Somehow, spring finally arrived, and it’s time to get your lawn mower ready for a season of grass cutting. You probably already know you need to do a lawn mower spring tuneup and give it some fresh gas and spark plugs, but riding mower tires deserve your attention, too. A good set of tires delivers ride comfort and traction without tearing up your lawn, but worn or damaged tires can leave you slipping, sliding or stuck. If you aren’t sure whether yours need replacement, read on.
Signs You Need New Riding Mower Tires
Mower tires are basically rugged balloons. Just like automotive tires, they wear out with use. Also, rubber degrades, belts break and punctures happen. Here are four signs that your mower needs new tires:
- Poor traction: On flat lawns and slight grades, even smooth-tread tires offer good traction, but hills and sandy spots can stop them in their tracks. If you find yourself slipping on hills, your tires might be worn or you might need a tire with more grip.
- Dry rot: Since mowers are used on the grass, tire tread depth might not be an accurate measure of age. However, exposure to heat, ultraviolet light and oxygen eventually degrades rubber tires. This can lead to visible cracking or invisible belt separation. Dry rot can also lead to air leaks or tread separation, and make the tire more susceptible to punctures or impact damage.
- Wobbly ride or steering: This is a good indicator that your lawn mower tires are no longer perfectly round. If you feel the steering wheel or the tractor shaking, check your tires for lumps in the tread or sidewall.
- Constantly losing air: Thorns, glass and other debris can easily puncture lawn mower tires. Tire sealant can plug small holes, and a tire plug or patch kit can fix bigger holes, but cracks and some holes might not be fixable.
Factors for Buying New Riding Mower Tires
There are many options when it comes to choosing new tires. Here are three main features you need to look at:
- Measurements: This is the most important part. If you get the wrong size, the tire may not fit the rim or might rub on the steering linkage, fenders or something else. Tires have three measurements: overall diameter, tread width and rim diameter. For example, this lawn mower tire, marked “15×6.00-6.2,” measures 15 inches in overall diameter, is 6 inches wide and fits on a 6.2-inch rim.
- Tread type: Mower tires need to strike a delicate balance between lawn traction and lawn destruction. “Turf saver” tires are well-balanced for most lawns. Flat or delicate lawns can take smoother tread, while hilly lawns might need deeper lugs or wheel weights.
- Load rating: It’s suggested to stick with manufacturer specifications, or higher, when choosing a tire load rating. Load rating is usually tied to ply or belt count. If you’re using wheel weights or accessories, then going a load rating or ply count higher will prevent premature tire wear or failure.
If you’re satisfied with your current tire performance, then you can simply get the same make, model and size. If you’re having traction problems or your tires are digging up the lawn, then you might consider wheel weights or a different tread.
Gearing up for the warm season means getting your lawn gear in proper working order — and your lawn mower is likely your most important tool. Don’t neglect to give it the attention it deserves, so it gives you a pristine cut all summer long.
Check out all the lawn and garden products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on riding mower tires, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photos courtesy of Flickr.
Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.