Firestone Test Center inviting public to tour facility

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COLUMBIANA, Ohio – The only facility dedicated exclusively to the testing of farm tires – the Firestone Test Center in Columbiana – will hold a three-day open house July 17, 18 and 19.

The free tour, which begins at 8 a.m. each day, is by advance reservation only, and is limited to 60 participants each day. A reservation form is found on page A9 of the current edition of “Farm and Dairy.”

Rich history.

The Firestone Test Center in Columbiana, Ohio, is located next to the original family farm of founder, Harvey S. Firestone.

The first tires Harvey Firestone developed were tested in the fields of his family’s Ohio homestead before being introduced at the World’s Fair in 1935. Even after his farm tires made their debut, he continued to test them in the same fields he farmed as a boy with his father and brothers.

Firestone’s farm tires are still tested in those same fields, established in the 1950s as the Firestone Tractor Tire Test Center. The test facilities have grown over the years and currently cover 350 acres. Here is where tractor and implement tires are worn down, torn apart and rebuilt so Firestone can improve its farm tires.

Putting tires to the test.

The one-of-a-kind Firestone Test Center tests the entire Firestone farm tire product line. Competitors’ agricultural tires undergo experiments as well.

“We try to ‘fail’ our tires so we can see where the weak spots are,” said Al Clark, manager of ag and forestry tire engineering and testing.

The test facility is responsible for developing new tread designs and rubber compounds, staying on the cutting edge of the evolving needs of the farming industry, and maximizing performance by working with equipment manufacturers.

The Mean Machine.

Among the tractors and tires rolling along the farmland at the test facility, there will be one machine that stands out on the open house tour: the Mean Machine.

“It’s probably the neatest thing we’ve got,” Clark said. “It’s huge.”

The Mean Machine weighs over 25 tons and exerts up to 60,000 pounds of pull, simulating the resistance made by the biggest and heaviest farm equipment. Despite its monstrous exterior, the Mean Machine houses more than $25,000 worth of highly sophisticated computers to monitor the performance of each tire.

About the open house.

The free tour will begin at 8 a.m. with a video presentation covering the history of the Firestone family, the start of the testing center and the rigors of its current research. Visitors will be able to ask questions to testing center staff members and Firestone Ag Tire engineers.

Then, the visitors will break into smaller groups to tour the testing center grounds.

In addition to the Mean Machine, groups will see the dynometers that test farm tires 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The dynometers can run at various speeds and with adjustable loads to simulate the different onfarm stresses.

Engineer Al Clark said the testing center also uses a concentration of ozone to make tires weather quicker, so they can determine exactly how tires will fare after five or 10 years on the farm.

The tour will also feature the mounting facilities; Firestone’s unique quarter-scale test, which uses smaller tires to evaluate chips and tears; and the circle tests, where tethered, driverless tractors go in continuous circles to further test the tires.

Following the grounds tour, a lunch will be served.

Reservations.

The tour each day is limited to 60 participants. Reservations are due by Thursday, July 12, and can be made by calling Farm and Dairy at 1-800-837-3419 or by completing the form on page A9 and mailing it to Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or faxing it to 330-337-9550.

The Firestone Tire Testing Center is located at 410 Lipply Road, east of state Route 7, north of state Route 14 (east of Columbiana, Ohio). Signs are posted at Route 7.

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