Tires are another primary consideration in choosing the right forklift and will largely be determined by your operating environment. This includes whether it’s indoors or outdoors, paved surfaces or rough terrain. Choosing the right tires will impact on your forklift’s handling and safety.
There are three different types of tires to choose from: pneumatic tires, solid tires and cushion tires which can be made from different materials.
Pneumatic tires: Designed for heavy-duty lifting and outdoor operation, a gasoline or diesel lift truck with pneumatic tires has the same functionality as a standard car or truck. The tires are longer and wider than cushion tires, made of rubber and are filled with compressed air. Air pneumatics work well outdoors on asphalt, gravel and even unpaved terrain, but similar to a car or bike tire, they can be punctured.
Solid tires: Solid design makes tires extremely durable. They won’t pop, puncture or go flat, which is why they’re used for a variety of heavy-duty applications, including construction zones, lumber yards, recycling centers and similar locations that may have metal shards, nails and other potentially damaging items in the work environment. This indestructibility also makes them more expensive than air pneumatic tires. and justifiably so.
Cushion Tires: Constructed from solid rubber, cushion tires are pressed directly onto the wheel and feature a smaller chassis, sitting lower to the ground than pneumatic tires. This position gives them a big advantage in terms of maneuverability by enabling a smaller turn radius. Unfortunately, the low ground clearance largely relegates them to indoor use as the lift may get hung up on curbs, uneven pavement and other obstacles outside.
It’s worth noting that cushion tire forklifts are often less expensive and more readily available, both new and used, than pneumatic-tired forklifts.
Easy to install, polyurethane tires are designed to be pressed onto the wheels of a forklift and feature a low rolling resistance that’s been shown to prolong lifespan. Popular for the excellent traction they provide, they do come with one downside — they can only be used indoors. Polyurethane tires are incompatible with outdoor terrain and are therefore only installed on electric lifts that are used on smooth interior pavements and loading pads.
Non-marking tires are widely used to eliminate black marks on warehouse floors. Grocery or food processing plants are usually required to employ them in their factories for hygiene reasons. Non-marking tires are available in solid, pneumatic and cushion. The colors of these tires may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but most are either gray or white.
The majority of industrial tires are black. This is due to the soot added to the natural rubber mix when these tires are made. The soot is used to make the rubber more wear-resistant by absorbing heat and protecting the tires from UV radiation that causes the tires to age. Non-marking tires contain silica or chalk to prevent wear, and the addition of antioxidants to the rubber protects the tires against UV radiation.