To buy new or retread, making the right tire choice

 When it comes time to replace tires, whether they are on the tractor or the trailer, more fleets are turning to retreads as a cost-effective alternative to new tires. ( Photo: Truckstockimages.com )

When it comes time to replace tires, whether they are on the tractor or the trailer, more fleets are turning to retreads as a cost-effective alternative to new tires. (Photo: Truckstockimages.com)

The cost of outfitting a tractor-trailer with new, premium tires runs into the thousands of dollars. For those that don’t want to shell out that kind of money, they are generally a couple of options – choose an “off-brand” tire; purchase a lower-quality name brand; or buy retreads.

For some, the lower-quality name brand is an attractive option and can save some money in the short term. While these brands are not the same as top names such as Michelin, Bridgestone or Goodyear, they do provide performance that justifies their cost. Wear, though, can be a concern and that initial savings can disappear quickly if you find yourself replacing tires at a much faster rate.

Thanks to technology, though, retreads are now a viable and quality product choice for many, at a reduced cost, perhaps as much as 30% to 50% cheaper, according to the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau. The other good news on retreads? In recent years, most of the major brands have advanced their processes to produce retreads that closely match their original tires and come with warranty programs to boot.

The University of Michigan (UM) conducted a study on retreads and found that retreads are no more dangerous than new tires. In fact, the study determined that fewer than 1% of all truck crashes involved tire failure.

When a tire wears down, it is usually the tire rubber that thins and the casing is unaffected, UM found. That means the casing can be retreaded with new rubber attached to it. The study found that the top three reasons for tire casings being removed from service at truck stops were road hazards (32%), maintenance/operational factors (30%), and over-deflected operation (14%). In fact, UM said that tire maintenance has large impact on tire failure with road hazards (39%) and excessive heat (30%) resulting in more than two-thirds of all tire failures.

These are just a few of the reasons that retreads are now a critical part of many fleets’ tire management programs, and why even smaller fleets and owner-operators can benefit.

You may hear terms such as retread, recap, remould or remanufactured tossed around at truck stops. Is there a difference in these? According to the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau (TRIB), the answer is no. They are just various names for the same things, which is the process of adding new tread to a casing.

When considering a retread, though, TRIB says timing is the most important consideration. Waiting until your tire tread depth gets down to 2/32 in. will generally make the tire unsuitable for retreading. A tire should be retreaded before it reaches 4/32 in. of tread depth. The group also says to avoid casing damage which will prevent retreading. Do this by paying attention to air pressure and tire maintenance, don’t overload the tire, use the proper tires for the application and ensure vehicle alignment and front tire balancing. In essence, follow the UM studies’ recommendations of proper tire maintenance.

And most importantly, TRIB says to choose a quality retreader. Retreading is a manufacturing process, the group notes, and varies by company, so before choosing a retread, it’s a good idea to understand the process the company uses and even visit the retread factory to see for yourself.

Many of the major tire manufacturers now offer retreads, including Michelin, Goodyear and Bridgestone. TRIB offers an online searchable database of retreaders you can find here.

Michelin points out that retreads are an environmentally friendly choice and extend the life of original casings, in some cases several times. The company says its premium casings can be retreaded “multiple times” and feature dual-compound treads, matrix siping technology and fuel-efficient compounds – many of the same features available in Michelin’s new tires. Some retreads are also certified as SmartWay Verified products for fleets that require those to meet shipper contracts.

Goodyear also has a line of retreads, its UniCircle products. UniCircle retreads feature no splicing or cutting to provide high traction and performance, the company notes. In a testimonial on its website, Kevin Christianson, operations manager for Pacific Gas & Electric, says that UniCircle retreads have helped his fleet reduce operating costs by 50%.

Goodyear offers UniCircle retreads for many of its original products, providing fleets options for applications such as long haul, regional/urban, and mixed service. The company also offers a program called GTRACS that helps monitor the performance of its retreads. GTRACS is part of the company’s Fleet HQ service, which provides 24/7 assistance, fleet reporting, retread management, dealer locator and advanced tire tracking performance reports.

Bridgestone offers retread tires through its Bandag brand. With over 1,700 locations, Bandag dealers are readily available and all Bandag retreads are backed by a Bridgestone Enhanced Casing Warranty. Bridgestone-brand tires offer a limited warranty that covers casings for seven years and unlimited retreading when retreaded with the Bandag process.