Tractor Tires: Exploring R1, R3 & R4 Tires

Explore the Advantages Offered by the Three Main Types

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Tractor tires can be confusing when you’re shopping for them. Whether you’re choosing the best tires for a new tractor, or simply looking to replace worn-out tires on an older model, there are many factors to analyze.

Radial or bias tires? What type of liquid ballast, if any? And what size of tires do you need?

Another factor to consider is the design of the tire tread, which can dramatically affect performance. Most tractor tires are sorted into three categories: R1, R3 and R4. Each is suitable for a different purpose.

Let’s cut through the letters and numbers to explore the advantages offered by each type of tire.

Read more: Check out these tips for buying new tires for an old tractor.

R1: Agricultural Tire

R1 tires, also known as agricultural or ag tires, are the standard workaholic tires used for farm tractors. Their treads feature large, widely-spaced lugs designed to generate maximum traction over challenging terrain (including mud and snow) without slipping or clogged.

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R1 tires are narrower than other types of tires. This helps focus the weight of the tractor to increase traction. They’re primarily intended for off-road use.

A variation of the R1 tire, known as the R1W, is designed for use in especially wet and soggy conditions. The tread depth of an R1W generally runs about 20 percent deeper than on an R1 tire.

So although they perform similarly on dry ground, R1W tires offer better performance when the going gets tough.

R3: Turf Tire

R3 tires are known as turf tires for a reason. They’re wider than R1 or R2 tires, with shallower tread depths and closely-spaced lugs.

These factors combine to distribute the weight of the tractor across a wider surface area, creating a tire that’s very gentle on lawns. Whereas an R1 tire can be quite aggressive, gouging wet ground and leaving significant tracks behind, R3 tires are designed to minimize damage as much as possible.

For mowing grass and performing routine garden chores, R3 tires are the perfect choice. But they’re not as suitable for wet conditions (mud, snow, etc.). Their shallow treads can quickly clog and reduce traction, causing your tractor to spin its wheels.

Read more: There’s not getting around it—tires keep things rolling on the farm.

R4: Industrial Tire

R4 tires, also known as industrial tires, are wide and durable tires designed primarily for use on hard surfaces like pavement and gravel.

In terms of tread depth and lug spacing, they fall in between R1 and R3 tires. This blend of strengths results in a tread design that offers decent traction while shedding mud and snow.

True to their “jack of all trades” nature” nature, R4 tires aren’t quite as kind on grass as R3 tires. And they’re not quite as effective at traversing challenging terrain as R1 tires.

However, R4 tires shine when tasked with their intended purpose: carrying heavy loads over hard ground. They don’t wear down as quickly and feature tough sidewalls capable of supporting a lot of weight.

This makes R4 tires a great choice when performing work with a front-end loader or forklift attachment.

What About R2 Tires?

Although they don’t receive as much attention as R1, R3 and R4 tires, R2 tires do exist. With treads twice as deep as on R1 tires, R2 tires are geared for use in extremely wet conditions—standing water, for example, as found in rice paddies.

But the extreme design of R2 tires makes them less suitable for general use. Unless you’re farming in appropriately wet conditions, an R1 or R1W tire will provide better overall performance.

By exploring the various types of tires available before making a purchase, you’re more likely to achieve satisfactory performance from your tractor. Have fun shopping!

This article about tractor tires was written for Hobby Farms online. Click here to subscribe to Hobby Farms magazine.

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