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Equipment tires.....the flat kind.  RSS feed

 
John Weiland
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Whether electric or petro-powered, it seems many of the smaller or less-expensive yard, garden, and farm items develop flat tires that are difficult to keep inflated.  I guess I'm not sure in most of these cases if this is due to faulty valve cores or leaky beads in the case where one is pretty sure a puncture is not to blame.  Was wondering first what do others do in order to quickly rule out a valve versus bean problem.  Will a standard valve cap stop a leaky valve or is this not a sure-fire diagnosis.  Secondly, does anyone have experience with those "bead sealing" liquid chemical mixes for solving the leaky bead problem....worth trying or not?  The main problems are on riding lawn equipment and walk-behind roto-tillers and snow-blowers.  Thanks for any help or suggestions.
 
Rob Griffin
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Mix a bit of soap and water and put it on the valve, bubbles will tell you if it is leaking.   You can do the same for the bead.  Cap won't stop a valve from leaking.  In the bike dept of Walmart they have a valve tool for removal and tightening.
 
Travis Johnson
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I am pretty sure you are correct; leaky valve stems and bad bead sealing are what causes most tire failures. Fix-a-Flat not only DOES NOT work, but when you take your tire in to get it worked on, they charge you $10 a tire to scrape it back out. Therefore it is best to save the money on the useless can, and money at the tire repair shop, and just not use it.

The key to happy tires on a farm are tubes. Trust me on this, I know this reality well and am not steering you wrong (pun intended).

Whether slamming into rocks in a field that bends the rim, or squatting out when getting a huge load of manure; tires on a farm take some serious abuse. Tubes are nice because they are far more forgiving. Other then being careful not to pinch the tube when remounting the tire, you will be done with your tire repair job by the time you could even figure out where the leak is on a tubeless tire. It is also a lot safer then using WD-40 or starting fluid on tires to get them to seal on the bead too!

If you use calcium cloride for added weight, you will want tubes anyway, and tubes are easy to repair. You can buy a tube patch kit at an autoparts store for $3 and patch 6 punctures with it. When you first do it you will be amazed; how on the earth can something so fast, easy and cheap and still work? I timed it one day and I was able to pull the front tire off my Kubota, break the tire down, pull out the tube, clean the puncture hole, patch it, reseat the tire, and get it back on the tractor in less then 20 minutes. I think the silly thing had 3 patches on it, but had I bought a new tube, it would have only been $16 dollars. A tube for the rear tire on my tractor...$56.

Naturally you will want a good valve core tool that not only inserts the core, but can clean out the threads too. I think mine cost $3 bucks, and I always have spare valve seat cores just in case one needs to be replaced. Another cheap thing to have on hand is an air chuck as they seem to go bad when you need them the most. If you are adding this all up, you can see the cost for having a good repair kit kicking around is less than $20, or put another way, a lot less then what a tire repair shop will charge you for (1) tire fix.

Tubes man...tubes!
 
Travis Johnson
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It is funny the timing on this post, just yesterday I fixed the rear tire on our tractor. We use calcium cloride for added eight since the tractor has a loader on it, anyway the valve stem leaked some and so it rusted out the rim pretty bad. It was bad enough you could see the tube inside the rotted out rim. For fun I got a quote from the Kubota dealer, $2000 per tire to pump out the calcium cloride, break the tire down, replace the rim with a new one, install a new tube, remount the tire, and pump in new calcium cloride.

Instead we did it for $32.

We took out the valve stem core to get the calcium cloride out of the tube, then broke down the tire and removed it from the rim. To fix the rim we simply laid strips of flat bar steel you can get at any hardware store and welded it to the inside of the rim. Using a grinder we ground down any sharp edges from spatter or the weld itself, drilled a new 1/2 inch hole for the valve stem, then reusing the old tube and tire, installed that on the rim. For fresh calcium cloride, we bough some deice melter from the hardware store at $5 a bag, used (2) for the tire and pumped it back in as we blew up the tire. I started at 9 and was done at noon, 3 hours and for $1968 less in cash. At some point we will take bondo and fill in the rust hole you can see on the outside of the rim, sand it smooth and paint it so that the repair is unnoticeable.

I explain all this here just to show that tire repairs can be done yourself and very frugally.

 
John Weiland
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Thanks Thomas and Travis for comments so far.  Truthfully, the biggest problem items for these tire problems for me are the small "under $2000.00" pieces of equipment. So far, I've never had a flat on the Yanmar, John Deere, or Kubota tractors.  I'm sure that will change with time and use.  It's the small equipment that is problematic, probably because cheaper materials are used in the tires that go on cheaper equipment. And most of those tires are tubeless.  Where possible, I've spent the extra money to get non-pneumatic (solid core) tires for some of the smaller tire replacements, but some of them I just keep pumping up until the air inevitably goes out of them, often within a day.  Would there be tubes small enough to fit within a tubeless tire and the just remove the old valve from the hub/rim?  I would be willing to try this since with some of this equipment, the tires are thick enough to prevent most puncturing of the tube, given the low weight that the axles carry.

Just this past spring we sold a Ford 8N (12V converted)....Calcium chloride had really chewed out the rims.  The buyer got a good deal and was mechanically adept as well, so he sent photos not long ago of that tractor nicely restored with new rims, new paint-job and the restored sickle mower that we sold with it.  Always amazed me how long that tractor could sit and still start.

Any opinions at this point:  Tubes or just try bead sealer on the tubeless tire?  I just bought some bead sealer and it's still unopened, so if you think that stuff is a waste of time, I'd consider just returning it.
 
Rob Griffin
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I am not sure what "bead sealer" is.  I worked in a tire shop years ago while in college and I can't recall seeing anything like that.  I agree with Travis, if the bead is leaking put a tube in it, and Fix a flat is crap.   Process is as you described, where you pull the valve stem out and then use the hole for the tube's valve.  As for size...Amazon to the rescue.
 
Travis Johnson
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I have always thought that this tire/rim design would be perfect for farmers, maybe too perfect. But can you imagine this on farm tractors and implements; unlike solid tires it would flex and be fuel effecient, allow for more drawbar pull, yet not be punctured. Imagine this on the rear tires of farm tractors. Perfect!!

BTW: I bought a bulldozer just so I would not always be having tire problems!

 
John Weiland
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@Travis J:  "I bought a bulldozer just so I would not always be having tire problems! "

Wow.....those are some expensive tires! 

Although if you bought the dozer used, it was probably cheaper than a full set of 4 of the "Mattracks" shown below.

Sounds like just buying a tube will not only solve my problem but give me something easier to troubleshoot in the future.  The Tru-Flate Tire Bead sealer turns out to have mixed reviews, so I think I'm just going to return it a put the money towards some new tubes.  First up will be the snowblower for winter, then the lawn/garden stuff in the spring.  Nice tires on the Hummer!  For the flat valley here and generous clay + topsoil, I'm kinda yearning for the days of yore when those tractor wheels were steel and spikey....  

thanks again!
Mattracks.JPG
[Thumbnail for Mattracks.JPG]
 
Travis Johnson
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You my friend are entirely correct. I called Mattracks hoping to fit my tractor with them so that I could have:

Tracks
PTO
Loader
3 Point Hitch

But when they quoted me $39,000 I was a little taken back. I ended up getting a used dozer with brand new tracks for $10,000. I guess the joke was on me though because on a custom hire job shoving down a gravel pit wall to the loaders below, I busted my front idlers. In essence I got two flat tires on my bulldozer! Now isn't that a kick in the teeth! But when you have bulldozers, you have track problems. In the last month alone I have shattered two sets of bulldozer tracks from working on ledge rock, and threw a track on an excavator. Tracks work great when they are working!!

Northern Hydraulics sells a Chinese made bulldozer that has a PTO, 3 point hitch, and a six way blade; all for $20,000, but I am not sure where a person would get parts if it broke. That is the problem with unknown machines. Unfortunately the American heavy equipment makers have opted out of the small dozer market, and so the smallest machine today that can be had is the John Deere 450J at a whopping $105,000. Maybe someday, but until then I am happy with my debt-free dozer.
 
Mike Jay
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I had a friend once who noticed that whenever he looked around his place he'd find a flat tire.  Then he came up with "Steve's Law". 

Your mechanical complications in life are proportional to the number of inflated tires you own. 

At the time he had 88 tires under his care.  That includes spare tires, bicycles, etc.  I think I had 20 at the time.  My current count is 30.  Even if each tire only gets a flat every 15 years, I still have to deal with two flats a year.

My worst offender is a cheap little tire on a pull behind wagon for my garden tractor.
 
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