Pneumatic Tires: An In-Depth Look at Their Role in Construction
The type of tire you have on your construction vehicle directly affects the environments for which they are best suited. This is especially true for forklifts which come equipped with either air-filled pneumatic or cushion tires. Most construction equipment have foam-filled pneumatic tires which are a middle ground between cushion tires and air-filled tires.
In this blog, we will cover what pneumatic tires are, the pros and cons of each, and when to pick each one.
What Are Pneumatic Tires?
Pneumatic tires are used across every industry including construction and the everyday commercial car. They have many benefits not limited to shock absorption, cushioning, traction, and load distribution. This makes them great for outdoor terrains like roads, lumber yards, construction sites, and warehouses.
There are two types of pneumatic tires: solid and air. Solid pneumatic tires, also called foam-filled tires, are made of solid rubber and are more puncture-proof. Air pneumatic tires are filled with air. The type of pneumatic tire you use will depend on whether there are sharp objects on the terrain on site.
Air pneumatic tires are great for off-road, asphalt, and gravel terrains because of the traction they provide. The rubber is more flexible in the air tires, allowing for more slack in the tire, which increases their grip. This makes them ideal for wet or slippery conditions. Pneumatic tires are also used on some road rollers to compact asphalt.
Are Pneumatic Tires the Same as Air Tires?
Pneumatic simply means that it is operated with gas or air under pressure. As you fill most of the daily tires with air, they would be pneumatic by definition. At least in the sense that tires for bicycles and commercial vehicles are also filled with pneumatic air. However, you won't see solid pneumatic tires on a commercial car.
Pneumatic vs Cushion Tires
Solid pneumatic tires are designed for forklifts in outdoor uses including lumber yards, construction sites, and shipping ports. Because they're at less risk of being punctured, they can handle these rougher projects. But the solid pneumatic tires might not be as comfortable as the air tires.
Air pneumatic tires are more comfortable but also more likely to be punctured which is why they should be used on flatter surfaces. However, they have great shock absorption and can be repaired with patches, which might be more affordable than getting a new tire.
The other kind of tire that you will often see in construction applications is the cushion tire. These are usually made of solid rubber or filled with foam, making them more resilient to punctures. Cushion tires are less expensive to maintain, but aren't as good on wet or slippery terrains because of their worse traction. Ideally, they are only going to be used for indoor applications because they have a small turning radius.
What is the Difference Between Rubber and Pneumatic Wheels?
As most equipment tires are made from rubber, the differences depend on whether or not the tire is solid rubber or filled with air. Solid rubber tires, for example, have less risk of going flat. While they can get marked up, it will take much more than a nail to render the tire useless. This makes solid tires better for terrains with sharp objects. However, solid rubber tires have worse shock absorption and traction.
Air-filled pneumatic tires are commonly used on forklifts, wheelbarrows, and bicycles and have rubber external protection, but have air inside. This makes them extremely susceptible to punctures and can become unusable after one puncture, meaning they have to be replaced more often. Despite these negatives, air-filled tires have better shock absorption, are lighter, and are more comfortable.
What are the Pros and Cons of Pneumatic Tires?
We've covered many of the pros and cons above, but here's a listed breakdown.
Pros of Air Pneumatic Tires
Noise Reduction: Because of the softer treads and slack in the tires, they are often much quieter.
Shock Absorption: When working on bumpy projects with no risk of punctures, they provide a much smoother ride than solid rubber tires.
Better Traction: Able to perform in wet, slippery, and bumpy environments, these tires provide amazing traction and can be used indoors, outdoors, and off-road.
Don't Damage the Ground: Because they are softer, it protects the floor from damage and scratches.
Cons of Air Pneumatic Tires
Less Maneuverability: The softer tires can make it harder to turn in a small radius.
Tire Maintenance: Because they are filled with air, you have to check the tire pressure constantly.
Easy to Puncture: If there are lots of sharp objects it will be extremely easy to puncture the tire. While it may be cheaper to replace these tires, you may have to replace them more often.
Pros of Solid Pneumatic Tires
Maneuverable: Solid tires are more solid, making them easier to turn in a small radius. This makes them better for indoor uses and tight spaces.
Durable: They are less likely to puncture and be damaged on the job.
Cons of Solid Pneumatic Tires
Costly to Replace: They are less prone to damage but more expensive to replace compared to air-filled tires.
Shock Absorption: Because they are firmer, they do not handle rough-terrain jobs nearly as well, making them better for indoor projects.
Pneumatic Tires in Construction
The main way pneumatic tires are utilized in construction is on forklifts which are either cushioned or pneumatic. They also are standard on most tractors. They were once common on skid steers and loaders but were inefficient due to sharp objects at job sites. Most other tires on boom lifts and large wheel loaders are also foam-filled pneumatic tires.
Foam-filled tires are more likely to be used on projects like quarries, mines, demolition, and general construction sites. Air-filled pneumatic tires are more frequently used on landscaping or snow removal projects.
Considerations When Choosing Pneumatic Tires
The environment is the most important factor in choosing between air-filled tires or solid tires. If you're working on flat, outdoor terrains with little risk of sharp objects, then using air-filled tires is the best. If you're planning on operating equipment in rougher terrain, you will want solid tires that have less risk of being punctured.
How Do You Fill Pneumatic Tires?
Regular maintenance of pneumatic tires is very important. As they are easy to puncture, there may be small holes that find their way into the tires at any time. Keeping an eye on air pressure as an operator is vital to the machine's performance.
If tire pressure is decreasing quickly, you may leak. You can either patch these yourself or replace the tire fully. Otherwise, if the air in the tire is decreasing at a normal pace, you can simply fill the tire with pressurized air as you would with your car or bicycle.