Forklift Tires 101: Tire Types and When to Replace

If you work with forklifts, then you need to pay attention to forklift tires. We all know a well-maintained truck is more productive, but did you know damaged or worn tires can make a difference as well? Tires have a major impact on the overall performance of a forklift. Proper tires reduce long-term costs, increase productivity and reduce safety risks.


Forklift tires come in several different varieties including cushion, solid pneumatic and air-filled pneumatics. Each one is suited to specific work environments and the forklift itself. The most important thing to consider is the application, work environment and of course the forklift type. A forklift’s wheels and frame are usually designed for a specific tire type.


Different applications require different forklifts and consequently different tires.


Pneumatic tires are made of traction rubber and filled with air like a car tire. Pneumatic tires are used indoors and outdoors and have a deep tread. They wear best when the work area is free of sharp objects.


Solid pneumatic forklift tires are very durable and made out of a hard, abrasion-resistant, solid rubber base. They can be used for a combination of indoor and outdoor applications. However, on paved surfaces, the solid pneumatic tires don’t offer the same comfortable ride as a cushion tire. Solid pneumatic are designed for durability and can’t easily be punctured or deflated making them great for industries with sharp products or debris (i.e. lumber yards, waste or recycling centers).

The initial investment is usually higher, but they are almost indestructible and therefore last a long time.


Cushion tires are also known as press-on tires. Cushion press-on tires are made of solid rubber molded to a steel band. These tires are very durable and are best suited for indoor or paved applications as they can struggle on uneven surfaces like gravel. Unless they’re non-marking they will contain carbon black which can cause black marks on floors.


Polyurethane tires are a type of press-on tire. They have good traction and are more resistant than rubber tires to splitting or chunking out under a load. Polyurethane tires generally experience about twice the lifespan of rubber tires and should be used indoors only for light applications like warehousing.

These tires will not wear well in a heavy usage environment so consider cushion tires if your application requires high usage.


With non-marking tires, the carbon black is removed to eliminate black marks on floors. They are available for pneumatic, solid pneumatic and cushion tires. These tires have a shorter life span and are prone to cause static electricity, so it is recommended to put anti-static strips on the forklift.

Forklift tires cover some rough terrain and will carry, on average more than 9,000 lbs at one time. The weight coupled with all of the turning, reversing and stopping can cause the ties to wear.


  • The best indicator is to look at the 50% wear line which is just above the tire size. If the top of the tire meets the wear line, it is time to replace the tires.
  • You should also replace the tires if you notice chunking, tearing or cracking, or if you see flat-spots. Damaged tires threaten the safety of the machine and the operator.
  • What are flat-spots? These occur when the forklift tires are spun during acceleration or when it performs frequent sharp turns under heavy loads. This can cause the truck to start shaking when it moves.
  • Do your pneumatic tires still have a tread pattern? Just like car tires, you should replace them when the tread pattern is no longer visible.
  • Are your tires mismatched? Mismatched tires can cause stability issues that lead to tip-overs and serious injury. When it is time to replace the tires, ensure both sides of the forklift are the same tire type. The front and back tires may differ, but both front tires and both back tires should always be the same type.

Driving with damaged tires can cause many issues including loss of productivity. It can also cause safety issues because the wear on the tires get uneven and could cause the forklift to become unstable. Forklifts do not have suspension systems, so the tires need to absorb the weight of both the truck and the load. Therefore, the more worn your tires are, the more pressure is put on the axle of the forklift. Well maintained tires reduce the risk of injury of operators and other employees throughout your operation.

If you are concerned about the wear of your tires or want to use a tire other than what is recommended, it is best to check with your local dealer to get advice on whether or not the tires of your forklift fleet need replacing and what safe options are available.

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