As a team, the world produces almost three billion tires every year. How are tires shipped and why aren’t the streets littered with them?

If you are shopping for tires for your car or motorcycle, you can expect them to arrive wrapped together, in plastic cellophane, in full sets of four. Tires are shipped exposed because the weight of the tires could destroy a cardboard box, unless of course they are from the largest manufacturer of tires in the world, Lego.

You need to be careful where you put your tires after they arrive because they can stain the floor underneath. Tires are made with over 200 different materials. Some of these materials are liquid oils that get soaked into the rubber.The main reason for this is to prevent cracking if the tires end up on a dry shelf for a year or more. If a new tire is left in the same spot for too long, these oils will leave a stain on the ground beneath it. If this event occurred on the dining room linoleum, it can be next to impossible to remove the stain.

From having car tires delivered directly to my house (yes, I stained my linoleum), to working at a motorcycle and ATV dealership, I have seen many tires come and go over the years. Shipping them exposed to the elements does have disadvantages as well as advantages, but most people agree that saving money and environment on the cost of boxes outweighs the disadvantage of the delivery driver throwing them around like Ace Ventura.

How Are Tires Shipped?

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Tire Shipping Process

It’s true; Lego produces more tires annually than any other manufacturer of rubber wheels. They will even send them to you in any amalgamation. Lego always has a good year but for the sake of this article they are excluded from consideration.

When you purchase tires online, they are handled very carefully because companies want you to have a great experience. Simple customer service guidelines will show you that it costs more to do something twice than to do it right the first time. This is why companies follow a strict process when shipping tires. When you order a new set of tires, these are the four steps that happen before they roll up to your door.

  • Picking
  • Prepping
  • Packing
  • Shipping

Tire Picking

The world produces 2.7 billion tires every year. Although we would like to believe our tires are made to order like the McChicken, chances are more than Goodrich that your tires are sitting on a shelf waiting for someone to buy them. After you click submit and get a confirmation email, someone has to go find the tires you ordered. If you order them with rims, they will have to find the rims as well in a giant warehouse with a forklift. Once the parts are located, they are placed in line to be prepared for shipment and installation.

Tire Prepping

After triple checking the sizes to make sure the right parts have been picked off the shelf, the tires are mounted to the wheels and balanced appropriately. Typically wholesalers will have a separate room full of tire press machines for this reason. Depending on the size of the tires, each tire press and balancer can cost as much as $10,000! Mounting tires is dangerous, after all, and when we are talking about truck tires, it is best to shy away from any backyard tricks if you want to stay safe.

Mounting A Tire By Hand

Mounting a tire by hand is a dangerous manoeuvre that should be avoided at all costs. If done incorrectly, the tension from the tire could force a crow bar or wedge to fly off in any direction. It is not advised to mount a tire on your own without a hydraulic or manual tire press.

Balancing A Tire By Hand

Did you know you can balance a wheel without an automatic balancer? Manual tire balancers do exist and can be used to balance a tire and many people rely on them. The only problem with these manual balancers is that they use gravity and a concept known in the industry as “eye-balling”. Automatic wheel balancers use math and centripetal force to guarantee a more accurate result.

Tire Packaging

Packaging is the most important part when it comes to shipping tires. As mentioned earlier, a box would crumble under the weight of tires, so how do they keep them safe? The answer is by using the same types of plastic wrap machines they use to wrap shipping pallets. Basically the wheels are each wrapped independently before being wrapped altogether, spinning inside of what looks like a giant, robotic, spider web. In some cases, if rims stick out further than the tire, extra wedging may be put in between the wheels to avoid scratching.

Tire Shipping Time Frames

In the good old days you could kick a tire out the door and people would keep kicking it until it reached its destination. Sometimes the local kids would help push it with a stick. These days there are lots of options for shipping tires. You can even buy tires on Amazon and get next day air if you are willing to pay for it! There have been a lot of changes in how tires are shipped over the years, and the company you are buying from will have a shipping partner that provides shipping options and a tracking number so you know down to the hour when you can burn some rubber.

Can Tires Ship To My Mechanic?

A common fear is that the tires could be stolen by someone who likes tires. As it so happens, though, this is not a large problem because of the unique sizing of tires. After all, someone would have an easier time getting a job than stealing your tires and finding a buyer who could use them.

If you don’t want the hassle or liability of receiving tires to your house, then you might want to consider having them shipped directly to your installer. Especially if you are not putting on the tires yourself, this is a great idea, and all tire wholesalers offer this as an option. In fact, if you haven’t spoken with your local tire dealer, you might want to do that next. Sometimes they are able to get deals or offer specials that you wouldn’t have been able to get had you ordered from somewhere else. Shipping tires directly to your mechanic is also encouraged by most rubber distributors because delivering large packages is much easier, and sometimes cheaper, at a commercial location rather than a residential location.

How Do You Ship Tires?

If you are the one sending tires, you could certainly ship them the same way big companies do, wrapped in cellophane. Or, if you don’t have industrial tape and sticky labels, any shipping company will be able to help you wrap it up. If you are only sending one set of tires, however, you may decide to wrap each wheel individually in boxes for the added level of discretion. Either way, you won’t be able to leave them next to your mailbox for pickup. You will still need to bring your package to a UPS Store, FedEx, or US Post Office to finish the job.

Do Tires Ship Mounted And Balanced?

Even before you add the rims, tires can be fitted in a number of different ways. Because of this, sometimes you have to purchase tires and wheels separately. If you buy the tires and wheels in the same online order, it is almost a guarantee that they will arrive mounted and balanced. If this is not included in the sale price, it will certainly be offered to you at checkout as a way to get you to spend more money and avoid any frustration when the wheels arrive. This is a tempting trick sellers will also use to get you to buy rims when you are buying new tires, or new tires for your rims. Do you also need some chrome valve stem covers? Make sure to check the fine print with your vendor before assuming they will be mounted and balanced when they arrive.

How Much Does It Cost To Ship Tires?

On the low end, shipping a set of four tires will cost about $200 domestically. Tire companies that mount and package in-house may be able to do this cheaper, if not for free with purchase, but you can expect it to cost more than that if you are shipping on your own. Especially if they are truck wheels! Tires and wheels are very durable but they are heavy. This weight in addition to the amount of space they take up on the shipping truck is what makes shipping tires cost so much money. Preparing and shipping tires are also two of the main sources of profits for tire companies, which only makes sense once you’ve had the pleasure of shipping them yourself.

About THE AUTHOR

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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