Taking time to tend to tractor tires could pay off at the diesel pump and in the field. George Ronai of Alliance Tire shares these simple, performance-boosting tips.

Check load.

Consider the weight of the tractor, fuel and contents of saddle tanks to make sure the load on front and rear axles is balanced. Poor balance can lead to “power hop,” which wastes fuel and horsepower and increases tire wear. If necessary, adjust the ballast on the tractor. In general, ballast should be at the front of the tractor if front and rear tire sizes are different, and on both axles if the front and rear tire sizes are the same. Adjust inflation pressure to achieve the proper stiffness to meet load requirements.

Use low pressure for tillage.

For regular tillage, inflate tires to the lowest pressure recommended for the load. Lower inflation allows a larger footprint, reducing sinking and motion resistance. Don't underinflate though, because tires with too little pressure can become unstable, resulting in poor handling and tire damage.

Use high pressure for the road.

On hard surfaces and at higher speeds, maintain drive wheel inflation at 20 psi. Check your tire manufacturer's catalog for proper inflation pressure.

If you don't have a tire gauge handy, you can use a scientific version of the “eyeball” method. Measure the height of the tire from tread to rim at the bottom of the tire, then do the same measurement at the top of the tire. Dividing the bottom measurement by the top one should yield a value between 0.20 and 0.25.

Check wear.

Old, worn lugs tend to slip more. New tires could revitalize a tractor for far less than the cost of newer or bigger equipment.

Go radial.

Radial tires create a bigger footprint than bias-ply tires and distribute torque more uniformly over the tire circumference. This can mean up to 20% less motion resistance, 26% less slip and 33% higher drawbar pull. Studies comparing radial and bias tires show a fuel savings of up to 16% with radials versus bias-ply tires.