Wearable items are the single leading cause of forklift downtime with wheels at the forefront. Choosing the proper wheels for your application is paramount to maintaining your forklifts and keeping your business profitable.
Two major types of wheels exist depending on the forklift being utilized. Three or four wheel sit down forklifts generally use rubber tires due to higher operating speeds, dock loading, and outdoor applications. Electric forklifts on the other hand, generally make use of polyurethane wheels.
When trying to decide what wheels to put on your forklifts, a proper analysis of the type of work performed as well as examining wheel failures will provide the answers you need. A proper analysis should include hours per day of operation, speed, load, service temperature, length of run, floor conditions, housekeeping and wheel maintenance. The durometer or “hardness” of a tire will also be a key determining factor in selecting the proper wheels.
Heat is the biggest enemy of polyurethane wheels. If your application involves long run times at high speeds with heavy loads, choose a hard compound to dissipate heat buildup more quickly. Rough floors and dock loading are other common reasons for high failure rates. In this situation a tire with a high tear resistance would be more important. Either the hardest or the softest durometers are both capable of resisting tears, but the softer tire has the added benefit of absorbing bumps resulting in less operator fatigue.
Safety also plays a large role in the selection process. No matter how long a tire may last, it doesn’t count for much if it cannot grip the floor during turns or abrupt stops. Wet conditions that tended to favor rubber tires with a shorter life expectancy have given way to soft siped or grooved polyurethane drive tires which have a greater ability to grip the floor over standard polyurethane tires.
As you can see, a “cure all” wheel to cover every aspect of warehouse operations is impossible, but grouping truck applications can ensure that the proper tires are being fitted to the task. Making a sound business decision that will benefit your fleet is a daunting task given all the options to choose from. However, maximizing tire life will lead to lowered operating costs, higher production volume, and a fleet of forklifts able to perform to the best of its ability.
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