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Choose the right forklift tires for performance, safety, and efficiency

Jul 07 2021 Tires Safety 4 Min. Read

Forklift tires do more than roll your lift truck around your facility. They also impact operator health, the efficiency of the forklift, and accident prevention.  This article will review the types of forklift tires, the environments each is suited for, and how the right tire selection, use, and replacement can impact your operation.

Forklift tire types

The three basic types of forklift tires are:

Cushion tires

Cushion tires are usually solid rubber pressed onto a metal band. They’re made for smooth warehouse surfaces or light outdoor use (paved surfaces).  These tires are small in circumference, offering little ground clearance.  They absorb a good amount of shock and vibration and protect the operator from the harmful effects of these forces.

Solid pneumatic tires

Solid pneumatic forklift tires are made of thick rubber throughout and offer better ground clearance than cushion tires. They cannot be punctured by nails, screws, etc. and are typically used outdoors in areas with a lot of debris, like lumber yards, scrap yards and construction sites. They can also be used inside.

Air pneumatic tires

Air pneumatic tires are similar to an average car tire—they’re made from durable rubber and filled with air. The benefit of air-filled pneumatic tires is that they provide forklift operators with great traction for maneuvering over uneven surfaces and gravel, making them ideal for outdoor operations. Because of the risk of punctures, these tires aren’t recommended for environments with nails or other sharp objects. Foam filling an air pneumatic tire can serve as an alternative to a solid tire since it can prevent flat tires.

Smooth versus traction (treaded) tires

You may wonder if you should use smooth tires or treaded ones. In general, smooth tires give better performance on dry surfaces. If your working environment is wet, a traction (treaded) tire is usually a better option. For forklifts used outside, traction tires give better grip and reduce the incidence of tire “chunking."

Specialty tire types

We’ve covered the most common tire types of forklift tires, but special circumstances call for specialized tires.  Here are some.


When used for long periods, the friction causes tires to heat and start to lose integrity. Fiberglass-impregnated tires have a higher resistance to the effects of heat.


Polyurethane tires are chemical-resistant, making them a good choice for environments where chemicals are present on the floor.


Some manufacturing facilities require careful control of static electricity. Static-resistant tires are designed to prevent static discharge.

There are more specialty tire types than we have room to list here. Consult with us to make sure you get the best tires for your lift truck and application.

The difference the right tire makes

Forklift tires may seem mundane but the right tire can help you with:

Operator health

Because forklifts don’t have suspension systems, basically the tires and seat are the only things between the operator and all the jolts and vibrations that happen when traveling across a facility. No wonder lower back complaints are so common among operators. Cushion tires offer the best protection from the jolts of the journey.

Operating efficiency

Tires can save money in a number of ways.  For instance, smooth cushion tires are often more economical indoors since they have 7-12% more consumable rubber than traction tires. Further, tires with high rubber resilience have low rolling resistance that provides LP fuel savings of up to 15% and extends the time between battery charges. And replacing air pneumatic tires with solid pneumatic tires can improve tire life by two to three times, increase stability, and reduce downtime due to flats.

Accident prevention

If a surface is dry, a smooth tire is fine; however, if the surface is wet, tires with tread prevent skids. Skids can lead to collisions and forklift tip-over accidents. Also, a flat tire can cause an imbalance that may lead to a tip-over accident.

When to replace your forklift tires

There are different criteria for replacing the various types of industrial tires. Pneumatic-shaped solid tires should be replaced when the section height of the tire has worn to about 60% of the original section height.  Most pneumatic-shaped solid tires include a wear bar on the sidewall, also known as the 60J line, which indicates when the tire is worn and ready for replacement.  For cushion tires, a tire should be replaced when the section height has been worn down by 30%; most cushion tires have a wearable rubber of about 1”.  Pneumatic tires should be replaced when there is no remaining tread.

Count on Morrison

Having quality, correct tires for your forklift application is critical to the efficiency of your operation, the well-being of your operators, and safety. Our trained representatives will partner with you to ensure you get the best tires for your specific needs.

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