The bandsaw tire is basically there to cushion the blade on the wheel and to give it some traction. A badly performing bandsaw is most likely to have a tire problem. Old tires can have cracks, grooves, or even missing pieces. Really bad tires won't even stay on the wheel. Regardless of how properly aligned a band saw is, if it has an old tire, the machine just won't perform well.
When purchasing new tires, you have a choice of materials: urethane, plastic or rubber.
Urethane tires have now become the most frequently used types of tires available for a band saw. They are more durable and last longer than traditional rubber tires.
Urethane is more flexible by nature, which increases the performance of the saw blade. Another extra is it that most of these tires are made in a bright color, which makes inspecting the blade easier.
Urethane Band Saw Tires
Unlike older types of tires, urethane tires can be installed without using any glue. A nice trick to help make installation easier is to heat the tires up in hot water before trying to put them on the band saw wheel. Urethane band saw tires are more expensive than rubber, but since they last longer and are easier to install, most people won't mind paying a little bit extra for them.
Many people still use rubber tires on their bandsaw. High quality rubber can last just as long as urethane. Rubber also gives better traction and crowning (when the blade stays on center on the wheel). Rubber tires are also about half the price, so replacing the tire isn't as expensive when you use rubber. Rubber is also prone to stretching, unlike some of the other materials available. So they may be easier to put on, but will wear out faster. There are actually two different types of rubber. Synthetic rubber, which will last longer and is not as prone to stretching, or natural rubber.
If you don't mind changing your tires more often, the natural rubber tends to be popular as well. Again, it also depends on the amount of usage your bandsaw sees. Rubber is a fine choice for casual woodworkers, and urethane might be a better choice for those who are using the machine everyday in a production setting for example.
There are three ways in which the tire can be mounted to the wheel:
1) glued to the wheel
2) stretched on to the wheel
3) snap and lock mechanism
Gluing tires is one way to secure the tire to the wheel. Once the tire is worn out though, good luck. Older bandsaws had tires that were glued. If this is the case with your machine, you'll have to get the old tire off completely before putting a new tire on. It's possible that the tire will have started cracking in places so you can take the tire off piece by piece and make sure the wheel is smooth of glue afterwards as well.
Another way to secure the tire to the wheel is by stretch fitting it. Tires that are stretched over the wheel can at least be replaced fairly easily. Although it is a hassle to get them in place, you are good for a while once it's there. The snap type is the easiest to replace as it locks into a groove in the wheel's perimeter.
The tire is also important in blade tracking. Most band saw tires will be crowned, meaning that they are slightly higher in the center of the tire than on the edges. The blade will have an easier time of staying on center with a crowned tire.
Not all bandsaw tires are crowned, some are flat. If you are looking for replacement tires, try to find ones that are crowned, otherwise you might find yourself crowning the tires on your own. Keep in mind that some wheels already have crowns on them so flat tires will be what you want to purchase.
Larger model band saws will have flat tires and flat wheels however. Because the blades on these band saws will be larger, they need more support, meaning more of the blade must come into contact with the tire. A crown lifts part of the blade so that it tracks nicely however less of the blade is actually touching the tire. This is only a concern for blades larger than 3/4 inch.
So, although the bandsaw tires may seem to be a boring component of the machine, there are still a few aspects to take into consideration. However, if your band saw has vibration or tracking problems, the first place to check would be to make sure the tires are clean and not worn out or cracked.