Difference Between Pneumatic and Cushion tires

People refer to forklifts as either pneumatic tire, cushion tire or rough terrain forklifts because forklifts are categorized by tire type.  While it is commonly understood that rough terrain forklifts are generally used outdoors in rougher terrain as it’s name implies, there is still some confusion about the differences between pneumatic and cushion tires and which tires would be most useful on your forklift.

Choosing the right tires significantly impacts forklift handling and safety characteristics.  But before you start searching for tires, see if your forklift gives you the option to choose different tires.  The majority of forklifts have frames that will only accept a specific tire type.  This is why choosing the right tire really means choosing the right machine for the work you plan to do.

If most of your lifting will take place indoors or with light outdoor usage on asphalt, then cushion tires will do the job.  Cushion tire forklifts have a smaller chassis and sit much lower to the ground than pneumatic forklifts.  Cushion generally provide great traction on smooth surfaces and have along life.  However, with little ground clearance, it’s easy to see why cushion tire forklifts can get hung up easily outdoors.  To combat this dilemma, many cushion tire forklift users put traction tires on the front of their forklifts.  Traction style tires will give better traction on rough terrains like asphalt or packed gravel.  That said, it is still not recommended to drive on dirt or grass.  A big advantage to using cushion tire forklifts is their smaller turning radius, making them ideal for manufacturing facilities that have less space than a warehouse. Forklifts with cushion style tires are less expensive and are much easier to come by than pneumatic lifts.

Similar to the tires on a car, pneumatic tires have air in them, and are most useful outdoors on gravel or in yard work, though they can be used inside as well.  Pneumatic tires are longer and wider than cushion tire lifts which is why they are primarily used outdoors.  There are two types of pneumatic tires – solid and air.  Solid pneumatic tires are made of solid rubber.  These are more expensive than air pneumatic tires because you can’t pop, puncture or gouge them as they are 100% rubber.  They’re ideal for lumber yards and scrap yards where there is a lot of sharp metal scrap debris and nails.  Like solid pneumatics, air pneumatics work well outdoors on asphalt, in gravel and in yards, but they can be punctured so you’ll want to make sure your work area is free of any sharp objects before you begin making your lifts.  Air tires also tend to give a bouncy ride and thus, air pneumatic users foam fill their tires, giving themselves a smoother ride than the one experienced on solid pneumatic tires yet a less bouncy ride than pure air filled.

Both cushion and pneumatic tire forklifts can be obtained with almost any load capacity (from less than 2,000 pounds to more than 200,000 pounds).  But pneumatic Tire Forklifts are in high demand.  Brand new Pneumatic Tire Forklifts pricing ranges between $20,000 and $25,000.  For this reason, pneumatic tire forklifts sell quickly in the used market.  Forklift America’s pre-owned forklifts are dependable, good running, quality machines, so you really do get what you pay for.

Before you decide on cushion or pneumatic tires for your forklift, determine the type of work you plan to do.  While cushion tire forklifts are ideal for indoor lifting, pneumatic forklifts are better suited for outdoor lifting.  But both offer almost any load capacity.  For answers to more questions about forklifts and the one that’s best for you, please contact us.

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10 thoughts on “Difference Between Pneumatic and Cushion tires”

  1. Good informations , also we need comparasion between differnt types of forklifts as : TCM , CAT , TOYOTA , LINDE with clear classification for spares , service & heavy duty work
    Your immediate action highly appreciated

  2. My company have C20S Diesel that came with solid tires 6.50-10 / 5.00-8, but we replace those for pneumatics that are a little bigger.

    Now the trouble is it has no power to climb any sort of a grade, or hill. The engine roars away, but no go. No tire spin or anything, goes forward and backwards on level ground but loses power “climbing”

    – Is it possible the problem is the new air tires?

    1. If the new tires have a larger diameter, then yes, it is most likely the tires. The larger diameter the tires you use, the “taller” your gear ratio becomes. Thus, your engine sees a harder load when trying to move. Usually, this doesn’t affect a car or truck all that much because there isn’t as much weight to affect the load. However, forklifts weight 4-5x as much as a car and have very specific gearing to balance power and speed.

  3. Very good explanation of the difference. This is confusing for people not familiar with the terminology of the industry. The information you have provided should help clear it up.

    1. Sorry for the delay, I’ve been out of town.

      The difference is just terminology. Basically, a solid tire is typically a reference to a pneumatic style/size tire that is solid rubber. The correct terminology is that the tire is a “solid pneumatic”. Where a cushion tire is generally just called a cushion tire (either smooth or tractions styled) and being solid is assumed.

  4. Would traction tire help on gravel I have an old tow motor forklift I move to a new building that has a gravel lot don’t want to change to a new forklift what can I do

    1. Unfortunately, traction style tires have limits. Unless the gravel is well packed and dry, you will likely end up getting stuck at some point. Even with a pneumatic tire forklift, it can get stuck if conditions are wet or the gravel loose enough. Unfortunately, there is no way to convert a cushion style forklift to pneumatic tires to aid in traction. You may be to the point where an upgrade will be necessary.

  5. hello, I just bought a cat forklift model TC60D with serial number 8EB5487..the drive tires are terrible, and I cant even see what size they are, to try and order tires. can you help?

    1. I completely understand. It’s very common on cushion tire lifts to have the tires worn beyond recognition. According to my information, you should have 18x8x12-1/8″ drive tires and 16x6x10-1/2″ steer tires. Might I recommend that you get traction style drive tires if you’ll be using this unit on surfaces other than finished concrete. You’ll get better traction and the tires will survive for longer. I hope that helps.

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