solid tire

One of the biggest expenses relating to owning a telehandler are the tires.

The cheapest tire option is air filled, otherwise known as pneumatic.  Besides being the cheapest option air tires have a little give to them which tends to make for a gentler ride.  They also tend to wear well and cosmetically often look better than other types of tires of the same age.  The downside of any air tire is the possibility of getting flats.

Air isn’t always an option.  Some telehandlers require ballast (weight) in order to be safely operated.  If weight is required one solution is liquid ballast.  Traditionally this requirement was filled with liquid calcium which didn’t freeze during cold weather but did cause corrosion inside the wheel.  More recently there are plant based liquids that don’t have the corrosion issues calcium does.  Liquid filled tires still have the give or an air filled tire so tend to ride well and are relatively inexpensive.  Flats are also an issue for tires with liquid ballast and a flat usually means having to refill the ballast as well as the repair of the tire.

The third option is a foam filled tire.  This is basically the same tires as the first options with a type of foam pumped into them.  This foam both adds weight prevents flat tires and because of this is a popular option.  Foam filling does have downsides starting with price.  The foam filling often costs as much or more than the purchase of the tire.  Because the tires are basically solid they ride much harder and without the give of air tires they tend to have chunks break off over time when they hit a hard curb or other object.  This means that even relatively new foam tires can cosmetically look rough.  A final weakness for foam tires is along with pneumatic tires they’re vulnerable to sidewall cuts.  If the operator damages the sidewalls sufficiently the tire will start to fall apart.

The final option is what’s called a solid tire.  Solid a bit of a misnomer in a way.  These tires are molded of solid rubber but they do have voids in them.  These voids allow for some give to let them ride more like an air filled tire.  They also tend to have above average tread depth so will hopefully last longer.  Finally they’re mostly impervious to sidewall slashes meaning not much can hurt them.  Solid tires sound perfect but they are very expensive.  A set can run $10,000 over the cost of the other options.  Also they usually require a different type of wheel so if your telehandler wasn’t previously equipped with solid tires you may also need to purchase wheels.

Like most things there is no simple answer which option to choose.  If your job sites have lots of stray nails and other shop objects foam or solid is likely the way to go.  If you tend to drive long distances and are going to wear out any type of tire quickly regardless maybe it’s better to run air or air with liquid ballast.


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