide-base tires aren’t cheap. Not that duals are cheaper, but in a single wide-base tire you have an investment approaching the cost of a pair of standard tires.
Most fleets could get a good trailer tire out of a third-generation retreaded tire.
Minimizing the life-cycle cost of those big wide tires almost demands that they be retreaded. Even though the market for wide-base casings remains tight, there’s better value in retreading than turning them in for credit after just one service life.
The same ROI calculations apply to standard tires as wide-base tires, but the numbers are bigger. If you can get two lives from a tire and a retread, it’s ultimately better value than buying two new tires over the same time and mileage.
There’s little difference in retreading a wide-base tire, provided the retreading shop has the tools to accommodate them.
“Obviously with the wider tires, some of the machine settings change and the larger tires are a little more difficult to handle, but the general retreading steps are the same,” says Matt Schnedler, retread product marketing manager for Bridgestone Commercial Solutions.
However, he notes that not all retreaders can handle wide-base tires. “It does take equipment such as buffers and hubs/rims that can be set up to handle the wider tires. This equipment is readily available, but not all retreaders have the equipment installed in their facilities.”
One facility that does is DLS Retreading in Fort Mill, S.C. The recently opened, 70,000-square-foot facility is the first all-new ContiTread licensed truck tire retreading facility in the U.S.
Brian Luhrs, the shop manager at DLS, says the most critical piece of equipment is the buffing machine. In days gone by, experienced operators could buff a tire down by hand and do a very respectable job. Luhrs, a veteran machine operator, says newer machines offer an even more precise buff and are easier to set up if they have all the settings in a pre-programmed menu.
More retreaders are taking on wide-single tires, but they aren’t universally available.
“The type of buffing machine can make a difference to how well the tread goes on, and the evenness of the stitch,” he says. “Obviously the newer the machine the more technology they offer, like more precise measuring, that sort of thing. That’s critical with a buffer. More accurate measurements get you a better fit and it takes the guesswork out of the job.”
Given the costs involved with the wide-base casings and treads, Paul Crehan, director of product marketing with Michelin Truck Tires, advises fleets to use care when selecting a retreader to handle their assets.
“The retreader should be reputable, trained, have experience with wide-base retreads and casings and be focused on quality,” he says. “As well, fleets that are new to wide-base tires should recognize the importance of training the staff and remaining current with the training. These retreads are obviously larger, heavier and represent twice the value of a dual.”
A successful retread program, for any type of tire, starts with casing preservation. If you want a quality retread, you have to start with a quality casing. That means one that has not been run flat, abused or improperly repaired. All the experts we spoke to for this story agree that wide-base tires do not require anything different or out of the ordinary when it comes to tire maintenance, but they all say extra diligence pays off.
“Although there are not specific recommendations for these tires, the same considerations for retreading standard tires should be taken into consideration on wide-base tires,” Schnedler says. “Fleet specs such as removal depth and number of repairs are specific to each fleet and change depending upon the application and should be set as part of the retreading program.”
As Michelin’s Crehan points out, there are specific tire management procedures, which need to be addressed whether retreading wide-base or standard tires. Each has specific tire maintenance procedures for the casings.
“Tire related failures can be proactively avoided with a tire pressure management program,” Crehan notes. “Roadside events can be prevented. A tire management system will alert the driver to any concerns prior to a failure and eliminate potential events, thus protecting the fleet’s tire and casing assets.”
An important part of any tire maintenance program is the decision on what tread depth to pull the tire, whether new or retreaded. Maximizing miles out of a tread demands leaving the tire in service as long as possible, but running the treads down too thin increases the chance of casing damage due to penetrations or stone drilling.
Considering the up-front cost of wide-single tires and the value in a prime casing, leaving an extra 32nd of an inch of rubber on the casing is a bit of insurance against casing damage.
Modern machines have tighter tolerances and can buff right down to the millimeter to get the best tread fit.
“The policies a fleet adopts should address their specific use, delivery range and type, type of roads traveled, climatic zone, time sensitivity of the loads, local, and extra wear versus casing balance,” says Crehan.
Wide-base retreading is still relatively new – less than a decade – and wide-base tires are still a fairly small chunk of the tire market, so it’s not surprising that many fleets do handle wide-base retreading differently.
“Fleets tend to be more reserved when retreading wide-base tires,” says Todd Labbe, general manager for Commercial Retreading at Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems. “Our team works with fleets to implement tighter repair and retread specifications into Goodyear’s GTRACS system if these fleets are not using wide-base tires that contain our DuraSeal Technology.”
DuraSeal can seal punctures of up to 1/4-inch in diameter in the repairable area of a tire’s tread, which can dramatically reduce the frequency of puncture-related pressure loss incidents. That buys fleets an extra measure of confidence in their casing quality.
The number of retreads a fleet can expect from a wide-single casing depends on the application and a few other factors, but there’s no reason to assume any less than two – usually a drive retread and then a trailer retread.
“Wide-base casings can be retreaded for multiple lifecycles, provided that the casings pass initial inspection and meet customer specifications,” Labbe says. “Currently, we are seeing fleets retread wide-base tires once or twice in some applications in order to help minimize their tire cost per mile.”
Back when wide-base single tires were new to the market, Luhrs recalls some sidewall problems that led to a number of casing failures. “Everybody thought it was the retreads that were failing but it was the sidewall of the casing,” he says. “That’s no longer a concern, but the memories linger.”
High-quality wide-base casings are able to be retreaded several times, so the original casing’s quality should factor in the decision when selecting the right new tire, Labbe says.
“At the end of the day, each fleet will have its own specific requirements of what it is looking for in a retread,” he says. “It depends on the fleet’s type of operation, casing management, turnaround time, availability of the necessary product, level of dealer service and the fleet’s geographic location.”
Unless you’re based in some part of the country where wide-base tires aren’t popular and you don’t have the dealer support, retreading the big tires is a very viable option. Don’t, however, expect to find many retreaded wide-single tires just floating around in the open market. Schnedler says the casings are in pretty short supply.
“The fleets that use the WBS tires try to get the most of their casing assets and retread them,” he says. That doesn’t leave too many out on the open market.”