Understanding the basics of aircraft tire construction and maintenance

Understanding the basics of aircraft tire construction and maintenance By Joe Escobar May/June 2001 Aircraft tires can easily be taken for granted. Their simplistic appearance may lead some to a false feeling of complacency. Many technicians...


Tire inflation
Tire inflation is the most critical issue when inspecting installed tires. Although overinflation can damage the tires by causing uneven tread wear, reduced traction, increased susceptibility to cutting, and increased stress on the wheel assemblies, underinflation is by far more damaging. Underinflation produces uneven tread wear and shortens tire life due to excessive flex heating. The bead area of an underinflated tire can be 50 percent hotter than that of a properly inflated one. Heat is damaging to tire rubber compounds and fabrics. It contributes to tread and carcass separations and bead failures.
Ideally, tire pressure should be checked with a calibrated gauge prior to each flight. At a minimum, they should be checked daily. Do not make the mistake of relying on your "calibrated eye" to determine tire inflation. Tire inflation is difficult to determine visually, especially in tandem configurations. Always use a gauge to check inflation. If servicing is required, dry nitrogen should be used due to its inability to sustain combustion. Also, degradation of the casing plies and liner due to oxidation occurs if regular shop air is used. Nitrogen also helps to deter corrosion on the wheel assembly.
It is a good practice to establish a method of recording tire servicing actions. This aids in identifying chronic leakage problems.

Temperature changes
Another thing to remember pertaining to tire inflation is the change in pressure with temperature changes. For every five degrees Fahrenheit change in temperature, there is approximately a one-percent pressure change in the same direction. This should be taken into consideration if the aircraft is going to be subjected to extreme ground temperature changes. In that case, the tires should be inflated to ensure the minimum required pressure is maintained for the cooler climate. Remember to always check tire pressures when they are at ambient temperature. Checking pressures on hot tires could mask an underinflation condition.
One thing that needs to be noted on newly installed tires is that the tire pressure will drop initially due to tire expansion. The tire pressure should be checked closely until it stabilizes — usually after about 12 hours at rated inflation. If it still exhibits a significant pressure drop after that, the tire should be inspected for possible leaks and corrective action taken.

Protecting tires
Tires should be kept clean and free from oil, hydraulic fluids, grease, tar, and solvents. All of these chemicals have a deteriorating effect on the rubber in the tires. Any contaminant should be wiped off with denatured alcohol followed by a soap and water wash.
Aircraft tires are affected by sunlight and weather extremes. Installation of protective covers can help protect tires on aircraft that are tied down outside.

Operational considerations
Whenever taxiing or towing aircraft, the aircraft manufacturer’s recommended operational procedures should always be followed. It is always prudent to use large radius turns and low speeds to prevent shoulder damage, tread scrubbing, and overheating. Care should also be taken to avoid running over hazardous areas. Tire damage can result from potholes, cracks in the pavement, or stepoffs from pavement to ground.
The areas where the aircraft will be operated should be kept free from debris. In addition to the damage potential FOD (Foreign Object Debris) poses to engines, it can cause considerable damage to tires if it becomes embedded in the tire tread.
This article has briefly discussed some basics on tire composition as well as some inspection and preventive maintenance techniques. Always refer to the applicable aircraft maintenance manual when working with aircraft tires. In addition, the FAA requires tire manufacturers to provide a care and maintenance manual for their products. This is an additional resource that is available to assist in tire maintenance and inspection procedures. With proper attention during inspection and good preventive maintenance practices, your aircraft tires should provide trouble-free service for many landings.

The Source
Additional resources....
AC 20-97A — High Speed Tire Maintenance and Operational Practices

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company
1144 East Market Street
Akron, OH 44316-0001
(330) 796-2121

Michelin Aircraft Tire Corporation
1305 Perimeter Road
Greenville, SC 29605
(704) 548-2400

Specialty Tires of America
1600 Washington Street
Indiana, PA 15701
(724) 349-9010

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