Forklift Tires: What You Need To Know

Ever wonder if you’re using the right kind of tires for your forklift? Or wanted to know when a forklift tire needs to be replaced? Today’s post covers all this and more.

Cushion Vs. Pneumatic Forklift Tires

As a general rule: Cushion tires are used for indoor applications and pneumatic tires for outdoor. Cushion tires are made for smooth warehouse surfaces or light outdoor use (asphalt only). Pneumatic tire forklifts have greater ground clearance than cushion tire trucks, so you can move around a lot better over gravel and other rough surfaces.

There are two kinds of pneumatic tires: air or solid rubber. Air pneumatics are similar to tires used on cars and other passenger vehicles. Solid pneumatics are the same size as air pneumatics, but are made of solid rubber. Solid pneumatics are typically used in areas with a lot of debris, and cannot be punctured by nails, screws, etc. This type of tire is typically used in lumber yards, scrap yards and construction sites and, over the years, has become an industry standard.

Should I Use Smooth or Traction Tires? In general, smooth tires give better traction on dry surfaces and can give you more rubber for the dollar spent. If your working environment has exposure to moisture , a traction tire is usually a better option.

If you use a cushion tire forklift outside, traction tires can give better grip and help reduce the chance of the tire “Chunking.”

Be advised: ramps with metal teeth can damage traction tread tires. With the traction tread, the teeth grab more and rip the lugs off. Do not drive a traction tire truck up a ramp with metal teeth. The damage will not be covered by any manufacturer’s warranty.

Can I put pneumatic tires on a cushion truck? In general, the answer is no. Axles and tires are specific to a forklift frame and lifting capacity. Forklift manufacturers build forklifts build them to operate safely with specific wheels and tires.

One exception to this is, the Toyota 7FBE and 8FBE series of lift trucks. These special design models can be safely fitted with either pneumatic tires or cushion tires with minimal changes to the forklift.

What about foam filling? “Foam Filling” is an alternative to solid tires and is generally used to help prevent flat tires when using air tires in an environment where your equipment is exposed to nails or other sharp objects. Foam filling can also be used where there is no solid tire available.

Foam filling usually takes 2 to 3 days to fill and cure. Foam-fill and solid tires can usually be used with your existing wheels. Always follow manufactures specs and the professional recommendation from your local dealer.

Can I use solid and air tires on the same forklift? You can use solid tires on the front of the lift and air on the back, or vice versa. You must run the same type of tire on the opposite sides, drive and steer axles.

How much air pressure should I use in my forklift tire? The required air pressure is located on the sidewall of the tire. If it is not there, contact us for further assistance.

Specialty Forklift Tires

Fiberglass – Friction causes tires to heat up when used for long periods or over long distances. Since tires are fundamentally made of rubber, heat is not a good thing. It can cause forklift tires to start to lose integrity. Fiberglass-impregnated tires have a higher resistance to the effects of heat. These tires last longer and match the use and demand far better.

Polyurethane – When a forklift moves extremely heavy loads only short distances, polyurethane tires are a better choice than rubber. These tires hold their integrity extremely well, and they tend to be chemical-resistant, which is good for a forklift that will be working in an area where chemicals hit the floor on a regular basis.

Static-resistant – Some manufacturing facilities deal with materials that are highly combustive or explosive. As a result, static electricity has to be reduced or avoided as much as possible, particularly around materials that give off fumes that flammable as well. Static-resistant tires are available and are specifically designed to prevent static discharge for such environments.

Cold-prepped – Temperature has a huge impact on the performance and life of forklift tires, and the cold is no exception. Cement and flat surfaces can easily build up ice causing slippage. Cold-prepped tires with a “walnut” surfacing provide the necessary traction for such environments, ensuring forklifts can work as needed when carrying loads without risk.

Avoid cheap tires! Lower-quality tires break down far faster than higher-quality products. The inevitable skid marks when making turns or moving heavy loads in multiple directions will be far more apparent with lower-quality tires, making quite a mess on a facility floor over time. Non-marking tires prevent this problem and keep your facility looking professional and clean.


When to Replace Forklift Tires

As a general rule, when there is less than one inch from the lettering on the tires to the top of the tires, it is time to change the tires. Did you know: after a tire has worn 40%, the forklift and the driver will absorb over 84% of the shock if it’s being run over a rough surface. The transmission has to work much harder to turn the tires the same amount of rotation, which can result in a breakdown. Changing tires is an inexpensive way to keep your forklift and operator in good condition!

Other ways to determine if your tires need to be replaced:

Forklift Tires: What You Need To KnowSome tires have a safety line built into the side of the tire that tells you when it is time to replace the tire. This is an example from a new Solid Deal Brand Solid Pneumatic Tire where the safety line is clearly marked. You should replace the tire before it gets worn to the safety line. 

Replace tires when you see damage in the form of chunking, tearing or cracking, or if you see flat spots. Damaged tires threaten the safety of the machine and the operator and need to be replaced as soon as possible. Below is an example of a tire that is severely cracked and needs replacement right away.

Forklift Tires: What You Need To Know

Here is an example of a tire that has wear, is torn and should be replaced.

Forklift Tires: What You Need To Know

This is an example of a tire that is chunking and needs to be replaced.

Forklift Tires: What You Need To Know

In this example the tire has developed a flat spot (left side 10 o’clock) and needs to be replaced.

Forklift Tires: What You Need To Know

Forklift tire replacement can be tricky. You should always leave this to trained and qualified forklift technicians. Experimenting on your own can be very dangerous. For repairs and preventative maintenance in Northern and Central California, you can call our service dispatch at 800-527-3746 or schedule online.

For an estimate, collect the information below and contact any of our five locations. Each tire replacement service includes removal and installation of new tires as well as disposal of the old. 

  • Model
  • Serial Number
  • Size of the tire (molded into the side and inside sidewall
  • Compound (usually we can figure it out by the color)

We hope this guide will be helpful in making the decision to buy or replace your next set of forklift tires. Toyota Material Handling of Northern California stocks common replacement tire assemblies for Toyota forklifts and pallet jacks. We also have factory-trained road technician installers that can replace tires on-site for most any brand or type of forklift.

Please contact us online with any questions, or by phone:
East Bay – Livermore  (510) 473-8151
Fresno (559) 834-9500
Sacramento (916) 376-0500
Salinas (831) 757-1091