Choosing the Right Forklift Tires

Learn the top three factors for selecting the right forklift tire types and make a smarter purchase.


Not all forklift tires are the same. Depending on your application and forklift usage, you need a special compound, profile or tire size to provide satisfactory tire life. Read on to learn about the top 3 factors for selecting the right forklift tire for your fleet.

Complete An Application Survey

Before selecting new forklift tires, it’s important to first have a trained forklift tire expert complete an in-plant survey for your application. This will help you determine the optimum combination of tire compound, profile and size for each specific application. The survey will consider:

  • Manufacturer specifications
  • Load and load frequency
  • Number of shifts and trips
  • Length of the run and travel speed
  • Capacity and class of forklifts used
  • Surface conditions and turning area
  • Type and weight of materials moved
  • Housekeeping issues, such as non-marking or black compounds

Certain forklift dealers, like the ones representing Unicarriers, can often provide an assessment free of charge.


There are two primary types of forklift tires - cushion tires and pneumatic tires.

How do you determine Whether You Need Cushion or Pneumatic Forklift Tires?

Your application will be the primary consideration when choosing between cushion and pneumatic tire counterbalanced forklifts. What is the difference?

Cushion Forklift Tires

Cushion tire forklifts are designed for use on concrete or asphalt surfaces only. Most commonly, they are specified for indoor work in manufacturing facilities, warehouses and distribution centers. They are favorable in smaller spaces as they facilitate a smaller turning radius. Cushion tire forklifts are smaller than comparable capacity pneumatic tire models and can sometimes cost less..

Pneumatic Forklift Tires

Pneumatic tire forklifts can go both indoors and out on improved surfaces. This would include blacktop and hard-packed stones or dirt, but not rough terrains like a plowed field or a potholed lot. These forklifts have a larger frame and their initial price is higher than a comparable cushion-tire model. Due to their surface versatility, given enough maneuvering space, pneumatic tire forklifts have a higher resale value.

Cushion tire and pneumatic tire forklifts have different frames, so you cannot simply change from cushion to pneumatic tires if your application changes. You can, however, change to a different tire style – from smooth press-ons to traction, grooved or wide-track tires, or from a press-on tire to solid resilient tires. If you'd like to know more about forklift tire options, give your local forklift dealer a call.

Which Tire Tread or Profile Style Is Right?

Some general rules of thumb apply to forklift tire tread or profile style. You can get the following:

  • Smooth tires for dry indoor applications and all steer axles
  • Traction tires for general-purpose use in a wide variety of applications
  • Grooved tires for larger-capacity trucks where loads and operating conditions are extreme
  • Wide-track traction tires designed for all-season indoor-outdoor use.

Following tire selection and professional installation, the major factors that determine tire performance are manufacturing and material consistency along with the quality of material used in the manufacturing process. In other words, it pays to buy quality tires.

Contact Us

Visit our Contact Us page or call us at (713) 365-1000 >

Let us help you find the right material handling solution for your business.