Ultimate Guide to Forklift Tires [The Secret to a Productive Forklift]

Forklift tires aren't all black, round and created equal. They can be expensive, blow out at the worst time, and cause downtime. However, when properly maintained, your forklift tires can reduce fuel consumption, increase safety in the workplace and improve productivity. Our comprehensive forklift tire guide – compiled by our tire specialists – will help you keep your forklift productive. It all starts with the tires.

We’ll cover everything from understanding basic tire types to getting the maximum life out of your tires. If you’re looking for cost-reduction recommendations, we have that, too. Let’s get started!

 

Forklift Tire Types

Forklift Tire Comparison Charts

Components of Your Forklift Tire

How to Choose the Right Forklift Tires

Getting the Most Out of Your Forklift Tires

Replacing Your Forklift Tires

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Forklift Tire Types

Chances are, you've dealt with forklift tires before. But if you're new to forklifts, or just want to learn more about forklift tire types, you're in the right place.

There are several different types of forklift tires. Each has their own benefits, each is suited to different work environments and, usually, your forklift is designed with a specific tire in mind.

Non-Marking Smooth Cushion Tire

Cushion/Press-On Tires

Cushion tires (also known as press-on tires) are made of solid rubber molded to a steel band. The rubber can either be traction or smooth. These tires are very durable and are best suited for indoor or light outdoor use on smooth surfaces.

Read: The Advantages of Cushion Tire Forklifts

Polyurethane Tires

Polyurethane Tires

Polyurethane tires are lightweight and more resistant to splitting, tearing or chunking out under a load than rubber tires. They combine good traction with low-rolling resistance. Polyurethane tires generally experience about twice the lifespan of rubber tires and should be used indoors only for light applications like warehousing.

These tires will wear more easily in a heavy usage indoor environment so consider cushion tires if your application requires high usage.

Solid Pneumatic Forklift Tire

Solid Pneumatic Forklift Tires

Solid pneumatic tires are made out of solid rubber. These tires are very durable and can’t be punctured or deflated, which makes them ideal for industries with sharp debris like recycling centers or lumberyards.

Read: What Are Pneumatic Tires and Why are They Used For Outdoor Applications

Pneumatic Forklift Tire

Pneumatic Tires

Pneumatic tires are similar to a car tire. They are made of traction rubber and filled with compressed air. Some companies fill their pneumatic tires with foam to avoid the upfront cost of solid pneumatic tires.

Although less costly, we don't recommend filling pneumatic tires with foam because it increases pressure on the casing, making it less sustainable long term. Pneumatic tires are used indoors and outdoors when the work area is free of sharp objects.

Non-Marking Cushion Forklift Tire

Non-Marking Forklift Tires

Non-marking tires are made with hydrated silicas and special additives for eliminating black marks on floors. They are available for pneumatic, solid pneumatic and cushion tires. These tires have a short life span and are prone to cause static electricity, which means they require an anti-static strip on the forklift.

Forklift Tire Comparison Charts

Each forklift tire type has their own benefits and drawbacks. The ideal tire for you depends on where you'll be using the forklift, how long you need the tires to last, and what you're willing to pay. See the comparison charts below to get a snapshot of each tire type.

Pneumatic vs. Solid Pneumatic Tires

Tire TypeIndoorLight OutdoorRough-Terrain OutdoorDebris in Work AreaLifespanDurabilityCost
PneumaticXXMediumMedium$
Solid PneumaticXXLongHigh$$

Cushion vs. Polyuerthane Tires

Tire TypeIndoorLight OutdoorRough-Terrain OutdoorDebris in Work AreaLifespanDurabilityCost
CushionXXMediumHigh$
PolyurethaneXXXLongHigh$$

These comparison charts are based on general data. Lifespan, durability and cost will depend on the application, operator and usage.

Forklift Tire Components

Whether you're the forklift operator or the plant manager. Having a basic understanding of forklift tires is essential to staying productive and efficient. The basic components of your forklift tires are:

  • Sidewall - shows important tire information like the tire brand, size, tire type, and wear line
  • Tread - raised rubber that comes in contact with the ground 
  • Rim - metal portion of the wheel that holds the tire in place

Reading Forklift Tires Sizes

Your tire’s size is often indicated on the sidewall of the tire. These measurements refer to the outer diameter, width and the rim diameter.

Check your forklift’s manual and with your local dealer for appropriate tire sizes. Generally, your forklift will have a recommended size, but you can purchase a different size, within reason, depending on your preference and application.

Forklift Tire Dimensions

How to Choose the Right Forklift Tires

Take into consideration your application, forklift and work environment when choosing a tire type. Your forklift’s wheels and frame are generally designed for a specific tire type (usually pneumatic or cushion), so it is best to verify with your local dealer and your forklift’s manual if you want to go with a different tire type than what is recommended. You’ll often be able to switch from smooth cushion to traction cushion, or pneumatic to solid pneumatic tires, but it is rare you can go from a cushion tire to a pneumatic tire and vice versa.

When it comes time to replace the tires, ensure both sides of the forklift are the same tire type. The front and back tires can differ, but both front tires and both back tires must be the same type. For example, you can’t have a smooth cushion tire on the front right and a traction cushion tire on the front left. Instead you'd have two smooth cushion tires in the front and two traction cushion tires in the back.

Application Recommendations

Different applications require different forklifts, and therefore different tire types. We've outlined some common applications below with our recommendations. Make sure to check with your forklift dealer to confirm that our recommendations suit your situation.

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Indoor Applications

Indoor applications that have no debris on the floor surface are best suited for cushion tires. In this environment, cushion tires last longer, provide increased maneuverability and improve traction.

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Outdoor & Rough Terrain Applications

Outdoor and rough-terrain applications generally use pneumatic or solid pneumatic tires since they offer better traction and increased stability on uneven, loose terrain.

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Warehouse Applications

Applications, such as warehousing, that frequently use order pickers will often use polyurethane tires. In fact, order pickers almost exclusively use polyurethane tires since they can improve upon the expected battery life of the machine and provide additional stability and traction.

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Cold Environments

Cold environments or environments with consistently wet floors typically use polyurethane tires with micro grips (small, raised dots) or razer sipes (narrow, diagonal grooves) since they provide increased traction and braking ability.

Oil Spills

If your environment experiences standing oil or consistent oil spills, consider using polyurethane tires, which will resist the oil and experience less breakdown.

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Sensitive Applications

Sensitive applications, such as food, paper or printing are often required to use non-marking tires since standard tires contain carbon black. This creates a fine dust particle during use that can cause cross-contamination issues.

Industry Standards

Your industry may also be a deciding factor. Hover over the industries below to see which forklift tires are common in that industry.

Your industry may also be a deciding factor. Check the industries below to see which tire type is common in that industry.

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Solid Pneumatic
Agriculture

Solid Pneumatic

Black Airport Icon
Solid Pneumatic
Airport

Solid Pneumatic

Black Beverage Icon
Polyurethane
Beverage

Polyurethane

Black Brick-Block-Pipe Icon
Solid Pneumatic
Brick, Block & Pipe

Solid Pneumatic

Black Cold Storage Icon
Polyurethane
Cold Storage

Polyurethane

Black Concrete Icon
Solid Pneumatic
Concrete

Solid Pneumatic

Black Distribution Icon
Polyurethane, Cushion
Distribution

Polyurethane, Cushion

Black Factory Icon
Cushion
Factory

Cushion

Black Food-Processing Icon
Non-Marking Cushion, Polyurethane
Food Processing

Non-Marking Cushion, Polyurethane

Black Food Storage Icon
Non-Marking Cushion, Polyurethane
Food Storage

Non-Marking Cushion, Polyurethane

Black Forging-Casting Icon
Solid Pneumatic
Forging & Casting

Solid Pneumatic

Black General Manufacturing Icon
Cushion
General Manufacturing

Cushion

Black Warehousing Icon
Cushion
General Warehousing

Cushion

Black Intermodal-Port Icon
Solid Pneumatic
Intermodal & Port

Solid Pneumatic

Black Lumber Icon
Solid Pneumatic
Lumber

Solid Pneumatic

Black Mining Icon
Solid Pneumatic
Mining

Solid Pneumatic

Black Oil-Gas Icon
Solid Pneumatic
Oil & Gas

Solid Pneumatic

Black Paper Icon
Non-Marking Cushion, Polyurethane
Paper

Non-Marking Cushion, Polyurethane

Black Rail-Yard Icon
Solid Pneumatic
Rail Yard

Solid Pneumatic

Black Retail Icon
Cushion
Retail

Cushion

Black Shipping-Container Icon
Solid Pneumatic
Shipping Containers

Solid Pneumatic

Black Steel_Metal Icon
Solid Pneumatic
Steel & Metal

Solid Pneumatic

These industry standards may change depending on the specific work environment and the application. Check with your forklift tire dealer to confirm the best option for your situation.

Getting the Most Out of Your Forklift Tires

A tire in good condition will increase your forklift’s efficiency, improve productivity and reduce operator fatigue. Plus, getting the most out of your tire means a better bottom line and a safer workplace. So how can you keep your tires in good condition? It starts with operator education, but it also depends on your tire type and your environment.

Operator Education

Poor operator habits are one of the most influential causes of reduced tire life. These basic reminders for operators can increase safety in the workplace and improve the life of the tire.

Operators Should Not
  • Spin the tires
  • Overload the vehicle
  • Run over debris
Operators Should Avoid
  • Quick starts
  • Quick stops
  • Excessive speed
  • Sharp, aggressive cornering

Air Pressure

You should check the air pressure on your pneumatic tires before each use. If that isn’t possible, checking daily should be the goal. You can find the recommended PSI on the sidewall of the tire.

Tire air pressure needs to be checked often because air pressure fluctuates with increasing and decreasing temperatures. Higher temperatures increase air pressure, and lower temperatures decrease air pressure. This is not just a seasonal concern but a year-round responsibility as temperature can change drastically in a very short period of time.

Why does air pressure matter? Under-inflated tires lead to poor traction, which can cause accidents. Over-inflated tires can cause a blowout, which causes downtime and profit loss. Checking tire air pressure is an easy way to avoid more serious problems that reduce productivity.

Winter

Along with the snow and ice, winter brings challenges when it comes to forklift tires. Reduced traction and slippery conditions are dangerous for your operators and present a risk to your loads.

If you're operating outside in winter we typically recommend switching from solid pneumatic tires to pneumatic. Their improved flex, allows the tire to grip the ground more easily. Traction is the name of the game during the winter months.

There are plenty of other ways to take care of your forklift tires in winter. Read more on winter forklift tires.

Replacing Your Forklift Tires

Not replacing forklift tires at the appropriate time can lead to reduced fuel efficiency but that isn't the worst of it. Tires in poor condition cause operator fatigue, which leads to mistakes and can be dangerous for others in the area. Extensive damage can also be done to your equipment if the tires aren't replaced in time.

Regular Forklift Tire Inspections

Regularly inspect your forklift tires to check for wear and damage. Your operators should include this in their pre-operation inspections. They'll be able to catch issues before they become a serious problem which is good for their safety and your bottom line.

Read up on forklift wear, damage, and get tips for each tire type in When's the Best Time to Replace Your Forklift Tires.

Reducing Cushion Tire Replacement Costs

Replacing your cushion tires can be costly. Though it's a necessary expense, there are a few ways you can reduce your costs.

Choose Smooth Over Traction

When possible, use smooth cushion tires rather than traction tires. This switch can increase the consumable rubber by 7-12%. Plus, you’ll experience increased traction as long as water or other liquid debris is not present.

Get High Rubber Resilience Tires

Tires with high rubber resilience benefit from low-rolling resistance. Switching to these tires can typically reduce fuel consumption in LP gas forklifts by up to 15% and extend the working hours between charges for electrics.

Upsize Your Tires

Upsizing your tires can provide several benefits including:

• Longer tire life
• Increased traction
• Increased stability
• Increased shock absorption

You'll also experience cooler running tires. Plus, your load carrying capacity will increase as the weight is spread out along the tire. On average, increasing tire size by one inch translates to 800 pounds in additional load carrying capacity.

Reducing Pneumatic Tire Replacement Costs

We often recommend switching from pneumatic to solid pneumatic tires. This does not necessarily apply to winter conditions. However, in many situations replacing your pneumatic tires with solid pneumatic tires can:

• Improve tire life by two to three times
• Increase stability
• Reduce downtime (no flats)

Before making these changes, verify with your tire dealer that your equipment, facility and application will see these benefits.

From basic tire components and choosing your forklift tires to getting the most out of your tires and reducing your costs, by now you should be a forklift tire expert. If you still have questions or want advice on your unique situation, talk to our forklift tire specialists.

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